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Baroness Hanham moved Amendment No. 138:

"This Act shall not come into force until there is an enactment conferring"

The noble Baroness said: Clause 24 enables the Secretary of State to use powers set out in this Bill once it has been enacted, regardless of whether legislation exists enabling him to establish elected regional assemblies. This seems inadvisable and to some extent

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illogical. A regional assemblies Bill might never make it to Royal Assent, yet the powers conferred by this preparations Bill would still be able to be exercised. It is for that reason that we challenge the inclusion of Clause 24.

Amendment No. 138 gives an alternative version. The implication of this Bill, as we all know, is that people will be asked to decide in a referendum whether they want an elected regional assembly for their region, but the powers of the assembly will not have been defined by statute. I shall not delay the Committee long: we believe that the information in the White Paper is not a sufficient basis on which to hold a referendum. The amendment proposes that the wording of Clause 24 should be amended to say that the Act,

    "shall not come into force until there is an enactment conferring",

power on the Secretary of State to establish elected regional assemblies. Amendment No. 139 makes a consequential amendment to Clause 25.

Amendment No. 140 is more of a probing amendment than anything else. Why should Parts 2 and 4 not be subject to the same two-month commencement rule as the other parts of the Bill? This is more evidence of the Government's intention to rush on as quickly as possible.

Previously in Committee, my noble friend Lady Blatch gave the Minister a run for his money about the Government's timetable for the initiation of the Boundary Committee's reviews and the eventual establishment of regional assemblies. We now have that on record. All I ask here is to be given some explanation about why Parts 2 and 4 are treated differently regarding commencement. I beg to move.

2 a.m.

Baroness Hamwee: I wish through Amendment No. 140A to probe further into Clause 25 than the noble Baroness has done. It provides that the preceding provisions of the Bill—those contained in Clauses 1 to 24—come into force at a certain time, except Parts 2 and 4. Why is there a distinction? What has happened to Clause 26 onwards? Those provisions contain some pretty important provisions but do not appear to be covered. When will the provisions to which Clause 25(1) does not apply come into force?

I have examined other pieces of legislation to see what they say about commencement. Where provisions are to come into effect on the date the Bill is enacted, it normally says so. My researches were not extensive. It was a question of what I had on the shelf at the time. However, I could not find an example of the matter being left entirely open. Perhaps the style of parliamentary drafting is changing. I would be grateful for clarification.

Lord Rooker: I shall try and cover all the amendments. I am in some difficulty, because there is a new clause floating around. My noble friend Lord Evans is checking on it for me.

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Amendment No. 138 would prevent anything being done under the Act until legislation was in place enabling the regional assemblies to be established. In that case, we do not really need this Act of Parliament, do we? The amendment would turn things upside down. It would delay the process of setting up elected assemblies in regions that want them. I presume that that is the plan. We want to give people the opportunity to have an assembly if they want one and to give them that choice during this Parliament. That is what we are pledged to do.

I recognise the issue about people voting for or against establishing an assembly before the legislation to do so is enacted. I understand the constant theme throughout our debates. This is because people allegedly would not know enough about the functions, but it is not as though we have not had the White Paper. We have set out our proposals and will base the legislation on the White Paper. There is work to be done, such as the Boundary Committee's recommendations, and so on. I realise that.

Parliamentary time is in short supply, so it makes no sense to use it to examine and enact a substantive Bill before we know that people in at least one region want to establish an elected assembly. The legislation will not be brought forward until there is a satisfactory yes vote in a region. It is exactly the same two-stage process we used in London, Scotland and Wales, so there is nothing novel about it.

Amendment No. 139 would prevent this Bill being enacted before the Act setting out the powers and constitutional arrangements was in force. The amendment would severely delay the process of setting up the assemblies.

Once we have received the Boundary Committee's recommendations for local government in the region, we will publish a short statement of our proposals. It will be a summary of what the assemblies will do, how they will work and our proposals for local government reorganisation, so that when people vote they will know the implications of their vote. That is a two-stage process that we have used before, quite satisfactorily. There is no complaint to be made in logic or fundamental principle about this two-stage process. If people did not vote in the referendums, there would not have been the legislation, and valuable parliamentary time would have been used for something unsatisfactory. It would not make sense.

Amendment No. 140 would prevent Parts 2 and 4 from commencing on Royal Assent. Part 2 relates to local government reviews and Part 4 to the new power for funding the existing regional chambers. The purpose of commencing these parts early is to prevent unnecessary delay in starting local government reviews and to ensure that a suitable mechanism for funding the regional planning responsibilities of the regional chambers is up and running as soon as possible. That is the purpose of the different commencement times.

Amendment No. 140A relates to Clause 25(1), which means that Parts 1, 3 and 5 of the Bill come into force two months after Royal Assent. The amendment would mean that those parts of the Bill came into force

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as soon as the Bill received Royal Assent. There is obviously a keenness for referendums. Clause 25 allows Parts 2 and 4 to come into force on Royal Assent, which the amendment would prevent. The purpose of commencing these parts early is to prevent unnecessary delays, as I said. We have heard arguments that local government reviews should take place after the referendums are held, but we believe it essential that the local government reviews are carried out before the referendum. Unless the reviews are completed before the referendum, people voting in the referendum will be unaware of the implication of voting. We must put that clearly—a good story is worth repeating, because I obviously did not get it across earlier. People need to know what they are voting for, and it is our job to ensure that they have all the necessary information.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked why Clauses 26 onwards were not referred to. We do not need to do that because, without explicitly referring to them, they come into force on Royal Assent. That is probably part of some legislation elsewhere, dealing with the passage of Bills into Acts.

Clause 25(1) refers to "preceding provisions", while subsection (2) derogates from the rule in subsection (1), since Parts 2 and 4 precede Clause 25 and need to come into effect immediately. That is a long-winded way of making a separate case for a special commencement date for Parts 2 and 4.

There is no ulterior motive in having different dates for different parts. We simply want to ensure that different organisations gel. Some can keep going, but others we need legislation for. As regards the funding of the existing regional chambers, we do not want any hiatus or black hole between one organisation coming to an end and the new one starting.

Baroness Hamwee: The Minister seemed to start by saying that Clauses 26 onwards—he referred to Parts 1, 3 and 5—would come into force at the end of the period of two months. Later, he said that Clause 26 onwards will come into force on Royal Assent. I do not think it appropriate to detain the Committee now. However, if I am correct that there have been conflicts in what has been said, perhaps we can correspond on it later.

Lord Rooker: If there is any doubt about the chronology I would be happy to write to the noble Baroness and other noble Lords. However, I think that I have it right because I actually stuck to the notes. It is probably the way in which the amendments are drafted and have been considered. I would be happy to write to set the record straight.

Baroness Hanham: I thank the Minister for his reply. I think that we are discussing the issue at this very late stage because of the problems associated with having the Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill before we have the details of the regional assemblies Bill. We

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have been seeking to get that information throughout the course of this rather protracted Committee stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 [Commencement]:

[Amendments Nos. 139 to 140A not moved.]

Clause 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 [Regions]:

[Amendments Nos. 141 to 143 not moved.]

Clause 27 [Orders and regulations]:

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