Terrorism (Defence Forces)

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1972.

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Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell 12:00 am, 14th December 1972

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress he has made in enlisting wider sections of the public in the defence of the Northern Ireland community against terrorism.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

The Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve is now 2,176 strong and the Northern Ireland Police Authority have announced the setting up of a womens' section of the reserve. The Ulster Defence Regiment was 9,156 strong at the end of November.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

Is my hon. Friend aware that many people in Northern Ireland are grateful to the Northern Ireland Office for cutting through the red tape and ensuring that women may join the reserve? Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the criteria for entry are realistic rather than ideal?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments about the women's section of the reserve. The criteria for entry are reviewed from time to time. We believe that they offer the opportunity for many people to come forward as volunteers to the UDR and RUC reserve.

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

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the commanding officer of the UDR has had a general order posted saying that no member of the UDR should take part in activities which would conflict with his membership of the UDR—to wit, being a member of the UDA. Is the hon. Gentleman prepared to say that membership of the Ulster Defence Association is completely incompatible with membership of the Ulster Defence Regiment?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

It has been made clear by my right hon. Friend and by my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that it is quite unacceptable that there should be an overlap of loyalties. If anyone should be found putting other loyalties in front of his loyalties to the UDR, which is intended to be and is an entirely nonsectarian force, that man would be discharged.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Mather Lieut-Colonel David Mather , Esher

Does my hon. Friend consider that there is any future in a home guard or local volunteer force for the border areas to increase security and to bring local people into their own defence?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

There have been representations along these lines. However, we believe that the best way is for volunteers for the UDR and RUC Reserve—who are properly armed for their job—to come forward and to serve the community in this way.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

With the B Specials in mind, might not the subject very properly raised by the hon. Member for Chig-well (Mr. Biggs-Davison) take us on to dangerous ground? Nevertheless, might not a community-type police force in the end be necessary in certain areas, especially in Belfast?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

These considerations lie in the future. For the time being the main aim is to strengthen, on a nonsectarian basis, the existing forces set up to preserve and maintain law and order. This must be the way forward for the time being.