The Northern Secretary has announced that four security installations in the North will be removed. Three are in South Armagh, while the other one is in Magherafelt, County Derry. Work has already begun on dismantling two of the installations, as John Reid called for an early return to normal security arrangements.

Dr Reid said that yesterday's statement on decommissioning by the IRA takes the peace process to "a new political level". He described the move as "unprecedented and genuinely historic".

He said that the political institutions should be returned to full operation as soon as possible and the Good Friday Agreement should be implemented "in all its aspects," including the Patten Report recommendations.

Dr Reid said that the British and Irish Governments accepted that outstanding prosecutions and extradition proceedings for offences committed before April 1998 should not be pursued against supporters of organisations on ceasefire. He also promised a progressive reduction of troops.

These measures were agreed following talks between the two governments and the pro-Agreement parties earlier this year at Weston Park. There is now expected to be a phased process which will include reductions in British troop numbers as well as a review of the new policing arrangements in order to bring them more into line with the original Patten recommendations.

Earlier in the House of Commons, Tony Blair said that the IRA's announcement meant that yesterday was the day when people understood finally that the gun and bomb had no place whatsoever in the future of Northern Ireland. He told Prime Minister's Questions that all Northern Irish parties of any substance were now committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic methods. Mr Blair also called on Loyalist paramilitaries to disarm.

Despite yesterday's announcement, Downing Street warned this morning of "a continuing threat" to the process from dissident Republicans. Mr Blair's spokesman said that the Prime Minister had been "encouraged by developments" such as the jailing by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday of Liam Campbell for membership of the Real IRA.