HC Deb 01 March 1990 vol 168 cc370-1
2. Mr. William Ross

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

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Brooke)

I am pleased to say that since I answered a similar question on 1 February, there have been no deaths in Northern Ireland arising from incidents directly related to terrorism. In 1989, more than 430 people were charged with serious terrorist offences in Northern Ireland and large quantities of lethal weapons, ammunition and explosives were recovered, in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. That trend has continued so far in 1990.

Mr. Ross

Is not the Secretary of State deeply concerned that the IRA has the capacity to impose its will on contractors not to carry out work for the security forces and on suppliers not to supply material that could be used in carrying out work for the security forces in Northern Ireland? That prevails especially in parts of my constituency, in south Londonderry and in Mid-Ulster. What effective steps will the Secretary of State take to resolve the problem so that people may go to work without fear and— —

Mr. Speaker

Order. One question please.

Mr. Ross

The position is a sad but true reflection on the present security policy.

Mr. Brooke

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the IRA's threats against contractors. I pay tribute to the courage of the contractors and those who work for them, and I am delighted that the Government's building programme manages to continue despite those threats.

Mr. Kilfedder

Is the Secretary of State aware that a concerted campaign is being waged by the IRA and IRA sympathisers to discredit the Ulster Defence Regiment, many of whose members have given their lives gallantly in the fight against terrorism? Will he assure the House that he will not allow the IRA to win this propaganda battle?

Mr. Brooke

I understand the hon. Gentleman's comments. The Government continue to place great confidence in the services of the UDR. The hon. Gentleman is right that it would be wholly wrong for IRA propaganda to be effective against the UDR, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and I confirm our support.

Mr. Mallon

Does the Secretary of State share my concern about the fact that, on "Panorama", the commander of the UDR, Brigadier Ritchie, said that UDR patrols were not briefed about Loyalist paramilitaries, but only about Republican paramilitaries? What discussions has he had since with the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and with Army authorities to ensure that the UDR will be able to enforce the law impartially in all areas where it operates?

Mr. Brooke

In the "Panorama" programme, Brigadier Ritchie said that the UDR was not routinely tasked in the context of Loyalist paramilitaries. I was asked questions about that which were not recorded in the programme. My answer, in what I describe as the invisible part of the programme, was that the RUC tasks the Army and the UDR in actions on patrol and against the terrorist threat.