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Volume 616: debated on Wednesday 26 October 2016

The threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism continues to be “severe”, meaning that an attack is highly likely. Our response to terrorism and paramilitary activity is co-ordinated, effective and fully resourced. This Government’s focus is on keeping people safe, and we will ensure that terrorism never succeeds.

Does the Minister agree that it is damaging both to the security situation in Northern Ireland and to the peace process when former members of the armed forces who have been cleared on multiple occasions are now arrested for offences that are alleged to have taken place more than 40 years ago? Will he agree to meet me to discuss the broader issues surrounding the case of Corporal Major Dennis Hutchings?

Criminal investigations and prosecutions are a matter for the police and the prosecuting authorities, who act independently of Government and politicians. The Government therefore cannot comment on individual cases. However, I am more than willing to discuss with the hon. Gentleman the broader issue that he has raised.

In the past two years, 1,631 police officers—a quarter of Northern Ireland’s police force—have been injured or assaulted while on duty. When will the Northern Ireland Office fund and support a new recruitment drive to return the number of officers to the 7,800 required under the Patten settlement?

I condemn all those attacks. They are absolutely appalling. This is, however, a devolved matter, and it is for the Northern Ireland Executive to make decisions on recruitment and numbers.

Does the Minister agree that the best way of tackling paramilitarism and criminality in Northern Ireland is to adopt the community-wide approach that was outlined by the SDLP during last year’s Stormont House talks, rather than throwing money at paramilitary organisations?

I understand what the hon. Lady is saying, but I can give her some comfort. We have ensured that £25 million is available specifically to counter paramilitary activity, and we are working with the Executive to deliver that. We look forward to seeing the report in the near future.