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Security Situation

Volume 547: debated on Wednesday 4 July 2012

8. What recent assessment he has made of the security situation in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (114377)

The threat level in Northern Ireland remains at “severe”. The Government remain fully committed to countering violence in all its forms and supporting the overwhelming majority of people who want to live without fear and intimidation.

The Secretary of State is aware of the so-called punishment attacks by paramilitaries on young people in Northern Ireland. These attacks are increasing, particularly in Derry, by a group styling itself Republican Action Against Drugs. What every community needs is strong policing, not vigilantes. Will he proscribe this group? [Interruption.]

Order. May I remind the House that we are discussing the security situation in Northern Ireland? This is a matter of the utmost seriousness, and I think that some display of attention would be appreciated by the people of Northern Ireland.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. These attacks are barbaric and inhumane and have absolutely no place in a modern Northern Ireland. The only legitimate police force enforcing law and order is the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and it is for it to work with the community. On proscription, I keep all these issues under review.

13. The Chief Constable of the PSNI, Matt Baggott, recently said that the Northern Ireland Executive must do more to tackle disadvantage in the areas where dissident republicans hold sway. Will my right hon. Friend encourage the Executive to address this issue? (114383)

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The second layer of our strategy in bearing down on these groups is to get into those communities, but nearly all the projects are in the hands of local Ministers. We strongly support the CSI—cohesion, sharing and integration—strategy, which we want to be published as soon as possible, because we believe that the future is a shared future, not a shared-out future.

12. Last night we had a briefing from senior retired police officers about the threat to national security from evidence that is being given in inquests in Northern Ireland that opens up the whole modus operandi of our security forces and security services. What do the Government intend to do to protect national security from this threat? (114381)

The right hon. Gentleman raises a very serious issue. A whole number of legacy inquests—up to 32—are coming down the track. I would like to assure him formally that measures are in place under the existing arrangements that allow an inquest to go ahead fairly, but information that might be dangerous if released to individuals can be held back. There are measures that can be worked out, but the final decision rests with the coroner. Until now, these arrangements have worked well, and they will continue in their current guise.

Given that many of those historic inquests will doubtless require the disclosure of highly sensitive national security intelligence, what discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Justice Secretary about his decision not to provide for a closed material procedure in relation to inquests?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that question. I have regular meetings with the Justice Secretary. I talked to him on the telephone this morning. [Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman would wait, I treat each case individually and remain in close touch with the local Justice Minister on such issues.