The Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI) 50-50 catholic/protestant recruitment policy has led to 440 protestant applicants being discriminated against, the government has admitted.
Security minister Ian Pearson told the House of Commons that the policy was an exceptional way of addressing what he called an historical imbalance.
He also said the government was on target to achieve 30% Catholic representation in the PSNI by 2011.
The Patten Report recommended the 50-50 policy as a key element of the Good Friday Agreement.
"In 1998, when the Patten Commission was conducting its investigation, only 8.3% of regular officers were from the roman catholic community," Pearson said.
"As of 1 March that figure stands at 17.18% with 1,733 recruits having been selected for appointment on a 50-50 basis.
"Our goal is to increase catholic representation to 30% by 2010-2011. I am pleased to say we are very much on target to achieve that goal," he told MPs.