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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, before the Minister finishes with that little section, I want to say that I assume that the returning officer may send out information outside the order. I hear what the Minister said about the Electoral Commission's work, but I urge the Government to think whether there is any possibility of providing more information about the detail of what the boundaries mean, in a way that voters will see without having to go to council offices and so on.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, obviously there will be leaflets through every door, and I hope that they will
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fully explain the boundaries. People know where they pay their council tax, and that local authority will be either put with another or joined with others.
I want to deal with the point about party conferences. In Committee in another place, we were asked why the referendum date was in November. We could not lay the date order any earlier, given when the Boundary Committee reported. We gave a commitment during the preparations Bill that there would be a 10-week referendum period, and we did not think it appropriate for ballot papers to be dispatched during the party conference season, or for the close of poll to be during the school half-term holidays. That gave us the referendum date of 4 November.
The matter was not decided by the BBC, but by the Cabinet between 9.30 and 10.30 this morning. That was when the final decision was made. It is not a terrible day for Parliament. If the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, wants to say that it is a terrible day for Parliament and that she disagrees with what we are doing, that is one thing; to say that it is a terrible day for Parliament but that she agrees with what we are doingthat is what she saidseems a bit of a contradiction.
People can vote by ballot box. The pattern of postal voting is that people are sent the postal ballot paper at home. If they wish, they can go to a polling booth and put their vote in a ballot box. That is part of the process. We do not tend to advertise it, but that is what happens in the pilots. They can put the vote in an envelope and post it back but, if they want to put their vote in the ballot box, they can do so. We said 1:50,000; that is a matter for local offices. If they want to take account of distances in rural areas and have other boxes, no doubt they can do so.
So far, £1.9 million has been spent on raising awareness. We will now obviously withdraw from all expenditure relating to the referendums in the two regions, as that makes a lot of sense. The draft Bill will be available once the House has decidedin other words, I hope that it will be available before the Statement in the other place, which I understand will be at approximately 1.15.
It is a good day for democracy. We are asking several million people in one of our regions to decide whether they want a different form of government in the region, with its local consequences, from what they have now. That is all that we are asking them to decide, and it is their decision to make. I ask the House to pass the orders without a vote, because we are letting the people decide.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, we have had a debate, which is what my amendment was originally about, but it was tabled long before the shambolic events of this morning. In some way or another, we have managed to talk about the Government's mess, and there is no way round itit is a mess of the highest order. The Government know it; the Minister knows that, at the bottom of his heart, they have now written off regional government. It is sad for those in the north-east, who will be put under a microscope and
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will be taking part in a very cynical election. They will be guinea pigs for a regional assembly that will never be extended to anywhere else. What a day.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, the Government want to lose the vote; it would suit them very well to lose the north-east with it. It has been an interesting debate on a dreadful daya really terrible day for this really terrible Government.
Lord Judd: My Lords, will the noble Baroness not for a moment contemplate the political context in which she has made her remarks? The Opposition love to bandy around criticism of the Government for being arrogant and insensitive. On this occasion the Government, having listened to anxieties that exist, made the courageous decision to change their plans. They are then accused of being in a mess. The Opposition really must make up their mind.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I am tempted not to reply to that, but this is not the Opposition's mess. It is the Government's mess. To whom are the Government listening? They made their decision overnight, at the end of an extremely long haul on regional government. They could have made the decision at any time. It was they who laid the orders right to the wire in Parliament. The problem is the Government's fault, not the Opposition's. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The Bill is brought forward as a response to the scandals revealed by the Alder Hey and Bristol inquiries. There can be no doubt that many people suffered when they discovered that the organs of their loved ones had been kept without their knowledge.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, perhaps I may raise with the Minister a matter about which I have given him notice and which refers to exactly the points he has mentionedthe availability of the relevant documents to the House. Usefully, the Explanatory Notes on the Bill refer to the several reports, including those that the noble Lord has just mentioned, and other documents which have led to this legislation.
Two of those documents seem to me to be required reading: the advice to the Government by the Chief Medical Officer for England and the consultation document Human Bodies, Human Choices. But on inquiry at the Printed Paper Office earlier this week I was surprised to discover that neither was available. The clerk on duty helpfully was able to locate the documents on the Internet and to print them out for me. The CMO's advice runs to 48 sheets and the consultation report runs to nearly 200 sheets. On asking whether there was a summary, I was told that there was not. Yet, on reading the consultation document, it is clear that there is a summary. I have not yet seen it.
This is not good enough. I had always thought that it was standard practice for departments promoting legislation to ensure that all relevant documents are available. The Minister's private secretary, whom I telephoned last evening, offered her apologies and indeed those of the noble Lord, Lord Warner. However, I should be grateful if he would explain to the House why the system failed in the present case.
I am told that, following my call to the department, the boxes of papers were delivered at about 6 p.m. yesterday. I understand from discussion with other noble Lords that most of them did not see the papers until this morning. They will be useful in Committee, in September, but ought they not to have been available last week?
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