Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:48 pm on 6th September 2010.

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Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Liberal Democrat, Brecon and Radnorshire 5:48 pm, 6th September 2010

It is a great pleasure to follow Mr Allen. I especially noted his point about pre-legislative scrutiny. Already in this Parliament, a number of Bills that have subsequently become Acts have been dealt with relatively quickly. Those Bills would certainly have benefited from pre-legislative scrutiny, although that is not to say that I oppose the principles contained in them.

There are those who would have liked two elements of this Bill-the proposed equalisation of constituencies and the referendum on a change in the voting system-to be in separate Bills. Pre-legislative scrutiny could have dealt with that, and perhaps produced greater agreement. I believe that from time to time the public of this nation have the right to a referendum on important issues such as this, and I hope that the majority of the House agrees with that. However, I shall concentrate on the issue of the equalisation of constituencies. We have heard a number of compelling arguments that we should seek to ensure that our boundary commissions look very frequently at our constituencies and the numbers of electors in them. As has been pointed out, equal constituencies was a key issue for the Chartist movement.

We all represent constituencies that are unique and every one of us could argue that because of deprivation, geography or demography our constituency should have greater representation or fewer electors so that we, as Members of Parliament, can do the work that we need to do. Indeed, I represent a very rural constituency; it is about 80 miles from north to south and about 40 miles from east to west-it may be the largest constituency in England and Wales, although I know that a number of Members would contest that-but I do not think that that should be a reason to have fewer electors electing somebody from that part of mid-Wales. Indeed, I am a bit of a purist on this subject and I would like no exceptions to the way in which constituencies are set up. I say that knowing that Mr MacNeil is present, and I am also concerned that I am upsetting my Chief Whip in this matter, which might not go very well for me in future.

If these proposals go ahead, we in Wales will see a fairly drastic reduction in the number of MPs, as will Scotland. It might be wise to ask why Scotland and Wales had greater representation than England. It might have been a sop to the nationalists that Wales and Scotland had greater representation in this House, and therefore the tendency to support the nationalist cause could be reduced.