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National Assembly for Wales (Referendum on Law-making Powers)

Volume 515: debated on Thursday 9 September 2010

The National Assembly for Wales passed a resolution on 9 February 2010 calling for a referendum under the terms of the Government of Wales Act 2006. The First Minister notified my predecessor of this resolution on 17 February 2010.

I have a statutory duty to consult the Electoral Commission on the question that will be included in the draft referendum order. I referred a question proposed by the Wales Office Referendum Project Board to the Electoral Commission on 23 June 2010. The commission has conducted a thorough assessment of the preamble and question, including carrying out public opinion research, gathering views from interested parties and seeking advice from experts on plain language and accessibility in English and Welsh. It published its findings and recommendations on 2 September 2010.

I welcome the objectivity and independence that the Electoral Commission has brought to the process. It has suggested changes that take into account the generally low level of public awareness of issues and terminology relating to the referendum encountered during the testing process. I have discussed the conclusions of the report with the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister and, with their agreement, have decided to accept the commission’s recommended revision of the question and its preamble.

I will lay the draft order before Parliament shortly for consideration by both Houses, and my intention remains for the referendum in Wales to take place in the first quarter of next year.