Report (3rd Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 9th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Williamson of Horton Lord Williamson of Horton Crossbench 3:45 pm, 9th February 2011

My Lords, my name is also on the amendment, so ably presented by my noble friend in moving it, and I rise to support it. The amendment is of course a compromise, but it is perhaps all the better for that, because I think that some noble Lords think that compromises have not been very frequent during the long passage of the Bill.

There are two, very strong reasons for noble Lords to support the amendment. First, with the proposed reduction in the number of Members of Parliament and the redrawing of the constituency boundaries, we are entering into, through the work of the Boundary Commissions, a very substantial operation. It is very difficult to foresee where some of the difficulties may arise for the drawing of sensible constituency boundaries. Is the 5 per cent proposal in the Bill enough? We are not sure. This is perhaps a typical situation where a very small increase in the margin for exceptional circumstances could make the difference between a good-sense constituency and a nonsense constituency.

Secondly, this amendment has been very carefully drawn up, as my noble friend explained, to ensure that, while providing a small additional margin for use in exceptional circumstances, it does not significantly conflict with the Government's objective of achieving an equalisation of the size of constituencies. This is quite clear, because the use of the extra margin in the amendment is limited to cases where it is "necessary"-a very strong word-to achieve a viable constituency. Surely the Government want viable constituencies. The amendment provides also that such necessity must arise from special geographical considerations-inconveniently placed mountains and so on-or local ties of an exceptionally compelling nature. These considerations or local ties are already in the Bill at Clause 11, but, in this amendment, they are permitted to play a role under very strict conditions.

From time to time, I speak to schools about the work of the House of Lords. I intend to cite this amendment as an example of a wholly reasonable amendment that has been tabled in the spirit of the way in which we work in this House. It would certainly help me if I could cite it as an amendment discussed and then included in a Bill. I hope that the Government will accept it and make that possible.