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Clause 8 — Reports of the Boundary Commissions

Part of House of Commons Disqualification (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 19th October 2010.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Justice) (Political and Constitutional Reform) 8:15 pm, 19th October 2010

That is true. Most local authorities are having to make fairly substantial cuts at the moment, and my anxiety is they will find their electoral registration budgets all too easy to cut, because people will think, "Well, you know, what's the real benefit of that?" From my perspective, if we are to achieve equity-which, broadly speaking, means achieving the equalisation of seats, but not absolute equalisation, to allow for where the Boundary Commission has an overriding concern, whether about a geographical community or the splitting of wards, which I hope all hon. Members would think was more complicated-then we need to change what the Bill currently provides for.

The Government propose a timetable of less than three years, which is artificially quick, even under the Bill's own terms. I do not see why the timetable has to be three years. According to clause 8(3), future reviews will be held on a five-yearly basis, but the initial, dramatic redrawing of boundaries is being tracked even faster than this apparent ideal. Why? Is the reason that the Government are trying to minimise the risks of the results being made out of date by interim changes in the population? There are significant parts of the country where population changes are moving swiftly. Is that the why the Government wish to move so fast? I suspect that that cannot be the reason, or else they would be proposing that three years should always be the period for boundary reviews.

I suspect that the truth is far less respectable. As the Deputy Prime Minister himself admitted in the House in July, the real reason for this rushed process is political convenience. He said that

"we need to start with the work of the boundary review as soon as possible in order that it can be concluded in the timetable that we have set out. That is why the boundary review will be based on the electoral register that will be published at the beginning of December this year."-[ Hansard, 5 July 2010; Vol. 513, c. 37.]

That is a circular argument.