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Baroness Blatch: I believe that like Topsy these will grow and the sums of money that will flow will increase. The noble Lord said that Clause 27 would have to come under the affirmative resolution procedure. No, it does not. We can make a special arrangement for it. We can bring it in under the negative procedure simply by amending the Bill to achieve that. That is not a strong argument for not accepting Amendment No. 136.
The beginning of Chapter 4 refers to powers and provides that assemblies will be given a range of powers to help them deliver these strategies. They will therefore be a delivery agent of some kind and they will take on some of the functions from Westminster, from government offices, from regional development agencies or other bodies in the region referred to in paragraph 4.2. One must then ask what will happen to government offices. They will remain post the establishment of regional assemblies and so, too, will RDAs. There will be a little spreading around of some of the work, but they will be given powersthe word appears in the summary of Chapter 4 and in the body of the chapter.
We still do not know what powers they will have to determine anything. Therefore, if it serves no other purpose, it is important that if an order has to be made explicit in it will be the sum of money and the purposes for which it is being granted. That is the whole purpose of my Amendments Nos. 135 and 136.
Amendment No. 137 seeks to forbid the use of a grant provided by the Secretary of State to a regional chamber from being used to campaign for a particular outcome in the event of a referendum. It should be clear on the face of the Bill that taxpayers' money should not be used for this purpose. I am sure that we all agree that this is a wasteful use of resources that could be better spent elsewherein which case, there is every reason for making this explicit in the Bill.
Amendment No. 147 seeks to exclude payments to regional chambers from the list of bodies described in the Bill as qualifying for money from Parliament. It is a probing amendment which seeks to obtain from the Minister an explanation of why the funding of regional chambers is examined in a Bill which relates to the establishment of regional assemblies. There is already extensive legislation in the 1998 Act which deals with regional chambers. It is not clear for what purpose the issue is brought up again here.
As we have already discussed, it is obviously out of hand for taxpayers' money to be used to fund campaigning in the run-up to a referendum. Can the Minister give a legitimate reason for providing funding from Parliament to these voluntary bodies? Can he give an assurance that this is not a major change in the nature of funding regional chambers which the Government are attempting to slip in without too much notice in the regional assemblies Bill? I beg to move.
Lord Rooker: I hope that I shall be able to satisfy the noble Baroness. As she said, Amendment No. 137 would rule out government grant being used to fund either a "Yes" or a "No" campaign in a referendum by requiring a condition of grant to that effect. This has been a theme from the first hour of our debates three weeks ago. I have made it clear on many occasions that there is a standard condition for the grant which currently goes to regional chambers. It is:
Amendment No. 147 seeks to amend Clause 28 so that the Secretary of State has no power to pay grants to chambers under Clause 23 from money voted by Parliament. But there is no other source from which
The money has to be used for legitimate purposes which are not part of a fiddle or of political campaigning. We have repeatedly said that. There is no difference between us on this issue, as Ministers in another place have made clear. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that there is no justification for having the provisions of the two amendments on the face of the Bill. The Secretary of State has to get money from somewhere, and he cannot get other than that provided by Parliament.
The Minister referred to spatial planning in the context of regional chambers. My understanding, if Box 4.1 is anything to go by, is that spatial planning will be a function of the regional assemblies, not of the chambers. Is there to be another split responsibility? Will spatial planning be the responsibility of the chambers and the responsibility of the regional assemblies? If so, that will cause huge confusion because it is a particularly controversial area of policy.
Lord Rooker: It has been made clear that they are one and the same thing. We have already debated this. In some areas of the country, regional chambers are already calling themselves "regional assemblies". They are the same bodies.
Baroness Blatch: It would also be common sense if the RDAs, the Government Offices, the learning skills councils and some of the other bodies mentioned earlier in the debate were removed, so that the regional assemblies had a function in the region.
Lord Rooker: No, we need to look at the basics. Not all the functions of the Government Offices are being, as it were, transferred to the regional assemblies. There will still be a role for the Government Offices of the Regions. They will be slimmed down, it is true, because some staff will move over to the regional assembly.
Baroness Blatch: I hope the Minister will forgive me, but the debate that has been held by the Government throughout this process has been about bringing democracy to those bodies that are out in the regions. Most will still be there post the establishment of regional assemblies. We have just heard of one that will not be; namely, the planning chambers. But the Government Offices, the learning and skills councils, the sector skills councils and the regional development agencies will continue to operate in the regions, at some cost to central government. Regional assemblies will be superimposed upon them. This is not what the Government have argued for as the rationale for introducing regional assemblies.
The Minister keeps repeating his point about there being no more money in the regions. The regional assemblies will have precepting powers. If they are to substitute for the chambers, they will not only have government grant but powers to precept on the other local authorities in the region. So they will have more money. They will have new powers. They are not even established bodies yet. Once they are established, they will be given powers, and those powers will be new. They will come from somewhere. As the noble Lord has said, some will come from national government, and some will come from the regional bodies in the area.
What we have been attempting to tease out of all these debates is what will be left. Will it be a minor sharing of some of the things that the Government Offices and the RDAs presently do and all of the things that the regional chambers do? We are merely trying to make sense of what this creature will be when it is up and running. The noble Lord's answer to most of our questions has been: "Wait and see. All will be revealed". But the whole point of passing a Bill in Parliament is to understand what we are legislating for. At this stage, we simply do not know. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.