Report (3rd Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 9th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 4:15 pm, 9th February 2011

My Lords, we have had a very good and a very short debate. I support entirely the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. We moved an amendment at an earlier stage in these proceedings proposing 10 per cent in exceptional circumstances. As the noble Lord has described, the Government, through a variety of Ministers, raised a number of reasons why a succession of amendments would not work. In relation to each of the problems raised by the Government, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, produced a sensible solution.

At the heart of what the noble Lord is suggesting is acceptance of the principle of much greater equality, but there will be exceptional cases where it is necessary to give effect to an exception based on geography or local ties where a small bit of procrustean flexibility is sensible. That is a classically common-sense amendment which should be considered on its merits.

With the greatest of respect to the well known legal expert, the noble Lord, Lord King-a much respected figure in the House-I suggest that noble Lords look at the matter on the basis of the merits of the argument being advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. They should ignore views about the conduct over this Bill, ignore what the position may be in the future and ask themselves, "If we, as a House, agree this amendment to the Bill, will people outside this House think well of us and think that we improved the Bill in a way that gave a sensible degree of flexibility?".

Almost the most powerful speech that we have heard in the course of the debate came from the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, who said that this should be an object lesson in how this House should operate. That is, the power of the argument on the merits should succeed. Of course, I am parti pris and therefore not in a position to give an argument that would be regarded as anything other than subjective but, my goodness, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has done the work, which nobody else has done in relation to this debate. I commend his amendment to the House.