Committee (11th Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 19th January 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord McAvoy Lord McAvoy Opposition Whip (Lords) 7:00 pm, 19th January 2011

My Lords, without injecting too much of a sour note, I would like to follow up some of the points made by my noble friend Lord Judd, who made them far more eloquently than I will-I have never claimed to be eloquent.

Community is certainly to the fore in these matters. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, rightly explained the sense of community that people feel for the place where they live and where they may have stayed all their lives. Noble Lords will tell me if I step out of order, but I shall run the risk of perhaps bringing in things that are for a future amendment but that are, nevertheless, relevant to what is being discussed here today. I make no apology for attempting to do that.

In 1973, a Tory Government ripped apart the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen and shoved us into the new City of Glasgow District Council, with no regard for the community or the political unity of the burgh, the Cambuslang or Halfway areas-absolutely nothing. "You're going in and that is it", was the attitude, as the Government did not listen to a single thing. Many years later in 1993, 1994 and 1995, with the help of a more benevolent Conservative Minister, Allan Stewart-who was a first-class Minister and a first-class community man as well-the towns of Rutherglen, Cambuslang and Halfway were taken out of Glasgow and put back into their natural home of the county of Lanarkshire. Although there is not the obvious geographical case for Rutherglen, Cambuslang and Halfway that is apparent for the Isle of Wight, nevertheless we also have a sense of community. The difficulty for me is that the Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight has made an outstanding case; I hope to make an outstanding case for my community at a later stage, but-there is always a but, and this is where I might do myself a bit of damage personally, but there we are-first and foremost I am a Rutherglonian, and I shall represent that burgh to the best of my ability in matters where the law is being changed.

In the Minister's response, he must surely take a consistent, logical approach to such matters. Colleagues on both sides of the House have remarked on the rigidity of this Bill and the fact that the Government have not given any leeway. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, indicated that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, by agreeing to consider an amendment last night injected a note of being prepared to listen. Well, we will see. The difficulty for me is that if I sit quiet here tonight and the Minister in his response indicates some leeway or special consideration for the Isle of Wight because of the case that has been made-this is a rotten situation, but it has been caused by the Bill-I will certainly need to intervene. I have put a ban on myself intervening-I have picked up on the point that interventions are not appreciated in here-and I will otherwise conform to that, but I will need to seek from the Minister the same concession for Rutherglen, Cambuslang and Halfway that is offered to the Isle of Wight. Frankly, I cannot sit here and not vote against special concessions for the Isle of Wight if there is not going to be any special concession for the area where my heart lies. The same will go for other people.

I know that my own Front Bench will not be very pleased about that-and I am not one of life's natural rebels-but I am making a serious point about how strongly I feel about this. I am sorry if this damages or annoys the Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight-he will be quite right to be annoyed-but I feel equally strongly for the community that I used to represent as a Member of Parliament. I still live in that constituency. I have lived there all my life and was born and brought up there, and so was my wife. I am sorry, but if the Minister cannot give equal treatment to areas that just happen to be represented by Labour-Orkney and Shetland is represented by a Liberal, and the Western Isles has an SNP MP-I shall inject a further sour note because I shall not be able to support the amendments.