Kevan Jones: If we have a referendum in the north-east, will we see Liberal Focus leaflets in Durham arguing to retain the two-tier system and for an assembly of upwards of 40 or 50 members? Will the Liberal Democrats honestly tell the public that they want more politicians?
Kevan Jones: rose—
Kevan Jones: They usually were.
Kevan Jones: Why did the hon. Gentleman choose the figure of 25 per cent?
Kevan Jones: When did the hon. Gentleman change his mind? When I was a member of Newcastle city council, he was a member of the Liberal Democrat group in the city. I do not remember him having strong views on the subject. He certainly did not support the line that he takes now.
Kevan Jones: While welcoming the national free entry to museums scheme, does my hon. Friend agree that it leaves certain regional museums at a disadvantage, such as the Beamish museum in my constituency, and the Bowes museum at Bishop Auckland, both of which have collections of national significance? Will my right hon. Friend consider what support can be given to museums such as those, which have national...
Kevan Jones: I crave my right hon. Friend's indulgence. The proposal refers to ''employee representatives in the relevant local authorities''. Would it be possible to add trade unions in general? There may be trade unions in regions that do not necessarily have members in local authorities but who will be interested in the regional economy and so on.
Kevan Jones: Does the Minister agree that the boundaries of the regions are not brick walls? A north-east or a north-west assembly will co-operate on a host of issues, and certainly on economic development. There will, I hasten to add, also be co-operation with the Scottish Executive.
Kevan Jones: I wonder if my right hon. Friend is looking forward to the Liberal Democrat ''Focus'', as I am, which will be arguing for an extra tier of government and more councillors?
Kevan Jones: Can the hon. Gentleman explain how one could compensate a body—for example, a district council—that has been abolished? Where would the money go?
Kevan Jones: What will those costs be?
Kevan Jones: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the job in the north-east will be much easier, not just because two thirds of people already live under unitary councils, but because much of the work was done in 1992 when the Banham commission proposed to Durham, for example, a unitary council structure based on that at county level? Perhaps some of that work will help to ensure that the process is quicker.
Kevan Jones: What contribution the UK is making to meeting the 2015 targets for reducing world poverty.
Kevan Jones: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he recognise the important contribution that NGOs such as Oxfam and Church groups—for example, those in my constituency—have played in highlighting world poverty? Will he outline what role those organisations can continue to play in the ongoing Government campaign to eradicate world poverty?
Kevan Jones: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?
Kevan Jones: I welcome the record 28 per cent. increase for Durham and Chester-le-Street PCT, and the 30 per cent. for Derwentside PCT. Although I have reservations about foundation hospitals, I also welcome the opportunity they give local people to have a direct say in their health care. Will my right hon. Friend consider extending that to PCTs?
Kevan Jones: Is it a new national policy of the Liberal Democrat party to say that local people should decide on the tiers of local government and the number of councillors? I reflect on what is currently happening in Newcastle, where a local government review is underway. The Liberal Democrats on the city council are proposing to reduce the number of councillors from, I think, 78 to 60 without any...
Kevan Jones: Does my hon. Friend agree that the Electoral Commission's costs have already been highlighted? A House of Commons research paper states that there will be a limit of £5 million for organisations that take part and that if any participants incur expenses of more than £250,000, an audit report will have to be submitted to the Electoral Commission.
Kevan Jones: May I help the hon. Gentleman? If one has satellite television—quite a large proportion of the population do now—one can access BBC regional news throughout the country. I can sit in Durham and watch the south-west or London news. That is one mechanism whereby people can follow the debate in the south-west or north-west, if they wish.
Kevan Jones: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?