The secretary of state has said he is "not minded" to continue the practice of 50-50 recruitment in the PSNI.
Owen Paterson announced details of a consultation process on the practice which is due to expire in March 2011.
Mr Paterson said that currently more than 29% of serving officers are from a Catholic background which is within the target set by the Patten report.
He said although he favoured ending 50-50, he would "reflect carefully" on the outcome of the consultation.
The current 50-50 recruitment process was introduced to increase the numbers of Catholics joining the police.
When it was introduced in 2001, Catholics made up about 8% of the PSNI.
However the scheme has been strongly opposed by unionist politicians.
In a statement issued on Thursday Mr Paterson said that since the publication of the Patten report there had been "a significant change in the composition of the PSNI".
"The provisions have clearly played an important role in getting us to this point, but it was always envisaged that they would be of a temporary nature," he said.
"These provisions were last consulted on by the previous administration in 2009. In my view the balance of the argument favours letting the provisions lapse in March next year but I will, of course, reflect carefully on the outcome of the consultation."
SDLP assembly member Dominic Bradley said the current proportion of Catholic officers did not mirror the overall religious make-up of Northern Ireland.
"We believe somewhere in the region of between 40 to 44% Catholic membership of the PSNI would be more broadly representative," he said.
"On that basis, 50-50 recruitment should continue."
However, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said while much progress had been made in recruiting Catholic officers, ending the current system would be fairer.
"It has been the case that many Protestant applicants have been discriminated against under this 50-50 rule," he said.
"I think people will recognise the fairness of a system based on merit alone, that the best people are appointed to the job and not on the basis of their religion."