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The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Murphy): The Government have been considering for a lengthy period how best to take forward one aspect of the modernisation agenda of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The announcement being made today reflects the enormous progress that has already been made in implementing the recommendations of the Patten commission.
Patten acknowledged that whatever changes were necessary in the policing arrangements for Northern Ireland it would remain the case that national security was a matter for central Government, as is the case in the rest of the United Kingdom. The Government have itself consistently subscribed to that view. The very serious threat from international terrorism which has developed over recent years has reinforced that conclusion.
Against that background it seems to the Government appropriate to announce their intention that the security service will assume for Northern Ireland the lead responsibility it has had for national security intelligence work since 1992 in Great Britain.
Such change will in no way diminish the role of the PSNI in intelligence gathering in areas other than national security, nor of course in mounting executive policing operations, making arrests and taking forward prosecutions.
Looking to the future, such a change will facilitate the devolution of justice and policing when a robust and workable basis for that is agreed, taking account of the fact that national security is an excepted matter for which the Secretary of State must remain responsible. In the meantime there are important benefits in bringing the arrangements for national security into line with the rest of the UK so as to provide for a consistent and coordinated response to international terrorism. Sharing of intelligence on a cross-border and international basis will be particularly important in combating money-laundering and other aspects of organised crime.
The PSNI and the security service will continue to work together in partnership, making best use of their complementary skills and expertise. The PSNI will, as now, provide the operational police response in countering terrorism, and in protecting the whole community in Northern Ireland.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Alan Johnson): I have today published a paper "Principles for Reform: The National Pensions Debate" which sets out our guiding principles for reform of the pensions system. A copy has been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office.
Our policies are delivering for today's pensioners and the Government have already started to address issues for future generations of pensioners. However, our analysis and that of the Pensions Commission shows that we cannot necessarily rely on the existing structures to provide the same positive outcomes as we move further into the 21st Century.
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The challenges facing the future of UK pensions are high in the public consciousness and there has been a wide variety of suggestions for change. We agree with the Pensions Commission cautioning against rushing to immediate conclusions, and believe that a well-informed debate will move us towards building a national consensus on the next stage of reform. As a first step towards building this consensus, this paper sets out six key principles that have been inherent in our action so far and which we believe should guide our approach in the future.
The Government will engage with the public and other key stakeholders over the principles outlined in this document, with the aim of achieving a shared framework of criteria against which options for reform can be assessed.