asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the current security situation.
Since I last answered questions in the House on 7 March, one soldier, two police officers and one civilian have died in incidents arising from the security situation in the Province, making a total of four. As the House will be aware, two of these deaths occurred yesterday morning when a car bomb exploded outside Newry courthouse. The Provisional IRA has claimed responsibility for all these brutal murders. The House will want to join me in expressing abhorrence and extending deep sympathy to the families of all who have died.So far this year a total of 120 people have been charged with serious offences, including 15 with murder and 11 with attempted murder; and 54 weapons, 2,160 rounds of ammunition and 3 lb of explosives have been recovered.
May I join the Secretary of State in his condemnation of yesterday's atrocity and in extending our sympathy to the bereaved? As it is human nature to slip into predictable routines, could certain individuals be given the duty of alerting their colleagues to the dangers of following fixed patterns? Those individuals could perhaps regard it as their task to suggest variations in those routines.
It is certainly a principle of good security policy that that policy and its procedures should be varied and kept under review. There are a number of legitimate questions arising out of what happened yesterday that need investigation.
The whole House will wish to join in the sentiments expressed by my right hon. Friend. Will he confirm that the SAS and other undercover security forces are active in the frontier area, and that those forces will be increased in and around Newry and South Armagh in the light of yesterday's events?
I can confirm that the General Officer Commanding has at his disposal in Northern Ireland specialist Army units which he deploys to meet operational needs throughout the Province. My hon. Friend will understand why it would not be sensible for me to go further than that.
I join the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) in offering sympathy to those who have been bereaved. Yesterday saw the death of the 10th member of the RUC to be murdered in my constituency in the past five weeks, and a civilian was also murdered. Will the Secretary of State assure the House that he will give further consideration to more security measures in the Newry area, which in the past nine months has been the subject of continuous bombings and murder attacks? We appear to be getting nowhere, despite all the assurances. However, will the right hon. Gentleman assure me, the House and my constituents that a firm security policy will be adopted and maintained in the Newry area?
There is a firm security policy, but I share the hon. Gentleman's feelings of outrage about what has been going on in his constituency. As I said to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), I agree that security policy and the emphasis on deployment in different parts of the Province need to be constantly examined and should be examined again in the light of what happened yesterday.
Does the Secretary of State agree with Ulster Members that the present security policy has been proved to be a failure, and that it ensures only that the constituents of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Nicholson) and other hon. Members are put into coffins — the coffins of good Ulster, decent British citizens?
That is not a worthy comment at this time. I do not believe that the security policy has failed. It is given a high priority and attention, as must be right in the circumstances of the Province, and we defend it robustly against attacks and criticisms, as is also our duty. The hon. Gentleman makes no constructive suggestion. I am always open, as are the Chief Constable and the General Officer Commanding, to constructive suggestions, particularly from elected representatives in Northern Ireland.
On the general background to the security situation in Northern Ireland, and acknowledging that, from time to time, it is perceived to be in the national interest that we should humbug the Americans, will the Secretary of State constantly recall the old wartime adage "Careless talk costs lives", and realise that words that are seen to be flannel in other contexts can be misunderstood in certain different places, with disastrous consequences?
I have spent a large part of the last week or so trying to explain in the United States of America the complexities of the situation in Northern Ireland and Ireland, and trying to discourage the idea that there is a single key that will turn a single lock and solve the problem.
I welcome the condemnation of terrorist outrages by the Catholic hierarchy and the splendid statements of Catholic priests, which are so seldom publicised. Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Catholics on both sides of the water would be grateful if we could have an end to all equivocation in these matters, and an appeal from the Catholic church to Catholics to join security forces and replace those Catholics who have been murdered doing their duty?
It is desirable that representatives of all Churches should underline to those who listen to them that the role of the security forces in Northern Ireland is basically to protect the simplest human right of all—the right of the citizen to go about his daily lawful occasions in peace and security.
May I be associated with the Secretary of State's sentiments about yesterday's atrocities? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the allegations of torture by Paul Caruana, held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, have a dramatic effect on the minority community and their feelings about the security forces? I do not expect the Secretary of State to comment today on the details of the case, but will he guarantee that the detailed questions asked by Amnesty International will be answered in time?
Mr. Caruana's allegations are being fully investigated through the normal procedures. An investigation has been conducted by the RUC complaints and discipline branch. Its report was forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who decided, after careful examination of all the evidence, including the medical evidence, that the prosecution of any of those involved was not warranted. The RUC is now following the usual procedures and submitting its report to the Police Complaints Board for consideration.
In the widely reported discussions which my right hon. Friend is having with Irish Ministers about security in the Province and the possibility of a consultative role for Irish Ministers, is he also discussing the possibility of a consultative role for himself and his colleagues in security arrangements in the Republic, particularly in areas close to the border?
We discuss all aspects of security cooperation with the authorities in the Republic. That discussion continued under different Irish and British Governments long before the current dialogue with the Irish Government stemming from the recent Chequers communiqué. I agree that in practice — in terms of money, arms, explosives and policing — our security effort depends to a considerable extent for its effectiveness on a matching effort by the Republic.
I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to comment on the facts of the Caruana case, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) referred, but will he declare clearly that the rule of law is one and indivisible and that it cannot be preserved by invoking Satan to cast out Satan? Will he assure the House that the report by the Police Complaints Board will be made public? Will he then make a statement to the House on the recommendations in the Bennett report and to what extent they have been implemented?
The security forces—both the police and the Army — in Northern Ireland operate under the rule of law. That is what distinguishes them from an army of occupation operating under military law. The normal procedures of investigation, and review of that investigation, by independent bodies — the DPP and the Police Complaints Board — are being followed in the Caruana case. The Bennett report has often been discussed in the House and everyone agrees that the situation has markedly improved in recent years. The case will continue to be followed through in accordance with the usual procedures.