HC Deb 13 May 1998 vol 312 cc363-4
6. Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

If she will publish the terms of reference for the review of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. [40684]

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Adam Ingram)

The terms of reference for the independent commission on policing are given at annexe A to the Belfast agreement, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. The independent commission offers a sensible, informed way of examining an extremely important issue.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will the hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, give a clear and unequivocal pledge that, during the life of this Administration, no individual who has a record of conviction for any terrorist offence will be admitted to serve in the Royal Ulster Constabulary?

Mr. Ingram


Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough)

One of the results of the peace process—which I hope will be concluded successfully—will be a very significant reduction in the number of RUC officers. Does the Minister agree that many of those officers have served the Province, at great personal expense, exceedingly well? What action is the Minister and the Northern Ireland Office taking to make proper transitional arrangements ensuring that those officers, as they move out of the RUC, are properly resettled?

Mr. Ingram

That is a complex matter, which is predicated on an assumption with which I do not necessarily agree—that there will be an early downsizing or reduction in the RUC force. Any likely reduction will be phased, and based on an assessment of the threat level at a particular time. Last week, the Prime Minister announced £4.5 million for a rehabilitation and training trust, which was the beginning of a package of measures targeted on the RUC to deal with the very issues raised by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)

The Minister will be aware of the formation last week of a new terrorist organisation, called the Real IRA. Is he aware of the significant defections from the Provisional IRA—including, last week, three senior members of the Provisional IRA, one of whom is an experienced bomb maker? Given that continuing threat of violence—as the people of Northern Ireland continue to need the protection of the Royal Ulster Constabulary against the men of violence—does he agree that it would be foolish to tamper with the RUC in the proposed manner, to inhibit the RUC's anti-terrorism role or to undermine the RUC's morale?

Mr. Ingram

The threat level is still high. There is still a very significant security threat within Northern Ireland, which is recognised not only by all right hon. and hon. Members but, more important, by the people of Northern Ireland, who have to face that threat. Those who daily face the threat—the men and woman who serve in the RUC and put their lives at risk to protect the rule of law—also have to be afforded our protection. I give an absolute assurance and guarantee to the hon. Gentleman that there will be no tampering with the RUC while that threat level remains.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire)

What are the Government doing to prevent any further erosion of the morale of serving RUC officers? Will the Minister assure the House that, whatever the outcome of the deliberations of the commission, there is no place in the United Kingdom for sectarian community policing or two-tier policing?

Mr. Ingram

I have already answered the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question in my response to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who asked a similar question. We are dealing with morale in the RUC, which is why we are addressing directly the issue of rehabilitation and training and why we have already announced a package of measures in that connection. Of course, we are in close discussion with the Police Federation and the Superintendents Association to consider how a fundamental review, for which the Chief Constable has responsibility, could be implemented at some point in the future. We are in close consultation with representatives of the RUC, and that will continue.