Committee (14th Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 26th January 2011.

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Photo of Viscount Tenby Viscount Tenby Crossbench 6:45 pm, 26th January 2011

My Lords, I rise because my name has been mentioned on a number of occasions during this debate and I ought at least to thank noble Lords for the plug. I promise that my contribution really will be brief because all the songs have already been sung so expertly-probably the correct analogy to use in relation to Wales. There is a great deal of pleading for special causes in the Bill and there is, of course, ample justification for Wales to be included. Even if it were argued, as it has been today, that Wales might have been slightly overrepresented in recent years-no one is arguing about that; there is no dispute about it-it does not deserve to lose 10 constituencies at the stroke of a legislator's pen. These amendments, so powerfully moved by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, would address this unfairness.

A number of distinguished former Welsh MPs from all sides of the House have contributed to this debate, and in terms of such practical experience I am indeed a piping voice without substance. However, I can at least claim this; I had a grandfather, father, aunt and uncle, all of whom represented rural Welsh constituencies-for all the parties represented in this House, I have to say. I can testify to the additional burdens that physically large constituencies can impose on their representatives. This is compounded by a road network that has hardly improved over the years-I am sorry, but that is the case-and a rail system that many would argue has actually deteriorated. The personal ties which an MP can establish with constituents fairly easily in a well defined and concentrated urban area must be far harder to achieve over a large and disparate geographical mass. In the case of Wales, any attempt to extend the size of already large constituencies to encompass the 76,000-elector figure could result in the entirely inappropriate solutions referred to so tellingly by the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, in what I will call the Brecon-Radnor debate earlier in the week.

All these matters should surely be looked at carefully without a ticking clock in the background, which is why I hope that Amendment 102AB, in the name of my noble friend Lord Williamson, will be received favourably by all sides of the House.