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Comprehensive Spending Review

Volume 518: debated on Wednesday 10 November 2010

4. What assessment he has made of the likely effects on security in Northern Ireland of the outcomes of the comprehensive spending review; and if he will make a statement. (22150)

Following the outcome of the 2010 spending review, it is for the Northern Ireland Executive to decide how funds are allocated to the Northern Ireland Departments. It will be for the Northern Ireland Justice Minister and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, in the first instance, to negotiate the PSNI budget with the Executive. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have made it clear that we will protect the people of our country from the terrorist threat with every means at our disposal.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. He will appreciate that people in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK will be concerned about the impact of spending cuts on peace and security in Northern Ireland. Can he assure the House that the comprehensive spending review will not impact on front-line community policing in Northern Ireland? That is something that the Minister stopped short of saying in response to an earlier question.

We have been absolutely clear that we will stand by Northern Ireland. We will do what is necessary to bear down on that threat, but the first port of call is for the Justice Minister and the Chief Constable to negotiate with the Executive on the very substantial allocation of public money that has been granted to them in the spending round.

The Select Committee on Northern Ireland met the assistant commissioner of the Garda two days ago, and he assured us that in spite of the financial difficulties in Ireland they would continue to police the border, in particular, in the same way. He said that there would be absolutely no reduction in their efforts. Can the Secretary of State give us the same assurance today?

Emphatically yes. We have exceptional co-operation with the Garda, and I should like to congratulate them on their seizure of a significant amount of armaments at Dunleer woods in County Louth. Emphatically yes: we will work extremely closely with them and match their effort.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the deteriorating security situation in parts of Northern Ireland due to the dissident threat. Will he be open to an approach, should it be required, for additional resources to deal with that threat as it materialises over the winter months?

We have been clear, from the early negotiations that I had with the shadow Secretary of State, when he was Secretary of State, that we would endorse the very substantial policing settlement that the previous Government negotiated with the Northern Ireland Executive. That was quite clear. Should there be security pressure, and should the security position deteriorate, it would be right for the Justice Minister and the Chief Constable to come to us and ask for contributions from the national reserve.