§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what factors he attributes the decline in the strength of the Ulster Defence Regiment in 1976.
§ Mr. Duffy
There is a considerable turnover in the membership of the UDR, and the strength figures fluctuate from time to time. It is not possible at this stage to say whether the slight decline in numbers in 1976 is part of a downward trend or is simply a temporary fluctuation. The figures are continually monitored to see whether trends develop.
During 1976 the total number of applications for membership was in fact slightly higher than in 1975, but after the withdrawal of applications and the rejection of unsuitable candidates the number enrolled into the regiment declined. While the number of members who left the UDR in 1976 was lower than in 1975, the effect of all these factors was a small net decline.