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Written Ministerial Statement by Tony Blair on the subject of national security in Northern Ireland, (10 January 2007)

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Text: Tony Blair ... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Written Ministerial Statement by Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, on the subject of national security in Northern Ireland, House of Commons, (10 January 2007)


National Security in Northern Ireland

"There has been some concern over the arrangements set out in Annex E which was published along with the St Andrews Agreement. The Government is therefore issuing a new statement in relation to national security.

This will help bring Northern Ireland into line with a European approach which would provide a consistent and co-ordinated response to the threat from international terrorism which concerns us all. The threat presented by international terrorism to citizens was graphically illustrated by the train bombings in Madrid and the 2005 attacks in London. The loss of life was horrific and completely unacceptable. The handling of national security intelligence throughout the European Union including Northern Ireland is designed to provide a consistent and co-ordinated response to the grave threat posed by international terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Security Service will be completely distinct and entirely separate bodies. All necessary interaction between the Security Service and the PSNI, for example in response to the threat of international terrorism, will, as directed by the Chief Constable, be by way of liaison. No police officers will be seconded to or under the control of the Security Service. The small number of police officers who act in a liaison capacity with the Security Service will be PSNI Headquarters staff acting in that role for fixed time-limited periods to the extent that the Chief Constable deems necessary for them to perform their duties. Policing is the responsibility solely of the PSNI. The Security Service will have no role whatsoever in civic policing.

Leadership and direction of all police work is the responsibility of the Chief Constable who will remain accountable to the Policing Board.

All PSNI officers will be employed by the PSNI and will be accountable solely to the Chief Constable and to the Policing Board and upon transfer to the Ministers for Justice. The Patten policing reforms will be maintained and there will be no diminution in police accountability.

When the Policing Board establishes a special purposes committee under section 28 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2003 the Government will make any necessary statutory provision to ensure it will be representative of all political parties on the Board.

Future Justice Ministers will receive the same level of information as does the Board and the special purposes committee.

The Ombudsman will have statutory powers to hold to account all police officers. The Ombudsman will also have statutory access to all information held by the police. The Ombudsman's Office and the Security Service will agree arrangements for the Ombudsman's access to sensitive information held by the Service, where necessary for the discharge of the Ombudsman's statutory duties.

Furthermore, I can confirm that the Government will invite Lord Carlile, and any successor, to review annually the operation of the arrangements for handling national security related matters in Northern Ireland. In the course of his review, he will consult the Chief Constable, the Policing Board and the Police Ombudsman, as well as taking into account any views which the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister and, in due course, Justice Ministers may put to him."


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