Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Those of us who are worried about the amount of money to be spent on the proposal might be persuaded a little more if the Minister could give us an idea of by how much the cost will come down as a result of this resolution, and say what other measures he can take to try to secure better value.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Mark Harper): I can reassure the House that, because of the way the Bill and the amendments are drafted, the chief counting officer can directly recover expenditure only where it has been incurred in a way that provides a clear financial benefit to the public purse. The test is that the chief counting officer may recover expenditure that she has incurred for the purpose of running the referendum only where that expenditure would have been incurred by local or regional counting officers in any event, but where it was more economical for it to be incurred by the chief counting officer. The resolution is therefore aimed at saving money.
Mr Harper: The whole point is that it is not possible to predict every eventuality. The resolution says that if by spending money herself centrally, the chief counting officer can get services at a lower cost than all the individual regional counting officers, she will be able to do so, thereby delivering a saving, although it is not possible to quantify this in advance. I have given a specific example of where we know there is an ability to deliver a saving, but I cannot give my right hon. Friend the certainty on the numbers that he seeks. However, having given him the detail that I am able to, I commend this resolution to the House.