9 May 2001 : Column: 159W
The Prime Minister: I refer the right hon. Member to the answers I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. Clapham) and to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) in the House on 2 May 2001, Official Report, columns 844-46.
6. Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on how many occasions IRA arms dumps have been inspected by the international inspectors since 6 May 2000; and if he will make a statement. 
12. Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on how many occasions IRA arms dumps have been inspected by the international inspectors since 6 May 2000; and if he will make a statement. 
Dr. Reid: The two arms inspectors, Martti Ahtisaari and Cyril Ramaphosa, have issued two separate reports on their inspections of IRA arms dumps. On both occasions they reported the dumps held a substantial amount of military material, including explosives and weapons. They remain confident that these weapons and explosives cannot be used without their being aware of it.
7. Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the threat posed by dissident paramilitary organisations to security in (a) Northern Ireland and (b) Great Britain. 
Mr. Ingram: While we believe the main paramilitary groups are maintaining their cease fires there remains a threat from dissidents as evidenced by the recent disruption to the Northern Ireland railway network and the bomb attack on the BBC in London. The security forces are conscious of the threat posed by dissident republicans, and continue to take steps to thwart their attacks.
9 May 2001 : Column: 160W
Mr. Ingram: The Government believe on balance that the main cease fires are holding. There remains however, a threat from republican dissidents who are opposed to the Good Friday Agreement as evidenced by recent attacks on the railway network in Northern Ireland and the discovery of a Mark 15 barrack buster bomb near Omagh. The security forces are conscious of the threat posed by these groups, and continue to take steps to thwart their attacks.
Mr. Ingram: Operational security measures are a matter for the Chief Constable and he keeps security at a level appropriate to his assessment of the prevailing threat. As the level of threat changes, this will be reflected in changes to the security force profile.
Mr. Ingram: The Chief Constable recently announced a number of further normalisation measures including the demolition of the six Fermanagh patrol bases, the closure and demolition of Long Kesh army base and the closure of Strand Road Holding Centre. In the longer term, the number of army bases will reduce to no more than 20. Currently the police routinely patrol without military assistance in 28 of the 29 District Command Units. However, on a number of occasions military support has been utilised for specific purposes. Further measures will very much depend on the removal of the threat from dissident republicans and continued progress towards a normal civil society.
Mr. Ingram: A number of the provisions in the Police Act have been commenced, some as recently as 30 March. Implementation is being taken forward where possible, including the provisions enabling 50:50 recruitment and those relating to the Oversight Commissioner.
Commencement of a number of the sections and schedules in the Act, however, is dependent on the creation of the Policing Board. The Government want to see a Board established as soon as possible so that the comprehensive programme of change envisaged by the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland can be fully progressed.
9 May 2001 : Column: 161W
Dr. Reid: I refer my hon. Friends to the reply I gave earlier today to my hon. Friends the Members for Warrington, South (Ms Southworth) and Barnsley, East and Mexborough (Mr. Ennis), Official Report, column 99.
Dr. Reid: I met the President's National Security Adviser Dr. Rice and Secretary of State Powell when I was in Washington in March. My officials also keep in touch with the Administration, including through the US Embassy in London to keep them abreast of the current political situation.
Mr. George Howarth: Northern Ireland now has the fastest growing economy in the United Kingdom and this economic success is directly related to the Belfast Agreement. Seeing and experiencing such tangible benefits helps to maintain support from the business community and the public at large for our continuing efforts to implement the Agreement in full.
16. Dr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has held with the Taoiseach and the Irish Foreign Minister on matters relating to decommissioning and demilitarisation. 
Dr. Reid: I regularly discuss the security situation, including the decommissioning and normalisation issues in Northern Ireland with the Taoiseach and the Irish Foreign Minister. I last met the Taoiseach on 31 January 2001 and the Irish Foreign Minister on 3 May 2001.
9 May 2001 : Column: 162W
Mr. Ingram: I welcomed the report issued in March by the Decommissioning Commission announcing its re-engagement with the IRA, and look forward to early positive reports from the Commission that progress is being made.
It is vital that all the paramilitary groups on ceasefire fully and actively engage with the Commission so that the issue of illegally held arms can be resolved and decommissioning can occur as soon as possible.
Dr. Reid: I would like to see decommissioning begin as soon as possible and I was encouraged by the report issued by the Decommissioning Commission in March in which it announced its re-engagement with the IRA. Like the Commission, I hope that it will be possible to make substantial progress by the June target date.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|