HC Deb 24 March 1999 vol 328 cc382-4
7. Ms Joan Ryan (Enfield, North)

What measures she is taking to tackle crime in Northern Ireland. [76685]

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

Apart from doing everything possible to tackle and deter terrorist and paramilitary-related criminal acts, the Government are promoting a range of crime prevention measures in conjunction with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and other statutory and voluntary agencies. Those measures include funding for the community safety centre, promoting public awareness campaigns and supporting projects to help reduce the incidence and fear of crime. A contribution from the modernisation fund will be used to boost crime prevention initiatives in Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State today laid in Parliament the policing objectives for the RUC in Northern Ireland for the year ahead.

Ms Ryan

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. We are all aware that the police in Northern Ireland have been in the front line in dealing with terrorism and the appalling atrocities that have occurred. What steps are being taken to ensure that the RUC is prepared and able to cope effectively with the rest of its policing role and activities—what we might call a more usual policing role, serving the community in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Ingram

I thank my hon. Friend for her comments about the role performed by the RUC on behalf of everyone in defending our freedoms in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. On the RUC's role in relation to other types of criminal activity, I pointed out in my earlier response some of the initiatives that have been taken. The allocation from the modernisation fund will be used for the introduction of closed circuit television schemes throughout Northern Ireland. I announced an early CCTV initiative for Portadown. It is hoped that that will assist the RUC to tackle the difficult problems that it faces in Portadown and elsewhere.

Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry)

Does the Minister recognise that, although we welcome the measures that have been taken to combat ordinary crime in Northern Ireland, the main concern of the people of Northern Ireland is still the large hoard of illegal weapons held by terrorist organisations? Does the Minister therefore recall that the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) has consistently said that terrorist hoards of weapons should be given up? Does he welcome the statement that the hon. Gentleman made yesterday, to the effect that semtex should be dumped for General de Chastelain to pick up?

Does the Minister accept that my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) has made endless concessions in an effort to get the IRA to live up to the obligations that it took upon itself last year, and that the Unionist people have nothing left to give? Does he agree that it is long past time for the IRA to live up to its obligations to surrender the weapons? When the Government consider the matter of crime, will they ensure that the punishment fits the crime?

Mr. Ingram

Of course I recognise the contribution made by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). He has made a significant contribution to efforts to move the process forward, as indeed has the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). That is why they were recognised internationally and awarded the Nobel peace prize for their efforts. In her earlier comments, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State dealt with the main thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question about the need for decommissioning. All our attention is on that and on ensuring that all parts of the Good Friday agreement are implemented in full. That is the only way in which we can achieve genuine peace in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire)

After the Home Secretary's embarrassing, incompetent and bungled intervention earlier this week over the release of prisoners under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998, will the Minister tell the House whether the Secretary of State knew about that intervention beforehand? If she did, was she in full agreement?

Mr. Ingram

It is a bit rich for the hon. Gentleman to accuse the Government of bungling. I remind the House that he was a Northern Ireland Minister before the election and we inherited a blank sheet in whole range of areas over which he had responsibility, such as victims and economic development.

Of course there were discussions on that particular issue within the Government, and a detailed answer has been given in relation to the way in which it has been handled by the Home Office and the way in which the Northern Ireland Office deals with matters of law relating to the release of prisoners.