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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 Charles Kennedy Charles Kennedy Liberal Democrat, Ross, Skye and Lochaber 5:45 pm, 1st November 2010

I absolutely agree and endorse entirely the sentiment and substance of what the hon. Gentleman says. I think it represents a negation of democracy to go about something so fundamental in this way.

I will explain specifically what we propose in the amendments. There are a range of options, as we all know, and nobody has the philosopher's stone. However, the Government are trying to introduce the artificial construct of a capped number of constituencies for the whole UK. Leaving aside party politics, I think the House would agree that there are distinct and unique geographical considerations in places such as the Isle of Wight, in Cornwall, with its relationships between places on each side of the Tamar, and in the highlands and islands, a vast area that is bigger than Belgium. I think the House recognises that in such circumstances, a degree of sensible flexibility is called for. This is not gerrymandering; in fact the seats that tend to be involved could not be gerrymandered in a political sense, because they are not those kinds of community. Largely because of their sheer disparity and diversity, the individual who happens to be their Member will, irrespective of their party affiliation, represent a significant link between those communities and officialdom at the regional, national and even European level. That is being dissipated and completely overlooked in the crazy approach that is being applied, which simply is not suitable and does not make sense given the communities involved.