Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:07 pm on 6th September 2010.

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Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg The Deputy Prime Minister , Lord President of the Council (Privy Council Office), Leader of the Liberal Democrats 4:07 pm, 6th September 2010

If I could make a little bit of headway, I will of course give way. This is an important Bill and many people want to speak.

There will be only two exceptions to the new rules named in the Bill: the dispersed island groups of Orkney and Shetland, and the Western Isles. In both those cases, geographical size and remoteness make any change to the boundaries completely impractical. Orkney and Shetland was explicitly exempted in law by the Scotland Act 1998, and the Western Isles have been recognised as an exception in practice since 1918. To recognise the fact that parts of the United Kingdom are sparsely populated, no constituency will be greater than 13,000 sq km in size-just larger than the largest now, Ross, Skye and Lochaber. On that, let me clear up a rumour that seems to be doing the rounds. There are no secret Government plans to exempt Ross, Skye and Lochaber; we simply used its size in suggesting a ceiling for how large any constituency should be. However, how boundaries are drawn, including in that constituency, is a decision for the commission alone.