Boundary Commission

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th September 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lucy Allan Lucy Allan Conservative, Telford 12:00 am, 7th September 2016

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

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Cabinet Office)

The Boundary Commissions for England and Wales will be publishing their initial recommendations on Tuesday 13 September, and the Boundary Commission for Scotland will do so later this year. The Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland published its recommendations yesterday. The conduct of the boundary review is a matter for the independent Boundary Commissions. The initial proposals will be the subject of extensive consultation with political parties and local communities, after which revised proposals will be published at a later date.

Photo of Lucy Allan Lucy Allan Conservative, Telford

I thank the Minister for his response, and I warmly welcome him to his position, where I am sure he will do an excellent job. I represent a rapidly growing new town with low voter registration, where an additional 5,000 new voters have hit the electoral roll in the past six months. Does the Minister agree that if the boundary review is to achieve constituencies of equal size by the next election, those factors need to be taken into consideration?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Cabinet Office)

During every previous boundary review, Parliament has accepted that there must be a defined date and a set of registers to access. That was set down as a result of the delay to the 2013 review, which was voted for by Labour Members. Not only do those who now seek to delay the boundary review even further seek to overturn the accepted will of Parliament, but to delay the boundary review again would ensure that we have constituencies that are of dramatically unequal size, and that are based on data more than two decades old.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The boundary review next week is going to be a sham. Nearly 2 million voters have not been counted. Why does the Minister not start again, so that our democracy is not undermined by next week’s partisan gerrymandering?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Cabinet Office)

Without the implementation of the reforms, legislated for by a majority in the previous Parliament, Members will continue to represent constituencies that were drawn up on the basis of data collected over 20 years ago, disregarding significant changes in the population since that happened. The status quo cannot and must not be an option. In future, boundary reviews will take place every five years to ensure that constituencies remain up to date, as they should be.

Photo of Glyn Davies Glyn Davies Conservative, Montgomeryshire

The number of electors in Welsh parliamentary constituencies varies hugely: Cardiff South and Penarth has more than 72,000 electors; Arfon has fewer than 40,000. My constituency of Montgomeryshire sits roughly in the middle, with about 48,000. Does the Minister agree that it cannot be right for each of these constituencies to elect one MP when the number of voters within them is so radically different?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Cabinet Office)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We cannot continue with the historical injustice of allowing such unequal representation. That representation currently allows for the electorate of one seat to be twice the size of another’s or, to put it in other words, allows one elector’s vote to be worth twice that of another. This injustice, long recognised, must be resolved.

Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his well-deserved promotion to the Treasury Bench. In the past, Ministers have argued that cutting the number of MPs will save the taxpayer £12 million. That is exactly the same amount of money that the previous Prime Minister has just spent on his lavender list of resignation honours. Is it not the case that this boundary redistribution is proceeding on the basis of a register from which 2 million people are excluded, and is that not an absolute affront to democracy?

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Cabinet Office)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to recognise that cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600 will not just save £12 million, but save £66 million over the course of a Parliament. At a time when many areas of public life have found savings, it is right that we should put our own house in order. Equally, it is right that we should finally establish the democratic principle of constituencies with an equal number of voters, which was first called for by the Chartists back in 1838 and recently endorsed by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.