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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 26 January 2005


Regulatory Impact Assessment Process

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Mr. David Miliband): An updated measurement of the level of compliance with the regulatory impact assessment process is today being placed on the website of the Cabinet Office regulatory impact unit. An exercise in November 2004 to establish a snapshot of the level of compliance, based on consultations carried out in the three months to 16 November 2004, showed a compliance rate of 100 per cent. We will continue to keep this under regular review and will report back to Parliament as appropriate.



The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): On the 22 July 2004, Official Report, column 62WS, I announced to the House the publication of a consultation document entitled "Safeguards for Reservists and their Employers: Proposed Amendments to the Schemes for Financial Assistance Awards for Reservists and their Employers" setting out our proposals to update the financial assistance arrangements for reservists who are called-out for permanent service. This received a wide circulation and copies were placed in the Library of the House. Altogether 4,156 visits were recorded to the website including the consultation document before the consultation period closed on 15 October 2004. Some 139 responses were recorded to the online survey and a further 66 individuals responded to the consultation by separate e-mail or by post, while 922 people downloaded the consultation document. An analysis of the responses is available on the MOD website at http://www.financialassistance.mod.uk/files/pdf/Consultation–Results–Report.pdf.

It is clear from the responses received that our proposals will meet the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of those who responded to the consultation. I am therefore today publishing the regulatory impact assessment (RIA). This outlines the impact our proposals would have on reservists and employers. The document will receive a similar circulation to the original consultation and copies will be placed in the Library of the House. The RIA will also be available electronically both on the consultations section of the main Ministry of Defence website at: http://www.mod.uk/consultations/consultations.htm and on the SaBRE website accessible from their front-page at: http://www.sabre.mod.uk/.
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We are inviting comments on the RIA over the next four weeks, with the consultation period ending on 22 February. Subject to any responses, I anticipate being able to introduce the replacement regulations in March 2005.

Northern Ireland

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): As part of our normal process of keeping force levels under review, the GOC Northern Ireland, in consultation with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, has concluded that one of his GB-based battalions can be removed from his command as it is not required for routine support to the police in Northern Ireland. Accordingly, the battalion known as Mainland Battalion 1 (MLD 1), the companies of which have not been routinely based in the Province, can be removed from the command of the GOC NI to CinC LAND on 26 January 2005,

This is a prudent measure to provide military support to the police efficiently and does not affect the army's ability to support the PSNI in countering the threat from terrorism and preventing potential public disorder. We will keep force levels in Northern Ireland under regular review to match the support required by the PSNI.


European Constitution

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I am making available today a commentary on the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe. This commentary will be available in the Vote Office and the Library of the House. It will be published as a Command Paper in advance of Second Reading of the EU Bill. Copies of the Command Paper will be distributed to the media and key opinion formers, including academics, think tanks and business organisations. It will be available on the FCO website http://www.europe.gov.uk and will be distributed to central libraries across the UK.

The Government have already published a White Paper on the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe (Cm 6309) and a guide to the EU which, as well as providing general information about the EU, also explains in general terms what the constitutional treaty is about. This commentary has been produced to meet the Government's further commitment to Parliament, originally to the Lords European Scrutiny Committee to produce "an analysis of the draft treaty against existing treaty provisions". This commitment was reiterated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 4 May 2004 when he agreed that "the Government will publish a range of material to accompany the constitutional treaty including a comprehensive analysis and comparison of the existing treaties and the new constitutional treaty", 4 May 2004, Official Report, column1456W. The commentary, in analysing every article of the draft treaty, explains what each article does
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where this is not obvious from the text, explains where the treaty provision derives from if it is not new, and sets out where legislative procedures have changed.

The EU constitutional treaty is complex. It has to be, because it is not a law for governing a superstate, but a carefully drafted treaty regulating in detail the relations between European nations in a variety of areas. The treaty is also long. It consists of a preamble, 448 articles arranged in four parts, 36 protocols and two annexes and the 50 declarations, which were included in the official record of the signature ceremony. Much of it is a replication of the existing treaties.

The most important provisions of the treaty are all contained within the 60 short articles of part one. These make it clearer than ever before that the EU is a union of sovereign states, which can only exercise those powers given to it by its members. part two consists of the charter of fundamental rights. Part three explains what the union seeks to achieve in the various policy areas in which powers are conferred on it and what the limits on its powers are. It also sets out the detailed legislative procedures for exercising these powers, much of which is taken verbatim from existing treaties. Part four sets out technical and supplementary provisions. It also sets out how the treaty may be amended, how it is to be ratified and when it will come into force.

If the new treaty is approved by all the member states and comes into force, it will replace all the old EU treaties (apart from the Euratom treaty) thus simplifying the legal framework of the union and the communities.

The commentary on the treaty is designed to guide the reader through the treaty and explain its significance. It is in two parts. Part one acts as a general introduction and part two analyses each article of the treaty.

The introduction explains how the EU treaties have evolved over the last 50 years from the Economic Coal and Steel Community (1951) to the draft constitutional treaty. It sets out what the new constitutional treaty does and what it contains. The introduction also includes:

Part two of the commentary provides an article by article analysis of the constitutional treaty, following its structure and layout. Part two contains an annex, which sets out the areas in the new treaty which have moved to either qualified majority voting (QMV) or to co-decision or both. This annex updates and supplements the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe on 5 July 2004, Official Report, column 593W, in order, inter alia, to take account of the procedural changes since that date in the existing treaty provisions. A list of abbreviations and a glossary of key terms used throughout the commentary is also provided.

This constitutional treaty can only come into force once it has been ratified in accordance with the constitutional arrangements of each member state. In
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the UK, this will require primary legislation amending the European Communities Act 1972 and then endorsement in a referendum.

The Government believe that the commentary demonstrates the merit of reorganising the existing treaties into a single coherent document. It also shows clearly how little of the new constitutional treaty is in fact new—the bulk of its provisions are derived directly from and closely follow provisions in the existing treaties.

I hope that this commentary will help inform debate and discussion during the passage of the EU Bill.

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