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Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill — Committee (14th Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 26th January 2011.

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Photo of Lord Strathclyde Lord Strathclyde Leader of the House of Lords and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 9:30 pm, 26th January 2011

There is a remorseless logic to that fact. To return to the noble Baroness's speech, I did not follow this thing about the written constitution. We have a constitution and we are not operating unconstitutionally. If we wrote down our constitution and it did not have a provision for this, it would not make any difference. It would only make a difference if it had the provision that you cannot change the number of seats unless you have a referendum. I could not work out whether the noble Baroness, with all her experience, was saying that there should be a written constitution and that if there were a written constitution, it would be unconstitutional to change the number of seats in the House of Commons without a referendum, but I think that is what she was saying. I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Bach, sat down so quickly because he might have told us if that was official Labour Party policy, which would be most interesting and intriguing.

I would not rely on Irish referendums, much as I have the highest possible respect for the people of Ireland. Whenever they have a referendum and they get the wrong answer, they are told to do it again. So I am not a great fan of that. Incidentally, the fact that the Labour Party, which now thinks we should have referendums on changing the constitution, promised one on Lisbon and then did not provide it must be forever a reminder. So if that is what it is all about, I am not very keen on it. There was a nice anecdote about the 1980s. The historians will argue about 1983 and all that. What must also be true is that the Labour Party split. My noble friend sitting next to me, part of our coalition partnership, laid out all these figures about Labour and Conservative. How many MPs did it take to vote for a Liberal Democrat, or whatever they were then? I cannot remember. They were not Liberal Democrats then but SDP and Liberals. So that is a factor and I think it laid the seeds for the coalition today.

So we are not minded to accept the amendment. It is all very interesting but our minds are set on the provisions in the Bill. I therefore I hope the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.