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Northern Ireland

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 26 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence what was the cost to Her Majesty's Government of maintaining the British forces in Northern Ireland over the past five years to the latest available date.

The estimated extra costs of military operations in Northern Ireland since 1975 are as follows:

1975–76£60 million
1976–77£65 million
1977–78£69 million
1978–79£81 million
1979–80£96 million
The figures are based on the January forecast of outturn for each year.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the estimate to Her Majesty's Government for maintaining British forces in Northern Ireland in the next financial year.

It is estimated that Northern Ireland extra costs in 1980–81 will be about £100 million.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if his Department has made any plans for a gradual withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland in the long term; and if he will make a statement;(2) what is the total number of troops of Her Majesty's forces currently in Northern Ireland.(3) if there are any plans for a reduction in Her Majesty's forces in Northern Ireland or their gradual withdrawal to barracks in the immediate future.

Twelve major units of the British Army, together with a wide range of supporting elements, and small numbers of Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel, are currently deployed in Northern Ireland. There are also 11 UDR battalions, making in all nearly 20,000 members of Her Majesty's Forces. The forces deployed now and in future depend on a number of factors, including the level and type of violence and the increasing capability of the RUC. These are kept under close review and it would not be helpful to discuss future plans, which can anyway change at short notice.Subject to these considerations, it remains our intention to lower the regular Army force level in Northern Ireland and return soldiers to their main NATO role. Thus, one "roulement" unit was not replaced earlier this year. Further changes will be made only when we are satisfied that they will allow the fight against terrorism to continue unabated.In the longer term, and subject to all these considerations, I look forward to the time when it will be possible to withdraw more regular units from the Province and for those that remain to return to their normal role and training.