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26 Nov 2002 : Column 258Wcontinued
Mr. Raynsford: Since the publication of the draft Spatial Strategy in July, the First Secretary of State has received almost 250 representations from Surrey residents about possible housing development north east and north west of Guildford and south of Woking. We will consider what representations to make on the Deposit Draft Structure Plan, if any, when it is issued for public consultation.
Ann Winterton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will estimate the population of each standard region of England; and for what reasons the standard region is being used as the basic unit for elected regional assemblies. 
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Mr. Raynsford: Annex A of the White Paper XYour Region, Your Choice" (Cm 5511) includes the most recent population figures for each region at the time of the publication of the White Paper in May 2002. These figures were drawn from XRegional Trends 36" (Office for National Statistics, 2001). The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, as published in XRegional Trends 37", will be placed in the Library.
Chapter 6 of the White Paper makes clear that these regions represent the existing administrative boundaries used by the Government Offices for the regions, the regional development agencies and other parts of central Government, as well as being the standard statistical regions used by the Office for National Statistics. These regions have existed for various planning and statistical purposes since the Second World War, with minor changes over time. They are also a credible size to support a regional assembly and to differentiate the assembly from local government in the region.
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Ann Winterton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the ways in which elected regional assemblies will increase democratic accountability; what proposals he has to encourage voter interest in regional assembly elections; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Raynsford: A detailed assessment of the ways in which elected regional assemblies will increase democratic accountability is set out in the White Paper XYour Region, Your Choice" (Cm 5511), particularly in chapters 1 and 3.
Publicity about voting in elections for regional assemblies will be a matter for the Electoral Commission. More generally, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has embarked upon an ambitious programme of electoral modernisation pilot schemes, of which the aim is to make voting more straightforward, efficient, secure and above all readily accessible to all electors.