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Security Situation

Volume 658: debated on Wednesday 10 April 2019

The threat from dissident republican terrorism continues to be severe in Northern Ireland. Our top priority is to keep people safe and secure. Vigilance against this continuing threat is essential and we remain determined to ensure that terrorism never succeeds.

It is 21 years to the day since the signing of the Belfast Good Friday agreement. I will always remember the devastating bomb that ripped through Omagh, the town of my birth, just months before. Does my hon. Friend agree that the agreement has been vital in delivering the relative peace in Northern Ireland and that it must not be jeopardised?

I do. As the Secretary of State rightly mentioned earlier, the Belfast agreement was a landmark moment for Northern Ireland and all its neighbours. The peace that it has helped deliver is the foundation of so much of the economic and social progress that has been made since. Of course, the terrorists know that, which is why it is essential that we never let them win.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Police Service of Northern Ireland does a fantastic job? Will he confirm that the Government will continue to do all they can to support it?

Yes, I do. The Police Service of Northern Ireland does a terrific job of keeping everyone safe across the community in Northern Ireland. I am sure I speak for everybody here in expressing our admiration and thanks for the work it does.

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.] I am very glad that the Prime Minister has just taken her seat, because the question relates to dissident republicans. Has the Minister been made aware by the Police Service of Northern Ireland that dissident republicans are responsible for the recent spate of thefts of ATMs across Northern Ireland and are intent on using the stolen money to purchase weaponry to attack police officers and others along the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

There has been a great deal of speculation about this matter. I hope the hon. Lady will understand that all I can say in my response here is that policing is an operational matter. There are ongoing live police investigations into this matter and therefore I cannot go any further into it. However, I am sure that everybody here will have heard her concerns and registered them clearly.

Bearing in mind that the Secretary of State made a statement saying that the threat level for January was at “severe”, will the Minister outline what efforts have been made to increase police presence in local community policing to build relationships within communities? How much extra funding has he secured for the police?

I am happy to report that there has been a great deal of extra funding for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. There was £230 million of extra security funding over the 2010 Parliament and there has been £131 million over the current spending review period, plus £25 million to tackle paramilitary activity. In December, we announced another £16.5 million to help the Police Service of Northern Ireland prepare for EU exit.

What action are the Government taking to tackle delays in the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland? That is essential to ensuring we do more to bring to justice people responsible for terrorism.

My right hon. Friend, as a former Secretary of State, will appreciate that that is predominantly a devolved matter and that many things would be on the plate of a restored Stormont Assembly and Executive. I am sure that that would be one of them, but first it is essential to get that Executive and Assembly back to work.

In these heightened times of threats against politicians, anyone standing for a council election in England this May does not need to have their home details published. In Northern Ireland, that is not the case, which has led to the Social Democratic and Labour party councillor Máiría Cahill having to withdraw from fighting her seat. Will the Minister tell the House why in England legislation changed but we did not do that in Northern Ireland? When will that change be made?

This matter has come up in the press recently and I know it is causing concern to all parts of the House and in all communities in Northern Ireland. We are tremendously sympathetic. The difficulty is that changing the laws in Northern Ireland in time for the local elections will probably be impossible. We all want to try to ensure that this is dealt with so that the law is in line as soon as we can.