Parliamentary Constituencies Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:06 pm on 2nd June 2020.

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Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 5:06 pm, 2nd June 2020

That is not exactly what I have said. What I will make clear in just a second is that there is a list of factors that the boundary commissions must have regard to in the determination. I am not saying that any one of those factors is better than the others, and neither are the boundary commissions. There is a list of factors set out in the existing legislation dating from the 1980s, and we are simply saying that we leave that as it is. He will find the answer to his concern there.

Let me talk about how the proposed constituencies will be brought into effect. It will be done automatically by an Order in Council, without debate or approval by Parliament. I know that this is of some interest to Members. The purpose of this change is to bring certainty to the boundary review process. It is to give confidence that the recommendations of the independent boundary commissions will be brought into effect without interference or delay. There will be no change to the Government’s obligation to give effect to the recommendations of the boundary commissions. In fact, as part of this measure, the Secretary of State’s current ability to amend the Order in Council if rejected by Parliament will be removed. The Executive’s power will, if anything, be reduced.

If this Bill does not proceed today because it is blocked, as Labour Members want to do, they will leave more power in the hands of the Executive. Of course, they used that power—or, should I even say, abused that power—in 1969, when the Labour party intentionally blocked the independent boundary review’s recommendations. We do not think that that is the kind of thing that should happen.

We think that, first and foremost, the boundary commissions are independent organisations. They develop their proposals through a robust and thorough process involving extensive public consultation. It is really important that their impartial recommendations are brought into effect promptly and with certainty. That avoids wasting public time and money, and it ensures the independence of the process. Countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand use similar approaches to those proposed in the Bill with no interference.