01 March 2006

Moves to form new Policing Board

BBC

NI Secretary Peter Hain has written to the leaders of the four main parties seeking their nominations for a new Policing Board as of 1 April.

There is no expectation from government that Sinn Fein will take their two places at this stage.

The DUP has been asked to put forward four names. This will increase their current team on the board by one.

The Ulster Unionists and the SDLP have been asked to put forward two each, which is a reduction in their teams.

Sinn Fein has resisted giving the PSNI, the Policing Board and other institutions its support, insisting more legislation is needed before they can sign up.

The government has stuck to their formula despite speculation from some politicians that the resignation of Paul Berry, which changes the arithmetic for any future Stormont Executive, would have a knock on effect on the new Policing Board.

"It is not clear what the attitude of the Ulster Unionists will be to the new board - they had threatened to walk off if the number of unelected members was greater than the number of elected politicians," BBC Northern Ireland editor Mark Devenport said.

On Tuesday, Sir Reg Empey accused the government of a power grab - turning the board from a body with a democratic majority into a "quango".

Some political sources suggest that the government might choose to include elected politicians amongst the ranks of independent members in order to meet Ulster Unionist concerns.

However, officials are advising against this possibility, indicating that the UUP was being asked to put their concerns to one side in the interests of preserving a balanced board.

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