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Clause 8 — Reports of the Boundary Commissions

Part of House of Commons Disqualification (Amendment) – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 19th October 2010.

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Photo of Chris Ruane Chris Ruane Labour, Vale of Clwyd 9:45 pm, 19th October 2010

I think that that is a question about registration, so I can certainly address it. It has always been the case historically that, in deciding on constituency boundaries, we have looked at the number of people who are eligible to vote; that is, we have looked at electorates as the basis on which to draw the boundaries. Opposition Members have raised the issue of registration in this debate, with some amendments asking for a report on the issue and others going further, making the radical proposition that we should look at the number of adults who are eligible to register in a constituency when drawing up the boundaries.

That may well be a debate of principle that we need to have at some point, but it seems to me that the arguments of Opposition Members have varied and have been based on a number of different potential categories. We could look at electors, the number of people over 18 who are eligible to vote, or the total adult population over 18, but when Geraint Davies was quoting his figures earlier, I think he was actually quoting the figures for the adult population over 18. I do not know any data sets that can give an accurate figure for the number of people over 18 who are eligible to vote, which is an entirely different thing, because there will be many people who are not UK citizens-and who are therefore not eligible to vote-but who will appear on the census. Or we could go even further and look at the total population in each part of the country when drawing up boundaries.

My real concern is that the amendments before us suggest that we should draw up constituency boundaries based on a guess. They suggest that we look at the census data, but many Members-particularly those who represent urban constituencies-will be aware of the real problems relating to the accuracy of those data. The census is carried out only every 10 years, and there are often gross inaccuracies in the published figures, certainly for London.