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Since I last answered questions in the House on 30 January, I regret to say that two members of the security forces and four civilians have died in incidents arising from the security situation in the Province. Although they continue to bear the brunt of terrorist attacks, the security forces carry out their duties with great courage and dedication. As a result of their efforts during 1985, a total of 522 people were charged with serious offences, including 24 with murder. So far this year 28 people have been charged with serious offences, and 36 weapons, 2,254 rounds of ammunition, and 1,1591b of explosives have been recovered.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. I share his admiration for the work of the security forces in the Province. However, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the security forces are fully prepared for the strike on Monday? Are they prepared to cope with any eventuality? Does my right hon. Friend think that the time has come at least to place the Anglo-Irish agreement in cold storage until such time as——
I very much regret any suggestion that there should be a strike on Monday. I know that the Royal Ulster Constabulary will be anxious to take every step that is necessary for the protection of law and order and of all law-abiding citizens who wish to go about their business. That is a matter for it, and it recognises that very clearly. My hon. Friend raised the subject of law and order. I very much regret that the security forces should be distracted from their important work of fighting terrorism by having to cope with the problems that Monday may bring.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the year or months before the Anglo-Irish settlement was reached the number of soldiers in Northern Ireland was reduced, and that since the Anglo-Irish settlement the number of soldiers in Northern Ireland has increased? Will he speculate on how many more soldiers will need to be committed to Northern Ireland as a result of the Anglo-Irish settlement?
The analogy that my hon. Friend seeks to draw is completely false. The reason for the increase in the force numbers is the increase in terrorism, which bears out clearly the statement that I have repeated at this Box that the agreement threatens only the terrorists. They recognise it, and they are determined to take extra measures in every way they can to seek to defeat it. They have launched a series of particularly nasty attacks, leading to the destruction of police stations. We have made it absolutely clear that we shall take the necessary measures for their restoration. That has taken extra forces. I hope that every hon. Member will be determined to stand with us and ensure that if those forces are required for the protection of law abiding citizens and for the defeat of terrorism, they will be provided.
When the Secretary of State next meets leaders of the Unionist parties to discuss security, will he make it clear that the security forces are not helped by the industrial action threatened by the Ulster community? Will he also make the point that when the Unionists refer to themselves as Loyalists, the security forces will have difficulty in understanding, when the Unionist community or their politicians seem to be encouraging every possible effort to defy the constitution and the wishes of Parliament? How can they be constitutionalists when they are prepared to take that type of action?
Those who call, as I do, for all in Northern Ireland to support the security forces recognise the most unsatisfactory paradox of people who demand support for the security forces and then put an additional strain on them. I seriously hope that those who have chosen to embark on that policy will, even at this later hour, think again, because it will be in the interests of nobody in the Province.
Will the Secretary of State tell the House what the Government are doing to monitor the growth of Loyalist paramilitary groups? Should he not include that in his general report on security? Will he comment on the fifth arson attack on a Catholic school in Ballymena and say whether the Government are taking action to provide better security than they have in the past?
The information that I have just given about recoveries of arms and prosecutions is not confined to one section of the community, but refers to terrorism from whichever section of the community it may come. I am confident about the determination of the RUC and the security forces to oppose terrorism, from whichever sector it may come.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that security in Northern Ireland has serious implications for the west coast of Scotland, that arms caches have been discovered on several occasions, that the paramilitaries train there and that any upsurge in Protestant-related hostility could have serious repercussions in Scotland?
I am aware of my hon. Friend's point and I understand his concern. I know that he will join me and the Government to ensure that we stand against terrorism and paramilitary activity from whichever quarter it comes.
Will the Secretary of State get a message to members of the Workers Committee 1986 to the effect that while we on the Opposition benches are actively on their side in the quest to retain jobs, we would like to believe that they are equally on our side for the same purpose? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the essential distinction that while lawful demonstrations are by definition a matter for the individual, any attempt to coerce or intimidate people to take part will be dealt with quickly and decisively?
Law and order are matters for the police, but I know that there is a clear determination to ensure that law and order are properly observed. Every step that needs to be taken will be taken to try to protect the citizen and to try to defeat the curse of intimidation. I echo the words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in respect of the dispute. The only certain outcome is that it will be damaging to jobs in a Province, which desperately needs more jobs.