Committee (14th Day)
Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill
Lord Wallace of Tankerness (Advocate General for Scotland; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, for moving this amendment almost three hours ago, and for the measured and considered way in which he advanced his arguments. He encouraged Members of the Committee to be thoughtful, and triggered a considerable number of thoughtful and thought-provoking contributions to the debate. They ranged widely over parliamentary, cultural and family history, and over the contribution that distinguished Members representing Welsh constituencies have made to the parliamentary democracy of our United Kingdom. I will also refer at the outset to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, about Wales being a nation. My noble friend Lord Morgan and the noble Lord, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, echoed that point. Certainly I accept that Wales is one of the constituent nations of our United Kingdom. I, too, would bristle if I looked up "Wales" in an encyclopaedia and found, "See under England". Even though I am not Welsh, I would find that offensive.
The amendment seeks to guarantee a minimum of 35 constituencies in Wales. In response to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bach, it is my understanding that when there was a debate on Report in the other place on the provisions of the Bill to equalise the size of constituencies, there were contributions from 16 Welsh MPs. Although the Government did give consideration to a Welsh Grand Committee, the Secretary of State for Wales and my honourable friend Mr Mark Harper, the Minister who is responsible for this Bill in the other place, held a meeting to which all Welsh MPs were invited. There was extensive discussion and Mr Harper offered individual follow-up meetings to all Welsh Members. That was the spirit in which the meeting took place.