§ 3.17 p.m.
§ Lord SWINFEN
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to safeguard members of the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary and their families from being murdered by means of sabotage to their private vehicles.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (Lord Melchett)
My Lords, members of the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary are constantly reminded of the need to maintain careful vigilance in the interests of their personal protection. The RUC give regular advice on the security precautions which are considered essential for the safety of members of the security forces and their families, but it would not be in the best interests of security to reveal precise details of such advice.
§ Lord SWINFEN
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer and I realise that, for security reasons, he cannot go too deeply into the matter. However, I wonder whether the Government would consider making grants or loans to members of the security forces to build garages for their own private vehicles, where they do not have garages at the moment, as this would surely lead to greater security?
§ Lord MELCHETT
My Lords, that is certainly a point which has not been put to me before, and I will undertake to consider it. It is, unfortunately, a fact that some cars parked in garages have been booby-trapped, as well as cars left outside the homes of members of the security forces, so I am not sure whether that experience shows that garages provide very much greater protection. But I will undertake to consider the point.
§ Lord SHINWELL
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he is aware that almost every day, despite declarations about precautions being taken to avoid more of these cruelties and atrocities, they still occur? We must feel horrified by what is happening. Are we not now in a state of war in Ulster? In those circumstances, ought we not to take the requisite steps in order to deal with the situation?
As we seem to allow these things to happen every day as if they were casual events, may I also ask whether it would be desirable for my noble friend the Leader of the House to rise to his feet and, on behalf of every Member of your Lordships' House, condemn unanimously what is happening there?.
§ Lord MELCHETT
My Lords, any attacks on innocent civilians or members of the security forces are condemned unanimously, I have no doubt, by all Members of your Lordships' House and repeatedly by members of the Government and members of the Opposition with particular responsibility for Northern Ireland. I can assure my noble friend that those of us who have an interest in Northern Ireland and work there are very well aware that these cowardly attacks are continuing. Also we are well aware that so far this year 144 people have been charged with serious crimes in Northern Ireland. While there has been a series of successful booby trap attacks on members of the security forces, there have also been a very large number where members of the security forces, taking the advisory precautions which I have mentioned, have seen the bombs, or whatever the device may have been, before they went off and the attack has been successfully foiled.