HC Deb 28 July 1988 vol 138 cc535-7
8. Mr. Livingstone

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

16. Mr. Molyneaux

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

Mr. Tom King

Since I last answered questions on 30 June, 11 people have been killed in Northern Ireland. These deaths include the murder of the Hanna family at Killeen, a technical officer and two civilians by the Falls road swimming baths, a taxi driver caught in cross fire in a Provisional IRA attack, and a PIRA member blown up by his own mortar and two others killed in apparent sectarian attacks. I must also inform the House that, sadly, the soldier seriously injured at Cullyhanna yesterday has since died.

The efforts of the security forces are continuing to yield significant results and a number of potentially serious attacks have been prevented. Since the beginning of the year a total of 217 people have been charged with serious offences, including 12 with murder and 15 with attempted murder. A total of 360 weapons, approximately 72,000 rounds of ammunition and 4.000 lb of explosives havc been recovered in Northern Ireland

I also understand that the Garda Siochana has recovered some 240 weapons, 140,000 rounds of ammunition and 600 lb of commercial explosives.

Mr. Livingstone

May I join the Secretary of State in expressing shock at the record that he has read out? Does he agree that, for the security forces to be effective, they must be seen to be impartial? Has he any comment to make on the statement of a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), on Channel 4 on 17 July that there was a dirty tricks propaganda unit operating in Northern Ireland? How does he equate that statement with the statement of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in answer to me on 24 March this year, to the effect that if I had any evidence of such a unit I should make it available to him? I assume that the Secretary of State will accepi the word of the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South, so will he now hold a full public inquiry to lay the issue to rest once and for all?

Mr. King

I am not aware of the comments made by the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), who is one of my predecessors, but I have nothing to add to any previous comments that I have made on this matter.

Mr. Molyneaux

Further to the previous answer that the Secretary of State gave regarding risks in crossing the frontier, will he seek to convince those public figures who seem to make a habit of crossing the frontier that they have a heavy responsibility, first, to the security forces who protect them and, secondly, to the general public if they run unnecessary risks? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would remind them of the wartime question, "Is your journey really necessary?"

Mr. King

Until I have a full report, the right hon. Gentleman will understand if [do not follow him in detail on that. He has raised important considerations for everybody in public life and in a position of responsibility in Northern Ireland. It is our desire, and it is certainly the desire of everybody responsible for protection in the security forces, that those wbom they protect should be able to live as normal a life as possible. At the same time, I accept that people have a responsibility to consider the security of those who are appointed and required to protect them.

Sir Eldon Griffiths

Against the background of killings, woundings, and grief that lies behind the list of atrocities that my right hon. Friend has reported to the House, would we not be better occupied, not in arguing the toss, as the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) just has, but rather in demonstrating our undying support for the police, the security forces and all people on all sides in Northern Ireland as they face a horrendous onslaught on the freedom and democracy for which this House seeks to stand?

Mr. King

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the clear and forthright way in which he puts his argument. The people of Northern Ireland and the security forces have had to face a challenge, a trial, a time of endurance beyond parallel in the Western world in recent history. It is against that that one judges the efforts of those whose only interest is to dive into the gutter to find any bit of dirt that they can throw at some very brave people.

Mr. Bowis

Will my right hon. Friend say what success he is having in defeating terrorism by attacking the funds of terrorists used to buy the weapons that cause the death and destruction to which he referred—in particular by attacking a protection racket that destroys jobs in Northern Ireland?

Mr. King

I am fully persuaded that the removal from terrorists of the resources that fund much of their activity is as important as the direct attack on terrorism itself. I am under no illusion, and I know that many of their resources come not from collections overseas but from racketeering, gangsterism and Mafia-type activity throughout Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland. It is interesting that the recent efforts of the Garda Siochana in respect of cross-border smuggling show a clear understanding between our Government and the Government of the Republic of the threat posed by racketeering in all forms.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Have the security forces in Northern Ireland—in the widest sense of the Army and the police—at any stage in the past been involved in training people who work for private security firms? As I am not asking a question relating to security, I ask the Secretary of State not to hide behind that as an excuse. The question is to do with the relationship between the private and public sectors.

Mr. King

As the hon. Gentleman said, that matter does not seem to arise under this question.

Mr. Gow

Do the Chief Constable of the RUC and the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland believe that it would assist them in their attempts to defeat terrorism if there were the mandatory introduction of indentity cards for all in the Province?

Mr. King

No, I have had no such representations.