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Regional Assemblies

Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2003

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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what powers the shadow regional assemblies have; what their (a) membership, (b) cost and (c)remit are; and if he will make a statement. [112838]

The existing eight Regional Chambers call themselves Assemblies, but they are not shadow bodies for the elected regional assemblies, whose potential remit was described in the 2002 White Paper "Your Region, Your Choice". The Chambers initially came together voluntarily to act as a focal point for considering issues of regional interest.The Chambers are designated under the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 as representative regional bodies to scrutinize the plans and activities of the Regional Development Agencies. As of 1 April 2003, they have all chosen to become Regional Planning Bodies responsible for keeping regional planning guidance (RPG) under review and preparing any draft revisions as necessary. They collectively receive government grant of £11 million a year for these purposes. An additional £3 million is being made available from the Planning Delivery Grant fund for the purpose of improving their performance in the review of RPG. The bulk of their funding, to support their broader role as a regional focus, comes from local authority subscriptions and other sources.To meet the criteria for designation and receipt of grant their membership needs to be representative of the range of views and interests within the region. The Government expect at least 30 per cent. of Assembly measures to come from stakeholder groups, representative of business, trades unions, environmental, consumer and other groups. The remainder come from local government, and reflect the broad political balance across the region. The Government are not prescriptive about the size of the Assembly, provided that these criteria are met, and both the size of the Assembly and the selection process for membership vary from region to region.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will place in the Library the responses of (a) the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, (b) the TUC Northern Region, (c) the TUC North West Region, (d) the IOD North West, (e) the North West Chambers of Commerce, (f) the Local Government Association North, (g) the Local Government Association North West, (h) English Regions Network, (i) the North West Regional Assembly, (j) the North West Constitutional Convention, (k) CBI North West, (l) CBI Northern and (m) Sustainability North West, to the recent consultation on regional government in the North West of England. [112912]

The Government have asked for responses by 16 May to their soundings exercise on level of interest in each English region in holding a referendum on an elected regional assembly. An announcement will be made in due course as to the region(s) that will proceed towards holding referendums first. At the same time, the Government will publish a summary of the responses received and a breakdown of the responses by region and type of organisation. Where organisations have provided substantial evidence and have not asked that their responses be kept confidential, we will also make their responses available.

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will publish his plans for the holding of referendums on regional government. [113005]

The Government published their proposals to hold referendums in those English regions where there is demand for them in their White Paper, "Your Region, Your Choice", on 9 May 2002. The Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Act, which enables referendums to be held, received Royal Assent on 8 May 2003. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will announce shortly the region(s) in which he is directing local government reviews, the necessary precursor to referendums on elected regional assemblies.