Quentin Thomas (pictured), a civil servant knighted for services to the Northern Ireland peace process, will succeed Andreas Whittam Smith as president of the British Board of Film Classification.

Thomas, who led the team which first met Sinn Fein following the 1994 cease-fire, stressed the need for the self-funded body to remain dedicated to films and videos. The government recently mooted brining the classification body under the aegis of a regulatory super body called Ofcom.

"The BBFC model is a good one," Thomas said. "It is independent, self-financing, effective and efficient. It provides clear guidance when it is needed. Its duties are carried out in the public interest, but with no charge on public funds."

Thomas, 58, worked on obscenity and film censorship law at the Home Office and on constitutional reform. He led the team supporting ministers in round-table talks which led to1998's Northern Ireland Good Friday agreement.

Whittam Smith, who resigned to take up a Church of England job, liberalised the classification system to allow sex videos to become more widely available. The body may also make the 12 certificate discretionary rather than mandatory.