Ulster Defence Regiment

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th November 1972.

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Photo of Mr John Loveridge Mr John Loveridge , Hornchurch 12:00 am, 16th November 1972

asked the Minister of State for Defence what further steps he is taking to maintain a balance in recruitment into the Ulster Defence Regiment between the different religions among the volunteers.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

Recruiting in general has been good but we would like to see an improvement in the balance. We are continuing to do what we can to this end.

Photo of Mr John Loveridge Mr John Loveridge , Hornchurch

I appreciate my hon. Friend's answer, but will he do his utmost to ensure that the balance of recruitment and the balance of retention are improved between the different religions in the Province, as this matter gives rise to great anxiety?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I accept entirely what my hon. Friend says. As I have already mentioned, we are considering all possible ways of improving the situation. It is doubtful whether anything spectacular can be done in the short run, but for the present our efforts to recruit more Roman Catholics are local in character, mainly through personal contact and the local work of battalion and company commanders. The UDR Advisory Council believes that at present this is the right line.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

Is the Minister aware of reports that UDR vehicles have been seen flying a red hand flag? If these reports have been investigated and substantiated, what action has the Minister taken?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I shall investigate the position referred to by the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South

Yesterday my hon. Friend was kind enough to give me some statistics of recent recruitment to the UDR. Does he not agree that there has been a marked falling off in applications to join this regiment from both communities in the last few months and an increase in the number of resignations? Will he do his best to accelerate recruitment?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I do not entirely accept what my hon. Friend says. Recruitment generally is going well. The cause for concern is the falling off in the level of recruitment from the Roman Catholic side.