Committee (11th Day) (Continued)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 11:45 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Labour 11:45 pm, 19th January 2011

The amendment in my name is, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has said, slightly firmer in that it leaves out the words "where practicable", and asks that a constituency shall exist,

"which shall include the whole of the City of London".

It does not mean only that, but it should certainly include the City of London. I have to confess that when I read the amendment in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Brooke, Lord Jenkin and Lord Newby. I did not understand it, which is why I tabled this amendment. I wondered at that time, "Dick Whittington, where are you when we need you? What is happening to the City of London?". I was then taken to one side and it was explained that the amendment that has just been spoken to is in effect the same and is to preserve the City of London.

As the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has said, the City of London has been a special case for longer than anyone's memory, even in this sage House. Its rights and privileges, including its entitlement to parliamentary representation, were provided for in the Magna Carta, a copy of which I believe hangs behind where the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, is sitting-or not quite; I have just been corrected on the geography. The Magna Carta specifically allowed for the City of London's privileges, which were preserved by an Act in the thirteenth century.

The present Bill removes the current bit of legislation that is set out in the 1986 Act, which requires there to be a constituency that includes the whole of the City of London and the name of which shall refer to the City of London. It has continued for centuries, not just more recently, as a constituency. Recently, however, the words "City of London" have to form part of the name of a parliamentary constituency. Even these words were inserted into the name of the GLA division, which is now, I think, City and East London. More recently, as has been mentioned, in 2000 the rules for redistribution of seats again preserved the constituency.

There is also the interesting constitutional point, which has been touched on, that the current Bill has been characterised as a constitutional measure and accepted as such by being taken on the Floor of the House in the other place. The early 1297 Act is also a constitutional measure, as has been mentioned, but there has been no provision to amend that.

There are, as has been referred to, many legal arguments. I will spare the House the details that I have here. What is interesting, as far as it affects this House, this Committee and the Bill in front of us, is that the existing provision for a constituency that will include the whole of the City of London, as well as the name, will cease to exist if the Bill is passed. It will not automatically mean that the City as we know it will be split, but it allows for that as an outcome, because there will be no preservation of the boundaries around that. It is important for this House to consider some of the same comments that were made earlier, in the case of the Isle of Wight, of an island surrounded by water.