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Clause 8 — Reports of the Boundary Commissions

Part of House of Commons Disqualification (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 19th October 2010.

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Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour, Swansea West 8:45 pm, 19th October 2010

That was a strange intervention on my speech. The case that one would want to make is that we have an individual responsibility to register, but that we have to be cognisant of the fact that there is a bias in the rate of registration among different groups. With this amendment, which I would like to press to a vote tomorrow-if that is when we have the vote-I am calling for fairness in that sense.

I should declare an interest. My father, David Thomas Morgan Davies, was the secretary of the Boundary Commission for Wales between 1973 and 1984, so I have a particular interest in this area. Historically, it was always the case that the start point for drawing boundaries was equality in size and populations of constituency, adjusted for community and natural geography-rivers, seas and so on-and the needs of effective democracy. That is why we are where we are in Wales, for example, which stands, as has been pointed out, to lose a quarter of its elected representatives-the number will go from 40 down to 30. The real fear, as well as the points that I have made about the proportion of people from mining communities and other communities that are under-registered, is that we will lose out numerically and that communities will be merged-one valley with another, and with no geographical relationship between them-or that people will have to be in a constituency with a mountain in the way. In terms of effective democracy-devolution was mentioned-an Assembly boundary might be coincident with a parliamentary boundary, so that people can come to see me to talk about benefits and see the Assembly representative to talk about the health service. Now the boundaries will all be changed and then, every five years, changed again. The issue is one of effective democracy. How does the citizen know who represents them and which institution has a clear mechanism for doing so? These things have evolved into place over time and there is a risk that by superimposing a one-size-fits-all system based on the wrong calculus-namely, registered voters as opposed to eligible voters-we will end up with a much less effective democracy.