Committee (11th Day) (Continued)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour 9:30 pm, 19th January 2011

It is not only a question of the zeal, but of the budgets that they are allocated and the way in which that resource is used.

If noble Lords look at the register, they will find that there is a shortfall that is variable throughout the country and in different types of area. If we accept, as no doubt the noble Lords opposite all do, that the objective of this legislation is to create fairness across the country, the Bill has to address the shortfalls in electoral registration and, in particular, the variables between different parts of the country.

In the Electoral Commission's March 2010 study there were a number of case studies in various parts of the country. One was in London, in Lambeth. It has a population of 266,169 and a population density of 99.2 persons per hectare. There is an ethnic minority population of 50.4 per cent and worklessness of 16 per cent and so on. In particular, figures were quoted for the percentage of households that were in the private rented sector and the percentage of residents who had moved in the past 12 months.

In the London Borough of Lambeth, 17.7 per cent of those on the register had moved in the previous 12 months. That is a substantial degree of turnover and churn. In my experience of being an elected politician in London for many years, that degree of churn and turnover was a particular facet of many parts of London. It would be true of many other inner-city areas and parts of the country, but it was not uniform. It was not uniform in London and it is not uniform around the country. Therefore, without the sort of amendment moved by my noble friend-or an alternative because there are a number of other possible ways of addressing this-the Bill is in danger of institutionalising poorer representation in certain sorts of area.

I looked at the paper produced by London councils in the past few months which examined the 2001 census. This paper tries to ensure that next year's census will be a better one. Yet even if we use the census data as the source of information about what the population and the registered electorate ought to be, there are problems. Kensington and Chelsea-not, I have to say, the typical example of a rundown inner-city area-had the lowest response rate in the country to the 2001 census. Its response rate was 64 per cent. I suspect that the good residents of Kensington and Chelsea might not be interested in filling in the form about the census, but would probably make considerable efforts to make sure that they were on the electoral register to return MPs of a particular colour to Parliament. The point is that there was that degree of poor response even to the census in that part of London.