Committee (11th Day) (Continued)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 10:15 pm, 19th January 2011

My Lords, there are five amendments in this group. The noble Baroness, Lady McDonagh, has her name to one to them. I do not know if she is going to speak to it, but let me deal with them all briefly.

The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, says that determining the size of constituencies should not be done by reference to the registered electorate nor by reference to the registrable electorate but by reference to the whole population of the constituency. The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, is saying that there should be an upper limit in relation to constituencies, just as there is a geographical upper limit in the proposed Bill, so that no constituency should have a total population which is more than 130 per cent of the electoral quota. My noble friend Lord Grocott proposes something slightly different from the others, which is that the Boundary Commission can take into account the explicit consideration of population growth. Where there are local government areas with rapid increases in population, on the basis of the current drafting, that would only be able to be used in relation to the 5 per cent deviation on either side of the electoral quota laid down by the Bill. And the final amendment in this group says we should have regard to the census.

All of these amendments wrestle with the problem that we discussed in the previous group of amendments-namely, what is to be done about the fact that there is substantial representation? I am not in favour of determining the size of constituencies as a starting point from people other than either registered electors or registrable electors. But just as the geographical size of the constituency, based on the burden on the MP who has to get around it, determines that no constituency should be bigger than a certain size, it seems to me to be legitimate to take into account whether or not one has an exception by reference to the total population. That means you still have the electoral quota approach. I see that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, is about to intervene. I am more than happy to give way.