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Boundary Review

Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

What the Government’s timetable is for the boundary review process.

Photo of Chris Clarkson Chris Clarkson Conservative, Heywood and Middleton

What steps his Department is taking to ensure equal constituency boundaries for the next general election.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

The Parliamentary Constituencies Bill received its Second Reading last week. It delivers our manifesto pledge of equal and updated parliamentary boundaries. The Bill determines that the next boundary review, due to start in 2021, will complete by 1 July 2023 at the latest, and after that boundary reviews will take place every eight years.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

I thank the Minister for that response. The building blocks for all the new constituency boundaries are local authority ward boundaries. In London, the vast majority of local authorities have recently had boundary reviews within their boroughs by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, but they await orders in the House of Commons to implement them. When will my hon. Friend implement those orders, so that the new ward boundaries in London come into operation and the Boundary Commission can commence its review of them?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

I thank my hon. Friend for that important question, which allows me to clarify that the laying of the orders is the Local Government Boundary Commission for England’s responsibility. I understand that, following a pause because of coronavirus-related restrictions, the commission intends to resume laying the orders before Parliament this month. There are nine areas in which revised electoral arrangements are agreed but an order is not laid, all of which are in London, and the commission intends to lay those over the summer and autumn.

Photo of Chris Clarkson Chris Clarkson Conservative, Heywood and Middleton

My constituency is one of 27 in Greater Manchester, where electorates range from 63,000 to 95,000, and it is under-represented in this place. Does my hon. Friend agree that more up-to-date equal boundaries will give people fairer access to their elected representatives?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Yes, that is exactly what they will do. That range in constituency sizes is unacceptable, and the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill will achieve not only updated but equal constituencies and fair votes. A vote cast in any part of Manchester should be just as good as one cast anywhere else in that city or the UK.

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement

As a result of the Bill, England looks set to increase its number of constituencies at the expense of Scotland and Wales. What action are the Government taking to prevent the weakening of Scottish and Welsh voices in this place and to both strengthen and defend the Union?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

There is an awful lot of action on those scores. The boundaries Bill does an important thing first—paying equal respect to all nations of our United Kingdom—because we on the Government side believe in the Union. We believe it is incredibly important, and we believe that people’s voices ought to be equal between and within the countries of our United Kingdom.

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement

It is interesting that the Minister talks about the importance of equality and ensuring that every vote counts equally when her Government is pushing a policy that could see some votes count more equally than others. In the light of the Windrush scandal, where we discovered that some communities find it harder to access proof of identification than others, in the days following the Black Lives Matter protests, and knowing that, for instance, 76% of the white population hold a driving licence compared with 52% of black people, if she really wants to ensure that every vote counts equally, will she ask herself: why continue with these discriminatory policies?

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Because they are not discriminatory. The hon. Lady sees evils where they do not exist. Everyone on the Government side of the House, and I hope everyone in the House, agrees that black lives matter. She is wrong and has been wrong every time she has tried to run that argument about voter identification. It is a reasonable thing that many other countries do, and it will improve the security of our voting. The evidence shows there is no impact on any particular demographic group.