Northern Ireland

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th November 1972.

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Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester 12:00 am, 30th November 1972

asked the Minister of State for Defence what extra leave entitlement is given to Army personnel serving in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) on 8th August, 1972.—[Vol. 842, c. 378–9.]

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

The Army in Ulster is doing a fantastic job of buying time for us politicians. Will my hon. Friend assure us that leave entitlements are really generous, and, in particular, that men whose families are left behind in BAOR have time while they are on tour in Ulster to get home and spend a reasonable period with their families before going back on duty?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I agree that the Army is doing a fantastic job in Ulster. The priority which the Ministry is attaching to this question is shown by its efforts to improve leave arrangements by providing leave travel concessions—for example, air travel at reduced fares to Great Britain or BAOR for short leave during an emergency tour which soldiers enjoy if the operational situation allows.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

In Northern Ireland the troops can come under attack in all areas. This was not so heretofore, and therefore they are under greater strain than ever before. Will the hon. Gentleman keep this in mind when considering this very important subject?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I will certainly bear that point in mind.

Photo of Mr Patrick Duffy Mr Patrick Duffy , Sheffield, Attercliffe

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a further statement on the operations of the British Army in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the recent operations of the British Army in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

The Army continues to assist the civil authorities in keeping the peace by combating terrorism, from whatever quarter, and protecting the lives and property of the community.

Photo of Mr Patrick Duffy Mr Patrick Duffy , Sheffield, Attercliffe

The hon. Gentleman will recall the major gun battle in the Ardoyne last Sunday, coming as it did—as The Times pointed out on Monday—just two weeks after the Army had claimed that it had picked up every wanted man in the Ardoyne. This is not the first claim of this kind in the last few years which has subsequently been belied by events. Is this due to over-optimism on the part of the Army, which makes for seemingly extravagant claims? If it is, is it in the best interests of the ordinary foot soldier and his morale? Or is it due to unquenchable resources of the IRA?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I wish that the hon. Gentleman did not always spend Question time criticising the Army. I do not believe that the Army said what the hon. Gentleman claims. But even if it had said it, it could still have been true because other wanted men could have got into the Ardoyne later.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

As the IRA is now as much an anathema to the Government in Dublin as it is to the British Government and the people of Northern Ireland, is it not clear that co-operation between the security forces on both sides of the border is in the interests of the law-abiding majority of both communities?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

We want as much cooperation as possible on the border. There has been a certain amount over the last month.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is every likelihood that the IRA will shortly commence a campaign of terror in the Irish Republic, just as it did years ago in Northern Ireland? Is my hon. Friend satisfied that there are enough troops in Northern Ireland to deal with it, in view of the fact that there is some evidence that the Eire Government cannot rely completely on the loyalty of some of their troops along the border?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I do not think that it is for me to comment either on the intentions of the IRA in the Republic or on doubts about the loyalty of Irish troops on that side of the border. It is a matter of speculation. I do not endorse what my hon. Friend has said.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

Can the Minister give some assurance to the people in County Fermanagh and County Tyrone who are perturbed about the present situation along the border? Can he assure the House that there will be more helicopter patrols along the border, so that the Army can have intelligence about what is happening on the other side of the border, in order to prevent the setting up of rocket launchers directed from the south to the north?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I well understand the concern of those living in the border areas. As I have assured the hon. Gentleman before, the Army is doing whatever is practicable to patrol these areas and to gain what intelligence it can about forthcoming operations of the IRA.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

asked the Minister of State for Defence what steps are being taken to improve security on the border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

The security forces continue to control the border as effectively as is practicable. The requirement for further measures is kept constantly under review and, as my hon. Friend told the House on 16th November, a number of proposals are being studied.—[Vol. 846, c. 591.]

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

Is my hon. Friend aware that despite the considerable successes of the Army in urban areas the situation on the border is far from satisfactory. Missile attacks in the last two days have shown how vulnerable the border is. Will my hon. Friend take steps to make use of local knowledge by forming some kind of Home Guard or Civil Defence from those who, because of physical fitness or age, are unable to join the Ulster Defence Regiment or the reserve police?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I agree that the situation on the border is not satisfactory. As my hon. Friend implies, most people who want to join a Home Guard organisation can join the UDR. There is difficulty about people who are not physically fit, but I will look into the possibility that he mentioned.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

Would not the security forces be greatly assisted in their work in these areas if extradition arrangements with the Republic of Ireland were working properly? Is my hon. Friend aware that of 16 applications that have been made to the Republic of Ireland for extradition, not one has been successful? I welcome Mr. Lynch's new determination, but should not this matter be vigorously pursued?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that extradition matters are for my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he is satisfied that the present number of troops in Northern Ireland is sufficient; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

The force level in Northern Ireland is kept under review in the light of the situation. I am satisfied that the present deployment meets the present needs.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

Is it not extraordinary that the Government should have announced the intended withdrawal of 1,000 troops at a time when they were saying that they were determined to destroy the IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland, bearing in mind especially the frequent attacks on police stations and the need for troops to defend them?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

It is true that total troop levels have recently fallen. As the House will be aware, considerable reinforcements were deployed in Northern Ireland for Operation Motorman at the end of July. Since that task was accomplished there has been a planned reduction, of which recent moves are a part, but force levels are still significantly higher than they were in June.

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Will the hon. Gentleman concede that no level of British troops in Northern Ireland will be sufficient unless the people there come to their senses and agree to live peaceably together?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I agree with the hon. Gentleman in the emphasis that he places on the importance of a political solution. That is what the Government are devoted to.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

Can my hon. Friend say something about the level of troops in County Fermanagh, on that difficult border, about which there has been a great deal of anxiety? Is it true that the number of troops has been reduced in the last week or 10 days?

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will understand if I tell him that it is not the practice, for reasons which I think he will appreciate, to give details of the deployment of troops in particular areas.