Committee (11th Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Baroness Mallalieu Baroness Mallalieu Labour 4:45 pm, 19th January 2011

My Lords, I wonder if I might contribute briefly to this debate. I add that I am not on any roster or rota; I will be very brief and address the amendments. There will not be time, I am afraid, for the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, to get out and order his tea at all.

In order to have equal-sized seats, which I hope are what we are all aiming for, it is essential that there is an accurate and comprehensive register. It was brought home to me on the day of the last general election just how defective our present register is. I heard someone a moment ago say that it was pretty good, as a result of people wanting to vote. However, I sat for four hours on polling day outside a polling station in Lambeth and I found-I have done my best to be as accurate as I can-that something of the order of a third of the people who came up wanting to vote, when they came out and were asked if they would indicate how they voted, told me that they were not on the list. They were almost invariably from ethnic minorities and many of them were young. If that is the register that we are going to be working on, it is not good enough.

It seems to me that if the amendments that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, has put before the House are defective, this cannot simply be ignored. I know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, is anxious to make this Bill as good as possible and anxious to get it through at the speed of light, but these problems must not be in-built into the fresh legislation. If anything calls out for a pause and a chance to try to find a way of getting this right, and if that means using data from outside what are currently used, surely that must be the way to achieve our main aim of equal-sized seats.