My honourable friend the Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Paul Goggins) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
During consideration of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (Renewal of Temporary Provisions) Order 2007 the Government undertook to return to the House on an annual basis and report on progress towards our target of 30 per cent Catholic composition within regular officers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Since the introduction of the temporary provisions in 2001 tremendous progress has been made towards a more representative police service. The Catholic composition of police officers has increased from 8.3 per cent at the time of the Patten report to 23.71 per cent as of mid-February 2008. The number of Catholic applications to the PSNI has also been encouraging, with 44.4 per cent of applicants in the last campaign being from the Catholic community.
In the first 13 competitions over 80,000 applications have been received from across the whole community. This figure reflects the fact that there is a new generation who are ready to commit to a career in PSNI and emphasises that confidence in our new policing structures is rising.
Female composition within PSNI has increased from 12 per cent in 2001 to 22.1 per cent, and there are currently 28 officers from an ethnic minority background including Pakistani, Black Caribbean, Chinese and Indian. The PSNI ethnic minority background workforce composition is currently 0.43 per cent, broadly equating to the overall level (0.48 per cent) of the working-age ethnic-minority population in Northern Ireland.
Catholic representation among civilian staff also continues to rise. The percentage of Catholic police support staff has increased from 12 per cent at the time of the Patten report to 17.32 per cent on 1 February 2008 with the composition among direct recruits now at 22.36 per cent. There are a number of initiatives ongoing which will continue to improve this over time.
The Government remain committed to addressing the religious imbalance within the Police Service and the St Andrews Agreement makes it clear that the temporary 50:50 recruitment arrangements to the PSNI will lapse when the Government's target of 30 per cent Catholic officers has been achieved. We are on course to reach this target by 2010-11.