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Security Forces (Co-Operation)

Volume 976: debated on Tuesday 20 November 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he is satisfied with the level of co-operation between the security forces.

Co-operation between the security forces is good, but I am always looking for ways to improve it. That is the reason for the organisational changes that I announced in this area at the beginning of October.

Is there not scope for improvement in the operational integration of elements of the security forces to provide greater flexibility in counterterrorist activity in local areas? Will the Secretary of State seek to make greater use of local knowledge and experience?

There is always scope for improving our reaction and the way we operate. That is what the security co-ordinator is charged with doing. I also take on board the point made by the hon. Gentleman about local knowledge being extremely important.

In view of the escalation in the number of murders of prison officers committed by the IRA, and the tragic killing on Monday of another prison officer, which was a carbon copy of a killing a few weeks ago in the same area, is the Secretary of State satisfied that the security co-operation is effective, since it seems that these killings in similar circumstances continue?

As I said in my original answer, we are always trying to improve the co-operation and effectiveness of the security forces. As regards the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, relating to a particular killing, there is a later question on the Order Paper about that and I ask him to await my answer to it.

As the Secretary of State accepts that local knowledge is all-important, will he ensure greater deployment of the Ulster Defence Regiment, and allow it to work in co-operation with the Army whenever possible?

Yes, Sir. The precise deployment of units of the Ulster Defence Regiment is a matter for the GOC. However, I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that we need to make as much use as we can of that regiment's special skills and knowledge. I have discussed this with the GOC on many occasions and I shall continue to do so.