Page last updated at 18:56 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 19:56 UK

Cameron warning on policing deal

David Cameron
David Cameron said he could not guarantee any financial package

Conservative leader David Cameron has said he cannot guarantee any financial deal for devolving NI justice powers if his party forms the next government.

Mr Cameron was speaking ahead of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's visit on Monday to discuss the issue.

He said he was keen for the powers to be devolved but he could not definitely stick to Labour's commitments.

Earlier, NI First Minister Peter Robinson said a better financial deal was possible.

Mr Cameron said there was a great deal of cross-party consensus on the issue.

"We all want to see devolution of law and justice as part of the devolution process," he said.

"We've always said you've got to have confidence on all sides before it can happen properly.

"But we want it to happen and generally speaking commitments that are made we will try and agree to, but I can't give a blank cheque."

Welcome visit

Earlier, Mr Robinson said he always welcomed a visit from the prime minister and he was confident he could secure a better funding deal.

He said: "Is Sinn Fein saying that they are ready to move now, that the conditions are right, that the financial package as it stands... is satisfactory?

"Because that is the only basis upon which they could be unhappy that we are not signing up to policing and justice.

"So if we freeze things at this moment in time, I'll guarantee you before policing and justice is devolved, there will be a better deal on the table."

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said transferring the powers was "not an optional extra".

"It was a key element of the St. Andrews Agreement and the DUP signed up for a process to deliver it last year.

"Peter Robinson needs to stick to that deal."

On Thursday, Secretary of State Shaun Woodward said US firms were poised to invest in Northern Ireland once a deal on justice and policing is agreed.

He said the transfer of these powers was "the final part of the jigsaw".

BBC political editor Mark Devenport said Mr Brown would have his work cut out when he arrived at Stormont on Monday.

"Not only will he have to address the continuing financial arguments about exactly how much cash will be required for the justice system in the future, in addition he may have to tread carefully in the knowledge that relations between Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness on this topic have deteriorated badly."

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