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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I shall, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester asked me to do so, add his condolences to the bereaved. I take his point about those in Iraq. Death knows no passport and no nationality. I echo what was said by the Archbishops of Canterbury, York and Westminster, the Chief Rabbi, the Moderator of the Free Churches and the Chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams UK. They said:


I am happy to repeat that and endorse it, and I am grateful that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester raised the question in that way. He asks me for an assurance that we will give every support to our NGOs. I give that assurance. I can tell the House, in answer to his question, that DfID is fully involved in meetings with the NGOs. The allocation, even so far, to the Red Cross and the Red Crescent for pre-positioning food and other supplies is 2 million. Eight million pounds is going to the World Food Programme, 2 million to UNICEF, 1.75 million to UNHCR and 1 million to the World Health Organisation. We are paying careful attention to the NGOs' proposals, which are currently being assessed.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, what assurances were given by President Chirac and, for that matter, Chancellor Schroeder, about the rehabilitation of Iraq when the conflict ceases? My noble and learned friend has been kind enough to tell the House about the

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assurances the Government have given to NGOs so far as this country is concerned. Has that been repeated by either of them?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. His answer can be found in paragraph 67, on page 31. It is the third paragraph—I have read the first two. It concludes:


    "We"—

that is, the Council as a whole—


    "urgently need to address the major humanitarian needs that will arise from the conflict. The EU is committed to be actively involved in this field, in accordance with established principles. We support the UN Secretary General's proposal that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people can continue to be met through the 'Oil for Food' programme".

On the regional front, on page 32, it concludes:


    "We express solidarity with and stand ready to assist those countries that are faced with problems and risks as a result of the conflict, including possible refugee flows. The EU will actively engage in supporting regional stability".

Despite the differences that we have had with our allies—we should not forget that the French Government have been our allies for many decades—we must work together, not only in the European context but in humanitarian relief as well.

Lord Hooson: My Lords—

Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, while I agree with the noble and learned Lord—

Noble Lords: Cross Bench!

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am sorry to intervene in my own cause, but I do not believe that we have had a contribution from the Cross Benches. The House's view seems to be that we should hear from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that intervention and for repeating the Statement made in another place. I share with the whole House the sense of sorrow and loss over the tragic accidents. I have written to the Chief of the Air Staff about the Tornado.

First, I commend the noble and learned Lord for his reluctance to dwell on raw and unassessed intelligence. I fully agree with him on that. It would be a great help if the Government could persuade the media of that too, as they are very active in assessing what they see in ways that can be upsetting and unnerving for the families and friends of people in the theatre. Anything that can be done to persuade the media in that area would be greatly appreciated.

Secondly, I believe that I heard the noble and learned Lord say in the Statement that the objective was to remove Saddam from power. Is it too early to ask what Her Majesty's Government would do in the event that Saddam fell alive into the hands of British Forces?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful for the support given by the noble and gallant Lord.

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He is right about unassessed intelligence. It has been a feature of announcements over many years that they are made and then have to be corrected. As he says, a great deal of distress is caused unnecessarily, and the corrected statement tends to impeach the validity of other statements that might be fully accurate. The media must take their own course, recognising the fact that each journalist is a citizen of this country and owes the same responsibilities as the rest of us.

On the face of it, Saddam is undoubtedly guilty of many crimes. There are alternative venues where he might be tried. If he is captured alive, he must suffer the sanctions of the criminal law in the same way as other criminals do.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord recollect—

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, we have come to the end of our time.

Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill

4.54 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 3.

[Amendments Nos. 45 to 49 not moved.]

Lord Greaves moved Amendment No. 49A:


    Page 3, line 4, at beginning insert "For the purposes of Part 1,"

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments 59A and 59B, standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Hamwee and myself.

We are moving on to a new subject—the counting of the votes and declaration of results in referendums. These are probing amendments, not least because two amendments say different things about the same matter, aimed at getting the Government to say what their thinking is on these matters.

The substance of the amendments is to be found in Amendments Nos. 59A and 59B and covers two areas. First, they state that the counting of the votes must take place at the level of the electoral area, such as the local government wards or county divisions. Secondly, the declaration of the result must be either by principal council area as well as the region as a whole, or by parliamentary constituency as well as the region as a whole.

The amendments would assist in the scrutiny of the results, so that people involved in the referendums, such as the counting agents, the political parties and campaign groups, can have some check on the accuracy of the results. If there is simply one great big announcement, it is difficult to know whether it is accurate. Indeed, the value of such a check can be seen from the European elections in London, in which the results for one borough were declared or sent in wrongly. The political party people were able to check that and get it corrected.

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The second and perhaps more important reason for having the results declared at a local level, preferably by principal council area, is that of transparency. We would be able to see whether different parts of a region had voted differently and how those parts of the region voted that have two-tier local government and would be given unitary local government if the referendum were passed and the Government had their way.

We might use the North East as an example. With this amendment, we could see how the different districts in Northumberland voted, as opposed to the region as a whole—the metropolitan districts and unitary areas of the North East. It may be that even if Northumberland voted narrowly against a regional assembly and the region as a whole voted heavily in favour, the Secretary of State might decide on the basis of the referendum to go ahead with setting up a regional assembly in the North East. On the other hand, there might be a very small majority in the region in favour of a regional assembly while the existing two-tier local government areas—the shire counties—might vote heavily against it. In those circumstances, the Secretary of State might pause and think about the matter. He might come to the conclusion that the division of opinion in the region, even if there was a small majority in favour overall, was such that it would not be sensible to go ahead. There might be a great split between different areas.

These are hypothetical questions, because we have no idea how people are going to vote. Given the opportunity to vote for unitary local government and a regional assembly, the people of Northumberland and Durham might flock to the polls to vote for it. Areas such as Newcastle or Gateshead might decide that they do not want a regional assembly because it might undermine the status of the metropolitan councils, which are important to them.

As the effect on different local government areas will be so different depending on whether they are two-tier or unitary, we think that the results of the different areas should be announced. There are precedents for that. In Wales and in Scotland the results were announced by local authority area. Indeed, in Wales, we were all biting our nails awaiting the outcome of the vote in Gwynedd where, although the Government had more or less thrown in the towel, our people said, "No, it will be all right. Gwynedd is going to be okay". Ultimately it was all right and the final result made the difference.

The results in Wales and Scotland were declared by local authority area, and we expect that these results will be handled in the same way. We have moved this amendment simply to get a commitment from the Government that that will happen. I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Rooker: I can be very brief. There is no need to give the commitment which the noble Lord seeks because those arrangements are a matter of law. Section 128 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 makes clear provision for arrangements for the counting of votes in

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referendums. That section requires counting officers to be appointed for each district or unitary district and for each counting officer to certify the number of ballot papers counted and the number of votes cast in favour of each answer to the referendum question. Of course there will be more than one polling station, but the fact is that the results will be available by local authority. That is the situation.

There are further complications in some of the amendments regarding parliamentary constituencies. Parliamentary constituencies are contained within local authority boundaries in the area that I come from, although I am aware that in some areas there is a cross-over. MPs always like to know how their constituents vote on any issue that affects them, but in this case it is local authorities that will be affected as they are the units which form the structure of local government. There will be no secret about the results. A breakdown of votes by local authority across the region will be made publicly available at the same time as, or very quickly after, declaration of the overall result.

We do not see the need for separate declarations of votes. As there will be no candidates, it is difficult to see who would attend the declaration. The information on votes across the overall region will not be hidden. As I said, that is provided for in law, which is why it is not dealt with in the Bill.


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