Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Eleventh Report


REGIONAL ASSEMBLIES (PREPARATIONS) BILL

INTRODUCTION

1.  The main purposes of this bill are to enable the Secretary of State to require the holding of referendums in all or any of the eight English regions outside London and to provide for the local government reviews which are to be a pre-condition of the referendums. The referendum question is whether there should be an elected assembly for the region.

2.  The bill links with Part 7 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 ("the 2000 Act"), which makes general provision for referendums and their conduct, including provision about permitted participants, assistance for designated organisations, financial controls, expenses, broadcasts, etc.

THE DELEGATED POWERS

3.  The delegated powers are all identified in a helpful memorandum to the Committee from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). The memorandum is printed at Annex 1 to this Report. The bill is unusual in that (apart from some powers in the Local Government Act 1992 incorporated by clause 16) all the delegated powers are subject to affirmative procedure. We note, in particular, the powers contained in clauses 1 and 4 of the bill.

Clause 1

4.  Clause 1(1) enables the Secretary of State by order to cause a referendum to be held in a region specified in the order. The power is explained at paragraphs 19 to 26 of ODPM's memorandum. The order must specify the referendum date, as well as the region. The scheme of the bill is that the Secretary of State must first have initiated the local government review procedure for the region under clause 12 (see clause 1(5)), and the only practical alternative to subordinate legislation would be for further bills to be brought forward designating the relevant regions after the reviews had taken place. Although of considerable practical effect, the power under clause 1 is specific and limited in scope. We therefore find the delegation and the level of scrutiny to be appropriate.

Clause 4

5.  Clause 4 enables the Secretary of State by order to determine the referendum period. This is relevant for the purposes of the 2000 Act, since various controls provided under that Act apply only during that period. It is plain that section 102(3) of the 2000 Act envisages that the referendum period might be prescribed in subordinate legislation, and we find the delegation in clause 4 to be acceptable. We note, however, that no minimum or maximum referendum period is prescribed by the bill.

CONCLUSION

6.  Save for the comment concerning the referendum period made in paragraph 5 above, there is nothing in the delegated powers in this bill to which the Committee wishes to draw the attention of the House.


 
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