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Clause 8 — Reports of the Boundary Commissions

Part of House of Commons Disqualification (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 9:00 pm on 19th October 2010.

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Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour, Swansea West 9:00 pm, 19th October 2010

Thank you very much, Mr. Bayley.

The amendment is about the relationship between the number of people registered and the number of people who are eligible to vote. If, in the comprehensive spending review tomorrow, there is a particular focus on poorer people and people in public service-in Wales, 24% are in public services and in England 20%; in Swansea, in fact, it is 38%-those people will suffer. People in public service tend to be poorer, and because they are poor, they tend to be under-registered. Those people who will face the real sharpness of the Conservative axe will the next day be denied the chance to vote against it because their constituencies will be smaller and because they are less likely to be registered-unless my amendment is agreed to ensure that people who are poor, and who are more likely to be unregistered, have an equal right to a share of a constituency, by virtue of being an eligible voter.

That is part of the mix of what seems, from the Welsh perspective at least, to be doing down Wales-attacking Wales financially, attacking Wales by reducing representation, attacking the poorest communities, attacking public services. In that political and economic context, what has understandably been seen locally as constitutional gerrymandering is in danger of ripping open the Union and having dramatic effects on our historical future. That may all be clinically predicted but it is very unfortunate.

As I pointed out, the 3.5 million or so unregistered voters are not evenly distributed. We heard from the Conservative Front Bench that, apparently, we are doing very well because in Britain, some 92% of people are registered. We are told that we should pat ourselves on the back and need not make any changes, but we know that registration is thoroughly disproportionately distributed, and in some areas it may be as low as 70%. To pre-empt the arguments against the amendment, we also know that the census comes around only once in a while. I am arguing that we should assemble a portfolio of data, including the census returns, registration figures and other data sources, to give our best estimate of the number of eligible over 18-year-olds in each area. That would be much more representative than the number of registered voters.