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Security Threat

Volume 512: debated on Wednesday 30 June 2010

10. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on the level of security threat in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (4214)

The Minister will be aware that in north-west Northern Ireland, more pipe bombs were exploded or defused in the first five months of this year than in the entire 12 months of 2009. On the Fountain estate in Londonderry, hundreds of attacks have taken place in the past year. What resources are being put into Northern Ireland to ensure that the police—and the Army, if called on—are there to respond to such a threat?

The hon. Gentleman will be glad about our announcement this morning on automatic number plate recognition. That will be a useful tool for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He mentioned pipe bombs; we condemn all those attacks. They are indiscriminate, and they target innocent people. When we talk about policing in Northern Ireland, it is worth remembering that operational decisions are matters for the Chief Constable, in whom we have great faith and with whom we have regular meetings, and of course the Department of Justice and David Ford. It is perhaps worth remembering that in Northern Ireland, there is still an average of 4.36 police officers per 1,000 of the population. That compares with 2.87 per 1,000 of the population in England and Wales. I am not saying that that is necessarily enough—it can never be enough—but there are police and resources, and we respond to demands from the PSNI.

What is the Minister’s assessment of the wider security threat in the context of Ulster Volunteer Force activity and the murder of Bobby Moffett?

I join most people in this House, I suspect, in condemning the gunning down of Bobby Moffett in the cold light of day in a completely unacceptable way, and I pay tribute to all those people who live in that part of the city and who attended his funeral. The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to make any judgment on the case, as it is obviously the subject of ongoing investigation by the PSNI, but it is not impossible that there will need to be a hard line taken later, in the autumn, when the IMC next reports.