THIRTY FIFTH REPORTTHE FUTURE OF
EUROPE: PROGRESS REPORT ON THE DRAFT CONSTITUTIONAL TREATY AND
1. The Government welcomes the Committee's Progress
Report and forward look to the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference
(IGC). We have valued the Committee's interest in the work of
the Convention on the Future of Europe and look forward to a continued
exchange of ideas during the IGC negotiations.
2. Heads of State or Government agreed at the
Thessaloniki European Council, 19-20 June 2003, that the IGC will
be conducted by themselves, assisted by Foreign Ministers. We
welcome wholeheartedly the decision that the acceding States will
participate fully in the IGC, on an equal footing with the current
Member States. The three candidate countries will take part as
3. Negotiations are due to begin on 4 October.
At the time of writing, the Italian Presidency has not yet finalised
the detailed arrangements about how the IGC process will work.
We do not yet know how long they will last, although the Conclusions
from the Thessaloniki Summit called for the IGC to "complete
its work and agree the Constitutional Treaty as soon as possible
and in time for it to become known to European citizens before
the June 2004 elections for the European Parliament."
We accordingly make this Report for debate, and
recommend that such debate takes place jointly with that on the
Government's motion on 9 September. (Paragraph 6 of the Report)
4. Time on the floor for debates is, of course,
a matter for the Business Managers. We look forward to the debate
that has already been arranged on the Convention on 9 September
and hope that it will be possible in that debate to look ahead
to the work of the IGC as well.
5. The Committee will be aware of the considerable
pressures on Parliamentary business. We shall do our best, however,
in consultation with the Business Managers, to identify suitable
time to examine the work of the IGC.
We accordingly welcome evidence to help us with
our final report. Evidence should be submitted in writing by 10th
September. (Paragraph 6)
6. The Government notes the twelve Explanatory
Memoranda deposited with Parliament on the draft Constitutional
Treaty, as well as the Government Responses to the many Reports
published by the Committee and its sister Committee in the House
of Commons. We have published two Command Papers containing the
text of the draft Constitutional Treaty. We are publishing in
early September a White Paper setting out the Government's approach
to the IGC. We are considering what additional documentation would
We recommend that the Government publicises its
strategy for keeping Parliament informed of the work of IGC (to
include both written reports to both Houses and proceedings on
the floor, including statements and debates). The Government is
also working to present the draft constitutional Treaty to the
public and should do more to make known the content and effect
of the Treaty. (Paragraph 7)
7. Without knowing yet the precise arrangements
for the IGC negotiations, it is difficult to determine how best
to ensure that Parliament and the public are kept informed about
progress. The Government does take this issue seriously and we
recognise the need for Parliament to be aware of the process as
early as possible, in order to put in place its own mechanisms
for following the IGC's work. We undertake to inform Parliament
at the earliest opportunity of how the IGC negotiations will be
organised, and set out our proposals for keeping Parliament informed.
The Government hopes to respond positively to the proposal for
a Joint Standing Committee on the IGC.
8. As part of the Government's continuing efforts
to ensure that the public is informed about the future of Europe
debate, we are as stated above publishing a White Paper, setting
out our thinking as we approach the IGC negotiations. In addition,
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has launched an on-line consultation
on the draft Constitutional Treaty. This public forum is open
to all members of the public, including parliamentarians. It was
officially launched by the Minister for Europe on 19 August and
will run throughout the Summer, until the IGC begins on 4 October.
The Hansard Society - an independent, non-partisan, educational
charity which promotes effective parliamentary democracy - is
monitoring the consultation.
9. The Government hopes that this will be an
opportunity for the public to feed their opinions on the draft
Constitution to the Government, as we make our preparations for
10. In addition, the Europe Minister, Dr Denis
MacShane, is undertaking a series of visits around the United
Kingdom to discuss with regional audiences the Union's enlargement
and its implications for the future of the European Union. Details
of his regional visits are available on the FCO website (www.fco.gov.uk).
146 Government Response dated 4 September 2003. Back