Troops, Northern Ireland

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th April 1970.

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Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North 12:00 am, 8th April 1970

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the number of troops at present stationed in Northern Ireland, indicating their main duties in internal security operations.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the number of troops in Northern Ireland; and what increases or reductions there have been in establishment there since September 1969.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The number of Regular Army uniformed personnel now serving in Northern Ireland is about 7,000. In October, 1969 the garrison was increased by one major unit. Since then three major units have been withdrawn without relief. Recently, however, the garrison has been reinforced with one major unit to provide an additional element of continuity during the coming weeks in which three other units are due to be relieved. The main internal security duties of the Army include crowd control, the manning of road blocks, conducting cordon and search and anti-arms-running operations, and the carrying out of border patrols and mobile patrols in both urban and rural areas.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

Does my hon. Friend realise that the majority of people in England admire the way in which the British Army is behaving and acting in Northern Ireland, and is he aware that we look forward to the time when there will no longer be any need for the British Army to be there, but while there it has the full support of people in this country?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I am grateful for all those points.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

First, as regards the number of applicants for the Ulster Defence Regiment which assists the military, can the hon. Gentleman say how many have been refused? Second, can he confirm that there will be no withdrawal of troops from Northern Ireland so long as there is any danger of violence from Republican rebels?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The last point was dealt with very clearly yesterday, and it would be impertinence on my part if I were to attempt to confirm the categorical statements made in the House by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. The position is now beyond argument and dispute.

As regards the number of men who have been refused membership of the U.D.R., I cannot give the precise figure without notice, but I can tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that any refusals have arisen because of the professional checks by either the security service or the medical service. When there has been refusal, it has been for that reason.