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Ministerial Meetings

Volume 563: debated on Wednesday 5 June 2013

I last met the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore on 29 April in Belfast at an event to mark the progress made in Northern Ireland in the 15 years since the Belfast agreement. At that event we set out our views on the importance of addressing sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland and building a shared society.

Given the importance of cross-border co-operation for security, particularly in the light of the upcoming G8 summit at Lough Erne, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is vital for the people across the whole of the island, as well as for people in the United Kingdom, that we have closer relationships with Ireland?

I entirely agree. The working relationships between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Siochana have never been closer. This highly effective co-operation has been saving lives in Northern Ireland and combating terrorism and organised crime, and it is also playing a significant part in our plans to deliver a safe and secure G8 summit.

Further to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) made, is the Secretary of State able to give a date by which she can assure the Irish Foreign Minister that the National Crime Agency and the asset recovery scheme will operate in Northern Ireland, because this affects both sides of the border dramatically?

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State has emphasised, a legislative consent motion on the NCA is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive. We are disappointed that they have not taken up our offer for the NCA to operate in devolved spheres. I can reassure the House that the NCA will be able to operate in relation to matters that are not devolved, including HMRC matters and fuel fraud.

Further to the supplementary question asked by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley), can the Secretary of State tell us how many Army personnel, if any, are going to be deployed for the G8 summit, in addition to the 3,800 volunteers from other police services in the United Kingdom? How are the security costs being met, in terms of Westminster and the Northern Ireland Assembly?

The vast majority of the costs of the G8 summit will be met by the Government, although a small amount may fall to the Executive to meet. We are doing our very best to ensure that that is kept as low as possible, and we believe that the G8 summit will have a very significant positive economic benefit for Northern Ireland. The military are providing a number of specialist services to support the security effort. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I am unable to give details of operational matters of that nature, but these services are routine for events on this scale and previous G8-type events.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer.

On her discussions with the Irish Foreign Minister more generally, she will be aware, as will the House, of the serious attacks mounted against Police Service of Northern Ireland officers recently in Dunmurry and in my constituency, where police officers came within inches of death at the hands of republicans. What is her assessment of the current strength of these republican groups now operating against the police? What numbers are involved? What steps will she take further to strengthen the PSNI in its battle against them?

I fully agree with the right hon. Gentleman on the seriousness of the terrorist threat from dissident republicans. There have been eight national security attacks this year, but the better news is that there have also been 68 arrests and 32 charges for terrorist-related offences and DR-related crime. We are doing everything we can to support the PSNI with the £200 million we added to its settlement in this comprehensive spending review. We continue discussions with the Treasury on adding to that funding in the next CSR period. The threat continues to be severe, but the UK Government are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to counter terrorism, both domestic and international.