Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill
Lord Rooker (Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister; Labour)
The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act does not provide for the Electoral Commission to give advice on the boundary review. We must not forget that orders will be brought forward in relation to this matter, and any order, by virtue of Clause 27(2), will be subject to an affirmative resolution of both Houses. Therefore, there cannot be any undue haste in this issue. The matter must be brought back to Parliament and the Secretary of State must make a statement. I cannot say whether it will be made in the House, although it may well be.
However, there is no possibility of a quick fix in relation to this issue. As I said last week, for a referendum conceivably to be held at some date in the autumn of 2004, it will be necessary for the Bill to receive Royal Assent at a reasonably early date—the noble Baroness seems to know the dates better than I do. If this and the other House so desire, that will be fairly early in May this year. It may appear ridiculous that Royal Assent should have to be sought so early. However, because of all the stages that must be gone through in order that there should be no quick fix and no undue haste, that is the necessary procedure. As I said, the matter must come back to Parliament for an order. Perhaps the noble Baroness would have been reassured if I had said that when I first rose. I cannot say how many weeks it will take for the order to be passed but, because it will be dealt with as part of the parliamentary process, it will not be done overnight.