HC Deb 05 April 1973 vol 854 cc594-5
7. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what inquiry into the future organisation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary he intends to hold following the publication of the White Paper.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Mills)

My right hon. Friend has no plans for an inquiry.

Mr. Goodhart

Will my hon. Friend remember that the constitutional, the political and the security situation has been quite transformed since Lord Hunt presented his report on the RUC nearly four years ago? In view of the fact that the Secretary of State is bound to have discussions on security with the leaders of the new Assembly following the elections in Northern Ireland, does not my hon. Friend consider that an independent inquiry might present a suitable framework for those discussions?

Mr. Mills

No. With respect, I feel that at the present time the greatest need for the RUC is that it should be built up in strength and effectiveness, and that we should give every encouragement to it. since it is doing a very difficult job.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that the Opposition raised this matter in the wide-ranging debate that we had last week? Has the hon. Gentleman seen the article in The Times today on this matter? I in no way derogate from individual acts of bravery by the RUC in a most difficult task, but does not the hon. Gentleman agree that until civilian policing is restored entirely any talk about withdrawing British troops is not on? Will the hon. Gentleman take note of what his hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) said, because, although perhaps not in that precise form, an inquiry which is concerned with the future is necessary? While in no sense handing over to anyone, might it not be that questions about security and policing could be discussed in an all-Ireland context at the conference, which we hope will be held later in the year?

Mr. Mills

I am not prepared to go further than what I have said already. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) thinks a great deal about these matters. There is a lot of thought going on. But I repeat that at the present moment and in the present situation it is vital to support the RUC by seeking to build up its strength and effectiveness and to encourage recruiting from all sections of the community.