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Clause 11 — number and distribution of seats

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill (Programme) (No. 4) – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 1st November 2010.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Justice) (Political and Constitutional Reform) 5:45 pm, 1st November 2010

The hon. Gentleman should not try to misrepresent my argument. I am not arguing in the slightest for tiny seats. I am not even arguing that the people of Rhondda alone have the right to elect in perpetuity, even though they have only 50,000 voters. There should be much greater parity, but we need to be able to balance the needs of parity with the needs of local communities and constituencies of interest that exist around the country. There was no constituency of interest in Old Sarum in 1831 and 1832-the only interest was that of Tory Back Benchers who wanted to ensure that they were still able to dole the seat out to one of their family members. So it is an argument not against Labour but against the Conservatives.

Sheffield will almost certainly be entitled to five constituencies, but with 20 wards it would end up with three constituencies of six wards, which would be too big, and two constituencies of five wards, which would be too small. We would therefore have to split wards in Sheffield or cross the boundaries with Barnsley and Rotherham, which would be tough, as wards in Rotherham are about the same size as those in Sheffield and there are a large number of hills in the way. In the words of Professor Ron Johnston,

"They are going to have to split wards, I have no doubt about this."