HC Deb 03 July 1986 vol 100 cc1158-9
9. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he proposes to take to seek to improve relations between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Scott

The Chief Constable, Police Authority and Government give a high priority to the improvement of relations between the RUC and the community in Northern Ireland. The Chief Constable has taken various measures designed to improve relations between the police and all sections of the community. The Government have put forward proposals for changes to the police complaints system.

Mr. Alton

How many of the three senior assistant chief constables, the eight assistant senior chief constables and the officers of the RUC are members of the Catholic community? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is more difficult to attract people from the minority community into the RUC because of the Government's handling of the Stalker inquiry?

Mr. Scott

I cannot produce the precise figures. It is more important that we have good policemen in the higher ranks of the RUC than a balance between the communities. However, a disproportionately high level of the senior ranks are Catholics compared with lower down the force. The real threat and inhibition to the recruitment of Catholics to the RUC is the threat that they would be murdered by the IRA, which could then claim that the RUC is a sectarian force, which it is not. It is manifestly a professional police force.

Mr. Hirst

Does my hon. Friend agree that the past few months have confirmed that the RUC carries out its duties under difficult circumstances in a thoroughly impartial way, which should reassure all communities in Northern Ireland? Will he take this opportunity of expressing to the Chief Constable of the RUC the esteem in which the British people hold the RUC on account of the way in which it carries out its job?

Mr. Scott

I can do nothing but say that I will draw the attention of the Chief Constable to the remarks of my hon. Friend, which are wholeheartedly endorsed by all the Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office.

Mr. Flannery

Will the Minister explain why the minority Catholic community so widely distrusts the RUC? Has he done any research into that, and can he give us any reasons why members of the Catholic community do not want to join the RUC? In fact it is very similar to black people in certain sections— [Interruption.] The Minister will notice where the noise is coming from. It is similar, is it not?

Mr. Scott

Having been responsible for policing matters in Northern Ireland for rather more than three years, I have been struck by the increasing confidence of the Nationalist community which has been won by the RUC. The Chief Constable is determined to work and develop that work in the future, but the RUC is making good progress and I have already drawn the attention of the House to the real inhibition to the recruitment of Catholics to the RUC.

Mr. Dickens

Does my hon. Friend agree that the extravagant language recently used by the hon. Member for Antrim. North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has undermined the authority of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the British Army and jobs and investment in Northern Ireland? Does the Minister feel that the very good and sterling work undertaken by the Northern Ireland Office has been completely undermined by one hon. Member who should be in his place today to answer for his call to mobilise the Loyalists in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Scott

I share my hon. Friend's view that the utterances of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and some other Unionist Members have damaged job prospects in Northern Ireland in a severe way. However, it is not within the capacity of the hon. Member for Antrim, North to damage or undermine the morale of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.