HC Deb 29 October 1992 vol 212 cc1116-7
1. Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on cross-border security co-operation between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Mates)

The Irish Government share our determination that terrorism will not prevail and we work closely with them to ensure that co-operation on the ground is close. Much has been achieved, but more needs to be done and will be done. Both Governments are committed to securing improvements wherever possible.

Mr. Townsend

I thank my hon. Friend for his encouraging reply. Bearing in mind the increased importance of the intelligence services in London in the fight against the IRA, has co-operation with the south been improved as a result? Can he confirm to the House that intelligence from the Irish Republic has helped with the recent finds of explosives in London?

Mr. Mates

It is obviously difficult for me to share intelligence matters with the House and my hon. Friend, but I can tell him that co-operation between the intelligence services of the republic and ourselves has never been as good as it is now and that it is getting better all the time. That is reflected in the major finds that have been made in the republic of some of the arms and explosives that went there from Libya. Most notable of all is the increase in the information that we are getting in Northern Ireland and Great Britain from the public, who are as fed up as we are with this mindless terrorism.

Mr. Molyneaux

Have the Irish Government given any undertakings to introduce legislation to control those of their citizens who illegally reopen closed frontier crossings, particularly on the north Monaghan-south Tyrone terrorist supply route into the United Kingdom?

Mr. Mates

We continue to have to face that problem. As far as I know, the Irish Government have no intention of legislating on it, but together we are trying to find ways of getting rid of that nuisance.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my hon. and gallant Friend consider having talks with his counterparts in the Home Office in London about the desirability of requiring all British citizens of the United Kingdom to carry identity cards and citizens of the Republic of Ireland to carry passports when they come to this country?

Mr. Mates

I can tell my hon. Friend with some relief that both those matters are for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, not for my Department.

Mr. Madden

But the Minister must have a view on that important matter. Will he confirm that Her Majesty's Government are seeking to amend the common travel area agreement between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom? What effect will that have on those travelling between those two countries? Are there any plans to increase frontier controls between the republic and the north after the advent of the single market next year?

Mr. Mates

I do not believe that there are any plans to change the present common travel area arrangements. To do so would be an immensely complex task, given the large number of Irish citizens who live in this country and who come and go between here and the republic, as they always have. There will be no change to border controls once the single market comes into effect. Such controls as we have are for security reasons, not for trade reasons. We shall be able to continue those in the same way as we do now.