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PSNI (Recruitment)

Volume 505: debated on Wednesday 3 February 2010

6. What his most recent estimate is of the level of recruitment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland of (a) Catholics and (b) Protestants; and if he will make a statement. (314142)

Since the introduction of the temporary recruitment provisions in 2001, there have been 3,751 appointments to the PSNI—1,888 Catholic, 1,831 Protestant and 32 not determined. Catholic composition within the PSNI has increased from 8.3 per cent. to 27.68 per cent. We remain on track to reach the target of 30 per cent. Catholic composition by March 2011, and today I am laying before Parliament an order that will renew the temporary provisions for a further final year.

What further measures will the Minister take to ensure that the required level of membership will be met from both denominations?

It was necessary to introduce the temporary provisions to deal with the historical imbalance in the representation in the PSNI. As I said, in 2001, 8 per cent. were Catholic, but now that figure is 27.68 per cent. As we move forward, however, it is important to ensure that, with confidence in policing shared across all communities, we can expect applications and people of high calibre from all communities and that they will be recruited. Of course we also need strategies to ensure that women apply to join the PSNI, and people from ethnic minorities too.

The Minister will be aware that over the past 12 months a number of PSNI and prison officers and former security force members have had to leave their homes following dissident republican threats. Does he agree that, if that continues, it will be a hindrance to encouraging young people to join the PSNI?

It is important, of course, that the Northern Ireland Office stands alongside the PSNI and provides support and protection where appropriate to police officers who may be under a serious and individual threat. However, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, we all bear a responsibility to ensure that we create an environment in Northern Ireland in which those who seek to carry out the kinds of attack that we have seen are isolated from the mainstream community and stand unsupported and alone, so that they can have no further impact. All of us, including the hon. Gentleman and me, bear a responsibility.