HC Deb 11 July 1985 vol 82 cc1243-5
1. Mr. Proctor

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

2. Mr. Yeo

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

13. Mr. Molyneaux

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

14. Mr. William Ross

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

19. Rev. Ian Paisley

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the current state of security in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

Since I last answered questions in the House on 13 June two police officers have died in incidents arising from the security situation in the Province. The Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for both murders. I know the House will join me in condemning these brutal murders and expressing our sympathy and sorrow to the families of the bereaved.

So far this year 275 people have been charged with serious offences, including 21 with murder and 26 with attempted murder, and 116 weapons, 6,021 rounds of ammunition and 4,0101b of explosives have been recovered. The explosive devices neutralised since 13 June included an 1,8001b bomb dismantled by the security forces in Newry on 2 July.

Mr. Proctor

My right hon. Friend will be aware that in the aftermath of the security incidents to which he referred there have been disturbing reports of cuts in police resources. Will he assure the House that no cuts have been made and that, although a limit has been imposed on the amount of overtime worked by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the total number of police man-hours worked by the RUC has been maintained?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, Sir. Overtime is a bad guide. The RUC and its full-time reserve is now reaching a strength of 11,000 and has doubled in little more than nine years. The total number of man-hours worked by full-time officers during 1984–85, which is the best indicator of police effort, rose to its highest ever figure of 23.1 million hours.

Mr. Yeo

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the new extradition treaty with the United States represents a significant blow to IRA terrorists who may be looking for a bolt hole?

Mr. Hurd

Yes. The new supplementary treaty which we have negotiated and which will soon, I hope, be coming before the United States Senate and this House will be a substantial help to us in dealing with terrorism, particularly in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Molyneaux

In view of the indispensable role of the part time element of the Ulster Defence Regiment, will the Secretary of State advise his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to maintain the part-time element at its present establishment?

Mr. Hurd

The exact figures and deployment are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of Suite for Defence and the General Officer Commanding, but l have made clear from time to time, including in this House, the importance that I attach to the continued existence of the UDR.

Mr. William Ross

Given that the Secretary of State has to exercise a political judgment whenever we are faced with the problem of the routeing or the banning of parades which have an impact on the security situation, will he tell the House why it is that his political judgment has now created a situation in which there is disruption between those who normally support the police and the police force?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman is wrong on a point of fact. I do not exercise a political judgment about the route of marches, nor have my predecessors. The law places that operational responsibility upon the police. That is how it is being handled this year, as in past years.

Rev. Ian Paisley

What progress has been made concerning the murder of 69 Protestants in County Fermanagh, for which no one has been made amenable in law?

Mr. Hurd

The figures for those convicted of terrorist offences in the Province as a whole this year so far show a marked increase on the figures for last year. There is always difficulty in bringing terrorists to justice. That is one reason why we are anxious to build up our security cooperation with the Republic and the United States, which was referred to in an earlier supplementary question. There are continuing real difficulties in bringing to justice those guilty of terrorist murder, but the figures show that we are tackling that problem.

Mr. Nicholson

Will the Secretary of State tell the House what progress he has made in improving the conditions in border police stations, especially for the RUC personnel going to and coming from those police stations?

Mr. Hurd

There is a large spending programme designed to do that. It is designed to catch up with the backlog of work created by the rapid expansion of the RUC, for which I have already given the figures. We have some way to go, including in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, before we can be satisfied with the outcome. As he will know, in Newry in particular and other border areas, a good deal of work is going on.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

Does my right hon. Friend accept the terrible depression felt on both sides of the House, and indeed in the country, as more and more police are assassinated by the IRA? Does my right hon. Friend agree that we regularly see a shocking chronicle of photographs in the police magazine each month? Would it not be helpful to publicise those photographs in American magazines and daily newspapers to show the tragic way in which many brave members of the RUC have been murdered?

Mr. Hurd

That is a useful idea. It is very important that Americans, and particularly Irish Americans, realise that if they contribute funds that find their way into the pockets of the IRA, they are contributing to the murder overwhelmingly of Irishmen, particularly the gallant police officers to whom my hon. Friend referred.

Mr. Archer

Does the Secretary of State understand that the one proposition on which both traditions in Northern Ireland are agreed is that the authorities are incapable of making a decision and seeing it through? The bullying and violence are effective because Governments respond to them. I appreciate the difficult matters of judgment with which the police are being confronted, but will the Secretary of State urge upon senior police officers the fact that people in both traditions will watch events tomorrow and over the weekend to see whether lawlessness and the threat of lawlessness will pay off, and that the Government and the Opposition will give them every support in resisting it?

Mr. Hurd

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The RUC is well aware of the point that he makes. The Chief Constable and his colleagues have my full support in the difficult decisions that they continue to have to make.