HC Deb 10 January 1985 vol 70 cc896-7
14. Mr. Beggs

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will take steps to prevent the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein from using the funerals of terrorists for propaganda purposes.

Mr. Scott

I know that paramilitary displays at funerals give great offence to many people. I am satisfied that the law makes adequate provision for the control of such funerals. It is for the commanders of the security forces on the ground to decide what action to take within the law, whether at the time or subsequently. They must balance the extent of the offence caused by a paramilitary display with the implications of intervention for public order and security.

Mr. Beggs

On behalf of the Ulster Unionists, may I welcome back the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, express our great pleasure at his recovery and our wish that it continues? I ask him to convey our good wishes to his good lady.

Is the Secretary of State not deeply concerned that Sinn Fein leaders have been openly involved in organising funerals for terrorists, at which volleys have been fired by other terrorists in Northern Ireland? Can he assure the House that the law is adequate to ensure and permit prosecution of those who organise such activities, and, if it is not, will he take steps to have the law so amended?

Mr. Scott

My right hon. Friend will have heard the opening remarks of the hon. Gentleman's question. I am satisfied that the law is adequate, but it must be for the judgment of the security forces on the spot whether they intervene in certain circumstances. In the past, people have been apprehended and convicted in those circumstances.

Rev. William McCrea

On behalf of the Democratic Unionist party, may I join with every hon. Member in welcoming the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) back to his rightful place in the Chamber, and convey every good wish to his good lady and pray that she will be restored to health and strength?

Does the Minister agree that paramilitary displays, such as those witnessed in Londonderry recently, are totally obnoxious to every decent citizen in Northern Ireland and should not be tolerated in any part of the United Kingdom? Why do the suffering citizens of Northern Ireland have to witness such a total disregard for the law of the land?

Mr. Scott

We have to rest on the judgment of the security forces commanders. The House will be aware that in certain circumstances intervention could put at risk other innocent lives. In those circumstances, the commanders might judge that intervention was not to be preferred against the possibility of identification and subsequent apprehension.

Mr. McNamara

May I also welcome back the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and, in his own style, may I say that I look forward to the time when he is gracing the Opposition Front Bench?

What instructions are given to the RUC about removing tricolours from coffins?

Mr. Scott

The tricolour would normally be removed only in circumstances that were likely to cause a breach of the peace. The public order implications that we discussed on an earlier question would be taken into account. That is entirely different from the discharging of volleys over coffins by armed men.