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Baroness Blatch: The noble Lord has described the certification of each of the boxes and we understand that that has always been the procedure. If I understood what he just said, there will be no sectoral declarations. He also said that all of the procedure will be open and that everyone will know the result. However, people will not know the result unless they are at the count. Will there be a declaration of how each county or parliamentary area votes in my own area of East Anglia, which is composed of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and Bedfordshire? Or will there be simply one result and an announcement that, as in London, "X number of people voted. Y people voted in favour and Z people have voted against. Therefore there shall be a London Assembly"? If that is repeated, the intent behind these amendments will not be honoured as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, seeks. We would certainly support him in that.

If a region is being asked whether it wants a regional assembly and two or three of the county areas within a region vote "No" and the others vote "Yes", that result should be announced publicly. There should be a declaration of that view, which should be taken into account in deciding whether to proceed with a regional assembly.

Lord Rooker: That is exactly what I said to the noble Baroness. The results will be announced by the local authorities within the region. The returning officers will make it quite easy to see how the various local authorities have voted. If there are unitary and district authorities within a county, it will be easy to calculate

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how the citizens of that county voted. It will be easy to calculate how citizens living in two-tier areas voted as against those living in single-tier areas because the declaration will be made by local authority. As I said, the legislation requires that counting officers be appointed for each district or unitary district, and the counting officers will certify the votes.

The results will not be announced at ward level; but that is not the issue. In parliamentary elections, one can take samples, but the results are not announced at ward level. In this case, the votes for and against will be made known at all levels of local government within the region. So it will be easy to see how the various parts of the region have voted. That is what I said, and I am a bit surprised that the noble Baroness interpreted it differently.

Lord Greaves: I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. I think that we have cleared up the point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 50:


    After Clause 3, insert the following new clause—


"PROPORTION OF ELECTORS REQUIRED TO SECURE A MAJORITY
A majority in favour of the proposition will not be certified by the Chief Counting Officer unless a majority of those actually voting in the referendum in each of the counties, metropolitan counties or county boroughs comprising the region supports the proposition."

The noble Baroness said: This amendment moves somewhat in the same direction as previous ones. However, it is not about the declaration of the results but about the majority in each area. At Second Reading we discussed at length the balance between rural and urban and how one could be overruled by the other. I think it fair to say that rural areas fear that their views could be subsumed by the overwhelming vote in favour of regional assemblies in the urban areas. The existing proposals seem undemocratic because the vote of those living in shire counties could be well outweighed by those living in unitary authority areas in regions where the greatest proportion of the population lives in unitary areas. For example, the 90 per cent of the electorate who will decide whether people in North Yorkshire are to have a change in local government structure will have nothing whatever at stake because they already have unitary authorities.

The local government of shire areas would, without any safeguard, be voted on by the whole of a generally urban-dominated region rather than by the people of the areas concerned. That would be analogous to having the whole of the UK vote in the Scottish or Welsh referenda, a procedure which was never contemplated for those exercises. Our amendment gives the right of veto to any one county, metropolitan or county borough. If regional assemblies are to be imposed, there must be a majority vote in every area affected. I beg to move.

The Earl of Caithness: I support my noble friend on Amendment No. 50. I think that her amendment is

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better and simpler than my Amendment No. 119C which seeks to do very much the same thing. I think it important that a majority should vote and that a majority should vote in each district. I also believe it important that a majority of the electorate should be required to vote before a decision can be classed as valid. There is no doubt that devolution in Wales was voted on by a minority, and similarly in Scotland. Both Scotland and Wales have had devolution foisted upon them. Let us hope that regional assemblies are not foisted on people in the same way.

Lord Rooker: I shall stick to the maxim that I announced when we began this Committee stage: I shall answer the amendment on the Marshalled List and not what might be thought to be the idea behind it. This new clause is intended to mean that the chief counting officer could not declare the result of the referendum as being in favour of an assembly unless a majority of those voting in the referendum in the two-tier local authority areas in the region voted in favour. Moreover, whether a majority in the region voted in favour of the question could be extrapolated either from the counts carried out by counting officers—as I said in the previous debate; there will be no secrecy about it—or by the fact that a chief counting officer did not, in effect, certify that the majority had voted against or that the votes were equally split.

Where would that leave us? It is not as though the vote will not be announced. As I said, it will be announced by every local authority. The result will be available anyway.

The amendment seeks to prevent the wishes of a majority of people being overturned by what could be a minority of people. I realise that my next point will be considered fanciful. In the east of England 88 per cent of people live in rural areas with two-tier authorities but only 12 per cent of people live in urban areas. That is a mirror image of the example that was mentioned. It is not fair to pick out particular regions to suit one's argument. I have already said that of the eight regions in the country, four have a majority of two-tier authorities and four have a majority of single-tier authorities. In effect, the amendment is meaningless as it would not prevent the result being known. Everyone would know what the overall vote was in a region. The amendment would not prevent that information being made available. It is anti-democratic from that point of view, but I do not believe that it would achieve what the noble Baroness intends. As I say, I have discussed the amendment itself rather than what it is intended to achieve.

Baroness Hanham: The amendment may not be absolutely perfect but I believe that it is clear. We say that for every layer of government there must be a majority in favour of regional government and that if one area is against that is enough to negate the vote. That seems not unreasonable where the representatives of a number of tiers of government—the counties, the districts, the unitary authorities and the metropolitan areas—all vote but have different views and different ideas which may result in different

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outcomes. That is the burden of the amendment. I cannot comment on the chief counting officer's certifying of the result but where the representatives of a number of tiers of government vote—I take the Minister's point that the vote could go the other way in some districts—and where there is an overwhelming vote from one particular part of local government that overwhelms the votes of others, that should not be allowed to be the deciding factor in the referendum. Such a vote should be negated and the chief counting officer ought to be able to declare that it is negated.

Baroness Blatch: Will the Minister return to a point that he mentioned a moment ago? I believe he said that 80 per cent of the people in East Anglia live in rural areas. Will he reconsider that point? I refer to the populations of Luton, Hemel Hempstead, Basildon, all the areas around the urban part of southern Essex, Peterborough, Norwich and Ipswich. I do not believe that 80 per cent of the people of East Anglia live in rural areas.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Rooker: I did not say that and there is no region of East Anglia, much though the noble Baroness may wish that there were. I referred to the east of England where 88 per cent of the population live in areas with two-tier authorities. This debate is about two-tier authorities and the perceived threat to the county councils. We do not accept that proposition but that is what is behind the debate. I believe that Yorkshire and Humberside were referred to. I suggest that the 88 per cent of people in the east of England who live in areas with two-tier authorities could outvote the 12 per cent of people in the east of England who live in areas with single-tier authorities. The 80 per cent of the population of the East Midlands who live in areas with two-tier authorities could outvote the 20 per cent who live in areas with single-tier authorities. However, I do not rest my case on that. As I said, of the eight regions in the country, four have a majority of two-tier authorities and four have a majority of single-tier authorities.


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