Thursday, September 23, 2004

NESNO gets a headline! Well done.

£1m Assembly bill demand
Sep 23 2004
By Ross Smith And Daniel Cochlin, The Journal

The group fighting against a North-East regional assembly has called on John Prescott to spend £1m of public money sending the draft bill to every voter in the region.

Opponents last night condemned the idea as a waste of money, but North East Says No claimed the move would clear up arguments about how much power the assembly would have.
It would cost more than £1m to send the draft Regional Assemblies Bill, which is 223 pages thick, to the region's 1.9 million voters.

Nesno, which has opposed the assembly on the grounds of cost, claims the price is worth paying to prevent the referendum being mired in claims of misinformation.

Both Nesno and Neil Herron's North East No Campaign have raised questions about the wording of a Government information leaflet sent out across the North-East and the preamble to the referendum question on ballot papers. They believe it made the assembly sound more powerful than would actually be the case.

In a letter to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nesno chairman John Elliott wrote: "Given that there has been so much controversy surrounding the actions of the Government during this referendum we believe that the Government needs to take action to reassure voters that it is committed to a fair vote. North East Says No strongly believes that the best way the Government can demonstrate this commitment is by sending the full copy of the Draft Regional Assemblies Bill to every voter in the region.

"This will allow them to make up their own minds about what is being offered."

He said Europe Minister Denis MacShane's suggestion of sending a copy of the EU constitution to every household before a public vote on that issue should be a model for referendums.

A campaign spokesman added: "We're confident the `yes' campaign would support this as it would help people to make an informed choice - people would be able to judge whether we're right on what the assembly would lead to, or whether the `yes' campaign is right.
"It would send out completely the wrong signal to North-East voters if the Government refused."

But Yes4theNorthEast chairman John Tomaney said: "The North-East public have a right to hear and read as much information as possible about a regional assembly, but it is not a sensible use of over £1m of taxpayers' money to send out a copy of the draft bill to every house in the region.
"It is ironic that the No campaign is now so keen on demanding information from the Government when it couldn't find a single person from the North-East to present its views on the Bill to the Parliamentary Select Committee discussing it."

Neil Herron, whose rival anti-assembly campaign lost out to Nesno in the race to secure Government campaign funding, said he wanted the public to be informed but sending out the entire draft bill would be a waste.
He said: "There are only three or four points which the voters need explaining - it would be ideal for everybody to read the draft bill but they are not going to."

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