MacShane named as Europe minister

Gavin Cordon,Whitehall Editor,Pa News
Monday 28 October 2002 01:00

The Junior Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane has been promoted to be the new Europe minister, Downing Street said today.

Mr MacShane, another strong pro–European, takes over from Peter Hain who was last week made Welsh Secretary.

The announcement is the latest move in Tony Blair's frontbench reshuffle following the dramatic resignation of Estelle Morris as Education Secretary.

Bill Rammell, an assistant Government whip, replaces Mr MacShane as a junior Foreign Office minister, Downing Street said.

Gillian Merron, the MP for Lincoln, enters the Government for the first time as Mr Rammell's replacement in the Whips Office.

The appointment of Mr MacShane to what is regarded as one of the most important ministerial posts outside the Cabinet is likely to be welcomed by pro–Europeans.

Like his predecessor Mr Hain, he is seen as an enthusiastic supporter of the single currency and the pro–euro camp will hope that the move signals that Mr Blair has not given up hope of holding a referendum in the current Parliament.

A former BBC producer and ex–president of the National Union of Journalists, Mr MacShane was made a junior Foreign Office minister following the General Election last year.

A spokesman for Britain in Europe welcomed the appointment of Mr MacShane, saying he was a "long–standing supporter of Britain in Europe".

"But it would be wrong to draw an inference from this appointment on the timing of a referendum on the euro – that will depend on the assessment of the Treasury's five economic tests. Nothing more, nothing less," he added.

George Eustice, campaign director of the No campaign, said Mr MacShane was "obsessed" with the euro but dismissed suggestions that the appointment was evidence of a pro–euro campaign.

"Denis MacShane has long been obsessed by the euro but if the Government was serious about launching a pro–euro campaign in the short term, they would probably have appointed someone with more campaigning ability.

"However, the decision about whether or not to hold a referendum is will be dominated by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and the rest of the cabinet will have very little influence."

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