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

My noble friend is right. It says a lot for his assiduity, and for that of most Members of another place, that they are prepared to work very hard for people who will never have the chance to vote for them. Those who are cynical about Members of Parliament should bear in mind that remarkable and cheering thought.

I turn to another fact that I had not realised before I prepared for this debate. The system that I propose for discussion in this amendment, whereby constituencies are equalised by virtue of population rather than electorate, is more common in other countries than the use of electorates. Britain has a jolly good constitution; we love it very much and certainly I am not knocking it. However, we should consider this. It is not a silly idea for a system that no country uses. Lewis Baston of Democratic Audit states:

"Most countries use some measure of total population to serve as the basic measure of constituency size, either total population or a modified population such as voting age population ... or citizen population. Britain is a member of a minority, albeit a significant minority, of countries that use registered electorate".

He states that the ACE Project shows that half the countries of the world use total population and one-third use registered voters as the population base. No doubt there are all sorts of ingenious combinations of the two. Countries that use population include decent democracies such as Germany, perhaps slightly less decent democracies such as Italy, and Hungary and the Czech Republic. That is a pretty good list of countries that think the population measure is right. If we are internationalists, we should consider whether we could learn from them, as my other argument suggested that we could.

I see that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, will reply to this debate. I should be astonished if he did not stand up and say that estimates of population are to a degree inaccurate, which of course is right, and are to a degree out of date. That is also true, although it does not mean that if we decided to go down the population route, it would be beyond the wit of the Office for National Statistics and others to produce more up-to-date estimates of population for this purpose than they do at the moment.