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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 6:30 pm on 1st November 2010.

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Photo of John Thurso John Thurso Chair, Finance and Services Committee 6:30 pm, 1st November 2010

I rise in support of amendment 183, which my right hon. Friend Mr Kennedy spoke to so eloquently. I hope he was not referring to me when he said that his hon. Friends behind him had come armed with formula and fact, because I do not have those to hand. However, in supporting the amendment, I want briefly to address the principles behind it.

What we have in this debate is a straightforward collision of principle. The first principle that the Government have put forward in the Bill is that of equalisation. I have absolutely no problem with that general principle, for many reasons. It will certainly help administratively, as well as with the burden of work. There are many reasons to support that argument, but there is one that I would not have particularly supported, which is the idea it addresses a democratic deficit, because it most certainly does not. It might enshrine some of the inequalities that first past the post delivers, but it will certainly not make anything more democratic. As a broad principle, however, for equal work across the constituencies, the principle of equalisation is a very good one.

At the same time, we have long accepted an equal principle in our constitution, which is that of community, which is often related to geography. In fact, the very first speech of any substance that I made in this Palace was one that I made at the other end, of the building on exactly that subject, when I argued that we cannot have a representative democracy without considering community and geography, in addition to the mathematical numbers of people involved.