HC Deb 15 January 1987 vol 108 cc394-5
4. Mr. Mallon

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the amount of police time devoted to policing street marches and demonstrations over the past 12 months.

Mr. Scott

Last year, between May and September, when the majority of such events occurred, it is estimated that a total of 334,000 man-hours were devoted to policing street marches and demonstrations.

Mr. Mallon

Will the Minister confirm that the Social Democratic and Labour party is the only party in the north of Ireland which recognises that there is a policing problem and that, because of this, it is the only party which has not caused problems for the police or put them in danger in the way that was outlined in the Minister's reply?

Mr. Scott

I very much hope that the party which the hon. Gentleman represents will be able to continue to develop its expressions of support for the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland and continue to support all those who believe that parades and marches should be conducted in a way which facilitates the efforts of the police to maintain law and order on these occasions.

Sir Eldon Griffiths

Does my hon. Friend agree that in grappling with these problems the RUC's men and women have conducted themselves in a wholly non-partisan, non-sectarian fashion; in short, that there is no such thing in Northern Ireland as Catholic policemen or Protestant policemen, but just policemen under the law? So is it not sad that there are those in high places, political or ecclesiastical, who refuse to encourage young men and women to join that non-political police force in the national interest?

Mr. Scott

I find it difficult to overstate my respect for the skill and professionalism of the RUC and the way in which it has handled these parades, marches and other public order situations in recent months. I would certainly encourage everyone in Northern Ireland who wants a peaceful society to give his wholehearted and unequivocal support to the RUC.

Mr. Spencer

Will my hon. Friend accept that those of us from constituencies from which are recruited the regiments which presently serve in Northern Ireland are dismayed at those pleas from politicians in Northern Ireland for people to assemble in large numbers, thereby increasing the risk to our troops serving there?

Mr. Scott

I agree wholeheartedly with that. I can only reiterate that whether it is the security forces, the Army or the police who are involved, they deserve the support and co-operation of all those who hope for a peaceful future in Northern Ireland.