To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what criteria he will use in distributing funding for each side of the campaign in the regional assembly referendums; and what funding will be distributed to each side in each referendum. 
Section 108 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) provides that the Electoral Commission may designate permitted participants as organisations to whom assistance is available as representing those campaigning for the outcomes in question. It must designate organisations on each side or none.
If it designates organisations, the Electoral Commission will be able to provide a grant of the same amount to each. The maximum grant under PPERA is £600,000 for each designated organisation. Each designated organisation will also be entitled to receive other assistance: mailing of a referendum address free to every household or elector; the use of public rooms free of charge for holding public meetings; and referendum campaign broadcasts.
The Electoral Commission is considering what the level of grant should be for regional referendums.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) over what period each regional assembly referendum will be held; (2) what the timetable for each regional referendum will be; and if he will make a statement. 
The referendum period will be determined by an order under section five of the Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Act 2003.The provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) set a standard referendum period of 10 weeks. This consists of three separate stages: 28 days for permitted participants to apply to be designated as the "yes" or "no" campaign; 14 days for the Electoral Commission to determine applications; and 28 days for the poll.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he will designate the referendum period for regional assemblies. 
The Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Act 2003 provides that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister may make an order to cause a referendum to be held in a region at any time during the period of two years starting with the date on which the Boundary Committee is directed to carry out a local government review in that region. On 16 June 2003 he directed the Boundary Committee to conduct local government reviews in the north-east, the north-west and Yorkshire and the Humber regions. The Boundary Committee will report its recommendations by 25 May 2004.Then at least six weeks must elapse before the Order is laid. An order therefore cannot be laid before 3 July 2004.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether it is his policy to permit postal ballots in the regional assembly referendums; and if he will make a statement on the use of alternative voting methods in the referendums. 
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has not yet decided what the method of voting will be for the first regional referendums. The referendums may be held either by all-postal voting or by a traditional ballot, and using electronic counting of votes. The Government intend that the same method of voting should be used throughout a region and in all regions holding referendums on the same day. But over time, the method of voting may change.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what plans the Government has to limit announcements (a) during the regional assembly referendum period and (b) in the period immediately before the regional assembly referendum period; (2) if he will make a statement on the distribution of Government literature
(a) during the regional assembly referendum period and (b) in the period immediately before the regional assembly referendum period. 
Regional assembly referendums are governed by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) and the Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Act 2003.Section 125 of PPERA provides that in the final 28 days before the assembly referendum, the Government will not be able to publish material relating to issues in the referendum. These controls apply equally to local authorities and to any other publicly funded body.There are no statutory restrictions on publications or announcements before the 28 day period.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the powers and responsibilities to be held by regional assemblies; and if he will make a statement. 
The Government's proposals on the functions of elected regional assemblies are principally set out in chapter 4 in the White Paper "Your Region, Your Choice" (Cm 5511) which was published in May 2002.The White Paper also said that we would build into policy development the new opportunities offered by the creation of elected regional assemblies. On this basis my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced on 30 June proposals for the future organisation of the fire service, set out in the White Paper "Our Fire and Rescue Service" (Cm 5808). These proposals include a more coherent regional approach to fire and rescue in accordance with the recommendations of the independent review of the fire service, the report of which was published in December 2002. As my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister said on 30 June 2003,
Official Report, column 22, where directly elected regional assemblies are established, we envisage there being regional fire and rescue authorities that are democratically accountable to those assemblies.