Constituency Boundaries

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th June 2016.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 12:00 am, 15th June 2016

When he expects the Boundary Commission to publish its initial recommendations for new constituency boundaries.

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Government Whip, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

The conduct of the boundary review is, rightly, a matter for the independent Boundary Commissions. The Boundary Commissions for England and for Northern Ireland plan to publish initial recommendations this autumn, and the Boundary Commissions for Scotland and for Wales plan to do so later this year.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he confirm that the guidance given to the Boundary Commission is to split wards by polling districts so that we have equal-sized electorates for Members of this House elected in 2020?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Government Whip, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to state, first and foremost, the principle that all votes, no matter where in the country they are cast, should have equal weight, and that constituencies must therefore be more equal in size. Ward-splitting has for some time been part of the Boundary Commission’s work in other parts of the country, but I can confirm that it expects to be able to introduce it in constituencies in England as well.

Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland Office)

The number of democratically elected Members of this place from Scotland will be cut by six, but are plans afoot to cut the number of unelected Lords, who are able to make laws affecting Scotland and the rest of the UK?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Government Whip, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

I think the hon. Lady was supporting the principle that votes should have equal weight no matter where they are cast in the country, and I welcome her support if my reading is correct. I cannot confirm plans to alter the size and composition of the Lords, although I understand that discussions at that end of the corridor are going on fairly continuously.

Photo of Gordon Henderson Gordon Henderson Conservative, Sittingbourne and Sheppey

I welcome the consultation period that will follow the Boundary Commission’s recommendations, but does my hon. Friend agree that it is important to ensure that people are aware of the consultations so that they can make their views known? What does he intend to do to publicise the consultations?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Government Whip, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

My hon. Friend is right: it is vital that people are aware of the consultation period. It is being advertised on the Boundary Commission website and will be advertised further to make sure that everybody can comment, but it is up to political parties from all parts of the House to make sure that their supporters and organisations are galvanised and submissions can be made.

Photo of Gloria De Piero Gloria De Piero Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Registration

The number of registered voters has gone up massively since December 2015—in some constituencies, the equivalent of two extra wards have been added. Will the Minister therefore reassure us that he cannot possibly use the December figures to redraw the boundaries—or will his Government go back to using voter registration for their own political gain once this referendum is over?

Photo of John Penrose John Penrose Government Whip, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

I am intrigued that the hon. Lady thinks she knows what has happened to individual constituencies’ electoral rolls, because the final versions will not be published for another week or 10 days. Whatever the outcome of that publication, it cannot be right that we carry on with the existing political constituency boundaries, which are based on the electoral rolls from 2001 or, in some parts of the country, from 2000. They are shockingly out of date and we absolutely need to update them. I can, however, reassure her that there will be updates every five years, rather than every 10, and that constituency boundaries will be more up to date and accurate than they have been in the past.