Page last updated at 21:03 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 22:03 UK

Justice Bill passes second stage

Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness said progress was made

The second stage stage of the Justice Bill has been passed in the NI Assembly after a marathon debate.

Discussions on the bill, which deals with policing and justice, lasted eight hours before being voted through by the DUP, Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party.

The Ulster Unionists and the SDLP were unhappy with parts of the legislation and voted against the bill.

Earlier, Martin McGuinness said a deal on the devolution of policing and justice was "very close".

The deputy first minister said "very significant progress" had been made in talks on Monday and last week.

He and First Minister Peter Robinson have been discussing the issue with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

On Wednesday, they will attend an economic conference in New York where talks will continue.

However, Mr Robinson had earlier dismissed the deputy first minister's assertion that a deal on policing and justice could be concluded later this week.

Mr Robinson said they discussed a wide range of issues but no overall deal had been agreed.

"As the prime minister was able to make offers on some elements, we will now consider these in greater detail," he said.

Meetings

"A number of big-ticket issues remain outstanding and have not been addressed by the government, however, the prime minister has given a commitment to deal with these matters later this week.

"Whilst I will be travelling to New York on Wednesday, I have made it clear that these financial discussions will not be concluded in the States.

"As far as I am concerned, the party will not be concluding the financial deal until the party officers and our assembly group have evaluated the package and are satisfied."

He said community confidence remained the crucial test for devolving policing and justice powers.

Meanwhile, the man tipped to be the policing and justice minister has written to NI's four main parties asking for talks.

Alliance leader David Ford said he wants the meetings so that agreement can be reached "on the widest possible basis".



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