HC Deb 24 March 1988 vol 130 cc494-5
2. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on cross-border co-operation.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Stanley)

Cross-border co-operation takes place over a wide range of activities. We shall continue to look for ways to develop it further.

Mr. Townsend

I am glad to be told that the respective chiefs of police are to hold a meeting at last, but will my right hon. Friend explain why meetings recently arranged were either postponed or cancelled? Is not the closest possible co-ordination and co-operation between the two police forces absolutely essential, and does not the absence of that close co-operation greatly benefit the IRA?

Mr. Stanley

I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend has said. We very much welcome the fact that a meeting of the full conference is to take place tomorrow, which will be attended, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier this week, by both the Chief Constable and the Commissioner of the Garda.

Mr. Alton

Has the Minister, through the Intergovernmental Conference, been able to take part in discussions with police chiefs from the Garda about the possibility of solidarity being shown with RUC members, when they are involved in incidents at funerals in Northern Ireland, by having members of the Garda present on those occasions?

Secondly, has any further consideration been given to the question of a joint security commission?

Mr. Stanley

I am not aware that the first point has been raised through the secretariat machinery, but the hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point which will no doubt be reflected on.

The joint security commission is not part of our proposals. However, I stress to the hon. Gentleman and the House that we have made substantial progress on cross-border security co-operation and are continually assessing how to improve it further. We now have better co-operation on racketeering, better communications, better information exchange, better bomb disposal co-operation and certainly better operational co-operation than before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed.

Mr. Conway

Does cross-border co-operation cover more than just Government agencies? Has Irish Television been prepared to release any broadcast footage of the disgraceful murders last weekend in the Province? If so, does that not show the reluctance of television companies this side of the water, to their great shame?

Mr. Stanley

I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that my understanding is that the Irish broadcasting authorities have released the films in question.

Mr. McNamara

Does the Minister of State agree that, although cross-border co-operation has concentrated on security matters — for necessary and understandable reasons—co-operation on economic and social matters is equally important? Have the Government agreed to approach the EC for funds for the International Fund for Ireland, not only to ensure continued support for the fund from the United States, but to improve conditions in some of the most disadvantaged areas in Europe?

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I very much endorse his opening remarks. We envisage the process of co-operation extending beyond security into political, economic and cultural matters. It is very much the wish of both Governments that we consider ways of securing some form of direct EC participation in the working of the International Fund for Ireland, which I know would be very much welcomed in the United States.