HC Deb 22 March 1984 vol 56 cc1169-70
13. Mr. Proctor

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

14. Mr. John David Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what changes there have been in the security situation since 1 December 1983; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Prior

I refer my hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) earlier today. Since 1 December 1983 there have been 25 deaths in incidents connected with the security situation in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Proctor

What representations has my right hon. Friend's Department received from the Irish ambassador in London about the closure of border roads in Fermanagh, and what action has been taken as a result?

Mr. Prior

The Irish ambassador made representations about the closure of the three crossings and we told him, as we told the Irish Government, that where there was a necessity to make closures, we would carry them out.

Mr. John David Taylor

As the Army is the security force responsible for the defence of the frontiers of the United Kingdom, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain why, since 1 December 1983—since when there has been an increase in the number of terrorist attacks—there has been a reduction in the Army presence along the border?

Mr. Prior

It would be wrong of me to give any indication of the numbers of troops used along the border, because some would be in an overt capacity and some in covert positions. However, I assure the House that there are no reductions in troops operating in the border area.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Is the Secretary of State aware of the anxiety in Belfast, particularly among staff at the Royal Victoria hospital, over the fact that, until even 11 o'clock last evening, Sinn Fein supporters were patrolling in level 2 because they did not trust the security forces? Why has this state of affairs been allowed to continue, to the annoyance of the staff?

Mr. Prior

That is a matter for the RUC, which is in control of what happens at the hospital.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Why was a similar situation allowed to exist at the Ulster hospital, when a terrorist who was taken into that hospital was guarded by Sinn Fein members, and when every person entering the hospital to go to that ward was followed in by two members of Sinn Fein?

Mr. Prior

I am told that that is quite untrue and that the RUC has been in charge on all occasions.

Mr. Archer

As the security situation has obviously had some effect on the morale of prison staff, may we be told how many ministerial visits there have been to the Maze prison since the escape last year?

Mr. Prior

I cannot say offhand, but I have visited the Maze prison, as has the Under-Secretary, on at least one occasion within the last three weeks, and we shall be making frequent visits to the prison when we think that there is need to do so.