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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): Following the expiry of the call-out order made last January, I am informing the House that a new order has been made under the Reserve Forces Act 1996 so that Reservists may continue to be called out into service to support operations in Iraq. The new order is effective until 6 January 2005.
Some 8,500 reservists were called out and accepted into service under the order made last year. The proportion of reservists deployed with the UK force in theatre is currently just under 20 per cent, but this is expected to reduce to just over 10 per cent during the course of the year. The next tranche of Reservists, involving some 1,100 personnel, will shortly be called out for mobilisation and then deployed in early April where the majority will complete six-month tours. We will continue to keep the size and mix of forces in theatre under careful review. We are very appreciative of the continuing support and commitment shown by Reservists and their employers.
The Government are grateful for the contribution of the Joint Committee and the Defence Committee to the development of the thinking on the draft Bill as set out in their reports of 2 July and 28 November. We have considered in detail the recommendations put forward. Copies of the Government's response are available in the Libraries of both Houses and can also be viewed on the UK Resilience website (www.ukresilience.info).
The Minister for the Cabinet Office has also today published the Cabinet Office report on the Government's response to the public consultation on the draft Civil Contingencies Bill, which was carried out last summer from 19 June until 11 September. This is also available in the Libraries of both Houses and can be viewed at www.ukresilience.info.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Government have today exchanged letters with the Irish Government to bring the agreement establishing the Independent Monitoring Commission into force. The final draft of the agreement was placed in the Library of the House on 4 September 2003. Following signature on 25 November 2003, the agreement was published as Command Paper Cm 6068 and laid before Parliament on 3 December 2003 in accordance with the Ponsonby "rule".
Both Governments have been committed to doing all they can to ensure that the commission can begin its work as early as possible. We are confident that in agreeing an early date for entry into force with the Irish Governmentbefore the 21 days required by the Ponsonby "rule" have elapsedwe have acted with the will of the House.
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