Committee (11th Day) (Continued)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 10:00 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Lord Lipsey Lord Lipsey Labour 10:00 pm, 19th January 2011

I apologise for the vagaries of the Marshalled List, which mean that I am on my feet twice running. This, again, is a slightly exploratory amendment but it has a serious purpose. The intention behind it is to suggest that, if we are to equalise anything, there is quite a strong case for equalising not electorates but population of voting age. This issue has come up from time to time during our discussions. It is not necessarily a question of either/or; it would be possible to arrive at a figure for equalising which contained an element of both. I may well put down a formula to that effect on Report but I shall not try it out now because I think that it would be a little hard on the Hansard writers.

First, I should say that there are big differences between large constituencies in terms of population and large constituencies in terms of electorate. To take an obvious example, which noble Lords will be able to relate to after our earlier discussion, the Isle of Wight is by a long way the biggest constituency in terms of electorate but it is only the third largest in terms of population. In Regent's Park and Kensington North, the population of the relevant age was 146,000, which is nearly double the number of registered voters. For Kensington and Chelsea the figure is 135,000 compared with 65,000 registered voters-that is, more than double the electorate. There are 45 seats in which the electorate is less than two-thirds of the population.

Of course, an MP represents everyone who lives in a constituency and not just those who have a vote, so it would seem fair that some allowance should be made for that in terms of workload. This is particularly the case as lower registration tends to be correlated with people with particular kinds of problems, the most obvious being black and ethnic minorities, who are about 30 per cent less likely to be registered but are likely to give rise to a great many problems, such as immigration matters relating to their families. Therefore, there really is a case for taking population into account. The second thing-