The hon. Gentleman refers me to a text that I do not have in front of me. I am not aware of the recruitment effort that was made to which the Chief Constable referred. I am aware of problems in one particular area that have now been addressed by the appointment of recruitment agencies to take recruitment matters forward. Since their appointment, all recruitment drives run by the two agencies have been so good that it has always been possible to appoint the required numbers of recruits under the 50:50 arrangements.
We are not complacent. If a problem has been caused by the 50:50 arrangements, we are prepared to listen to a clear case when it is made to us. Undeniably, there are shortages of skills and experience in certain areas. The PSNI and the Policing Board have together developed a human resources strategy to address the current manpower difficulties.
The Government have made it clear on several occasions during the debates that we are aware that Policing Board members are considering seeking a limited exception to the 50:50 recruitment arrangements, to allow the Chief Constable to address the current shortage of experienced officers at the rank of constable with specific specialist skills.