HC Deb 30 January 1986 vol 90 cc1078-80
2. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in his discussions with representatives of the Government of the Republic of Ireland stemming from the Anglo-Irish agreement in curbing cross-border terrorist activities; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Nicholas Scott)

The conference has discussed ways in which the co-ordination of security force activities on both sides of the border might be improved. As a first step, the Chief Constable and the Garda Commissioner are discussing a programme of work aimed at ensuring that security co-operation is as close and effective as possible. They will report progress to the next meeting of the conference. That work can only benefit the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Taylor

Are not the recent discoveries of arms that would have been used for killing in Northern Ireland a most encouraging development? On the basis of the private security information available to him, is my hon. Friend satisfied that there is now comprehensive cooperation with the representatives of the Irish Republic in the effort to defeat terrorism?

Mr. Scott

The House will not expect me to go into details about the successful operation in Roscommon and Sligo, but I echo the congratulations sent by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner on the part that they played in that. We have always had good, close co-operation at the border, but the work that is now in hand should, over months and years, improve the strategic approach of both the police forces in the island of Ireland in the battle against terrorism.

Sir Adam Butler

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the keys to popular acceptance of the Anglo-Irish agreement is successful co-operation between the security forces North and South? Therefore, will he ensure that, as far a possible, the maximum publicity is given to cooperation and to its achievements, within our security interests?

Mr. Scott

My right hon. Friend will be aware that a balance must be drawn in these matters. Many security matters, including cross-border security co-operation, are not suitable for public discussion. When there are such successes — and I believe that they will become increasingly apparent—credit should be given to those who bring them about.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

During the course of discussions, will the Minister raise the question of the purchase of arms by the IRA and the sources of its funding? Will he now answer the question that I have raised on two previous occasions in the House and about which I have tabled written questions: did Associated British Foods give, directly or indirectly, £1.5 million to the IRA?

Mr. Scott

I have no evidence that it did.

Mr. Silvester

Does my hon. Friend agree that top level security force discussions are welcome, but that if there is to be a real effect on security, co-operation must go down through all ranks of those forces? What progress is being made on that?

Mr. Scott

Relationships and co-operation at border level have always been good. The Garda Siochana has deployed extra resources on the border. Its task force has been redeployed on the border, and that can only help cooperation and the battle against terrorism.

Mr. Archer

Since, after the Government's statement, no one knows any more what is a leak and what is a slip of the tongue, can the Minister tell the House anything further about the legal subgroup announced after the 10 January meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference? When will it meet? What matters will it discuss first? Will it invite submissions from outside bodies? Will its report be made public?

Mr. Scott

I hope that there will be an early meeting of that subgroup. It will be for the subgroup to determine its programme of work. By its very nature, that work will be complicated and is bound to take some time to come to fruition.

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