Headlines: August 20th, 2003

The government has created an online forum for the debate on the proposed European Constitution. The system, launched by the Europe Minister, Denis MacShane, will allow those who log on to discuss the issues directly with ministers and officials.The Foreign Office has worked closely with Graham Allen MP and the Hansard Society to set up the independently monitored website which will allow everyone who chooses to put their point of view to the people who will be conducting Britain’s negotiations on the proposals.

The forum will provide discussion groups on issues such as defence and security, the Charter of Rights and justice and home affairs and will also allow users to access guides to the topics and other background material.

Dennis MacShane said, “ We’ve been negotiating treaties for centuries, always behind closed doors but this is the first time we’ve taken that process out of smoke-filled rooms and let everyone have their say.”

The forum is hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at www.Europe.gov.uk and is available from now until the beginning of the Inter-Governmental Conference on October 4th. The Hansard Society will act as independent moderators for the forum as part of their role as an independent, non-partisan educational charity, which exists to promote effective parliamentary democracy.