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Committee (11th Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 4:00 pm, 19th January 2011

My Lords, illustrating the point that I was seeking to make before I was interrupted, perhaps I may refer to a study undertaken by CACI for the Electoral Reform Society late last year. It found:

"After equalisation, the average constituency will contain about 76,000 registered voters. It will have a total voting age population ... of about 83,000. But in areas of the country where registration is low, the VAP could be as high as 110,000-a third bigger than the average constituency".

Typically, as we have heard, the areas of low voter registration tend to be poorer, urban constituencies where the MPs face a bigger and more difficult caseload than their colleagues in more affluent parts of the country. The people who make up much of that caseload often do not appear on the voter registers but they turn up in numbers in constituency surgeries-and they will continue to turn up even after this boundary review has failed to count them. They will be the invisible electorate which will inflate inner urban seats and will grow in size in line with the requirement to meet the official electoral quota, increasing still further the constituency burden that bears on the MPs who represent them.

So the Bill may be aiming at creating more equal-size seats, but it is going to shoot well wide of that mark. Our amendment will provide a small correction. Using the proposed new electoral quota of 75,800 as the starting point, our amendment would prevent the creation of seats within excess of approximately 98,500 adult residents. It will therefore provide a little more parity between constituencies and, in doing so, prevent the complete overload of MPs representing inner urban populations. I beg to move.