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Policing and justice ‘will be independent’

By Sam Lister

Gordon Brown hailed the Hillsborough Castle agreement as a “significant and defining moment” last night as he reassured MPs the judiciary and police would remain independent.

In a statement in the Commons on progress in Northern Ireland the Prime Minister updated MPs on the details of last week's agreement which.

He said it had brought about four crucial breakthroughs — resolution of the outstanding issues on the transfer of policing and justice powers, how the devolution of powers will work, commitment to an improved framework for parading, and action to make devolved government work better.

It was a powerful message to dissidents, he added, saying: “Too many lives have been lost in Northern Ireland. Just a few weeks ago dissident republicans tried to murder a police officer, Constable Heffron. They did not succeed but he was very badly injured. There have been significantly more attacks in the last 12 months than in any recent year.

“So the decisions made in the last few days are the most powerful signal we can send to those who chose violence over politics and I hope the whole House will join with me in sending an unequivocal message to those who would defy the will of the people — that the politics of peaceful change must irrevocably succeed in Northern Ireland — and it must overcome whatever obstacles are put in its way.”

Tory leader David Cameron called on Mr Brown to confirm the judiciary and PSNI chief constable would remain operationally independent after noticing the wording surrounding the roles was changed from “operational independence” to “operational responsibility”.

Mr Brown insisted he should “not read anything into that” and insisted the independence of the role would remain intact.

Mr Cameron called on all parties to take a constructive approach to the deal and said the Tories would honour the financial package in the agreement.

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