Committee (11th Day)
Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill
Lord Judd (Labour)
My Lords, I have the honour to have been granted the freedom of the city of Portsmouth. In my years in the other place, again I was honoured to represent part of the community of Portsmouth. Of course, Portsmouth is very much involved in the implications of what is being proposed in the Bill and in the amendment. I want to say to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, that he could not have put the case better. It was a well argued and most convincing presentation, so really I would just like to say that I fully endorse it.
However, I want to make one other point. I now live in Cumbria, at the other end of the country, but last Sunday I was back in Portsmouth for a memorial service in the cathedral for the victims of the blitz. Portsmouth suffered a terrible blitz which wrought tremendous damage on the city with a large number of deaths and injuries. On the occasion of that memorial, one could feel the great sense of community in what is often rightly referred to as Portsea Island, because in many ways Portsmouth itself has the characteristics of an island community.
I made a point of gazing across the Solent. My wife asked, "Why we were taking this route?", and I said that I just wanted to look at the Isle of Wight. I thought about the occasions when I have been able to cross the Solent and visit the Isle of Wight. I thought to myself, here we have the epitome of two rich communities. In every sense, they really are communities. While the noble Lord's amendment speaks for itself and has my full support, I will make the point that this cannot be looked at in isolation from the argument about the importance of community if our constituency system is to mean anything.
I assure noble Lords in all parts of the Committee that in many ways Cumbria feels itself to be distinctive and very much apart from mainland, industrialised Britain. It has a real sense of community and therefore wants its representation in a political system to be based on communities. We cannot have a healthy democracy if it is simply a relationship between Government and a number of individuals thrown together in a constituency formed by some mathematical calculation. The dynamics and strength of a democracy are when people in communities are able to come together, collectively assert themselves and examine the implications of what is being proposed for legislation and how it will affect them. That is how individuals become strengthened-not by being given rights by central Government, but by being able to get together and assert themselves. All those who have been Members of Parliament know perfectly well that while of course we wanted to listen to and respond to the individual irrespective of how they voted, we also knew well that it was when the community asserted itself that we were really being held to account.
In that sense, the dynamic social and historic reasons for the amendment before us are unanswerable. However, they also have a far greater significance for the other issues that we are debating in this Bill.