§ Mr. Redwood
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what is the estimated cost is of(a) setting up and (b) the annual running cost of a regional assembly in the northwest. 
§ Mr. Raynsford
The setting-up costs of elected assemblies will vary from region to region, mainly because of the different sizes of their electorates. But the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister expects these to be around £30 million in each region, including the northwest. This estimate includes all costs necessary to establish an assembly, including the cost of local government reviews, referendums and the first elections.
The Government's estimates of the costs of running a regional assembly were set out in our White Paper "Your Region, Your Choice". The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister estimates that the north-west assembly would cost around £25 million a year to run. But about £5 million of this cost will be directly offset because staff will be transferring from existing bodies, such as the region's Government Office. The remaining costs could be absorbed within the assembly's programme budget through efficiency savings of around 5 per cent.
§ Mr. Pickles
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which regional assemblies he has visited since May 2002. 
§ Phil Hope
My Rt. Hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has not formally visited any of the English Regional Assembly since May 2002. However, on his 265W regular visits to the regions he has met a number of representatives from the assemblies as have other Departmental Ministers. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister hosts the English Regions Network meetings, which bring together the leaders of the English Assemblies in one forum to discuss issues of mutual interest and aims for a ministerial presence at least twice a year. Most recently on the 5 December last year, this meeting was attended by the then Parliamentary under Secretary of State the member for Shipley.
§ Geraldine Smith
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what percentage of the population entitled to vote responded to the soundings exercise to test the level of interest in holding a referendum for regional government in the north-west. 
§ Mr. Raynsford
3,611 individuals from the north-west region responded to the soundings exercise.
In addition, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister received 336 responses from representative organisations, many of whom had conducted wider consultation or commissioned public opinion polls to inform their response.
We have no specific information on the proportion of respondents who are registered on the electoral register in the north-west region.