Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill
Lord Rooker (Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister; Labour)
My Lords, the provisions of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) will apply for the purposes of a referendum on regional assemblies. Consistent with the provisions of that Act, Clause 8 of the Bill is currently drafted to permit the Electoral Commission to step in and ensure that voters have the information they need in order to make an informed choice when they vote about whether they want an elected assembly. It limits the Electoral Commission's role to situations where it has not otherwise appointed "designated organisations" in relation to each possible outcome at the referendum; in other words, where it has not designated yes or no campaigns.
With the introduction of the second referendum into local government reorganisation, upon which we agreed yesterday, we need to establish the rules that will apply. The amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, permitted the Secretary of State to establish such rules by order. We shall be talking to the Electoral Commission about how these referendums should be run. There are a number of options available.
It is possible that we shall apply some or all of the PPERA rules. Alternatively, as these are local referendums, we might establish something more akin to the rules that apply to the mayoral referendums. We might do something different again. We want to discuss such matters with the Electoral Commission. But in advance of establishing those rules, it seems prudent to allow the commission sufficient scope to ensure that voters in each local government referendum have sufficient information to make an informed choice—if, for example, the information would not be made available in other ways. In effect, it is a consequential amendment arising from the decisions made yesterday. Quite clearly, there remains work to be done with the commission as regards finding a satisfactory way forward. I beg to move.