Report (3rd Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:08 pm on 9th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Conservative 5:08 pm, 9th February 2011

My Lords, I last moved this amendment, prior to withdrawal, in Committee last month in the small hours of 19 to 20 January. My noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding, who eloquently supported the amendment on that occasion, has drawn my attention to the House of Lords newsletter entitled Red Benches, No. 23 dated 7 February 2011, and its column "Procedural Corner", where we are reminded that the Companion states:

"Arguments fully deployed either in Committee of the whole House or in Grand Committee should not be repeated at length on report".

My observation of this rule may reassure your Lordships' House today, but I must explain the more cryptic aspects of the amendment.

The amendment relates to the City of London, where I served for 24 years as Member of Parliament in the other place, making me the City's third longest-serving Member since 1283. I commented in Committee that the definition of a "special authority", referred to in paragraph (3) in the amendment, is,

"an authority covering an area with a population of less than 10,000 whose gross rateable value divided by its population is more than £10,000"-[Hansard, 19/1/11; col. 481.]

In other words, it is an area that is primarily commercial and not residential, and that applies uniquely in the United Kingdom to the City of London. The fact that this anonymous description uniquely applies to the City avoids any suggestion of potential hybridity. I will add to this arid language only the verdict of the Duke of Wellington's ally at Waterloo, Field-Marshal Prince Blücher, who, on being taken up to the dome of St Paul's to survey the City from on high, simply opined: "What a splendid city to sack".

The words,

"so far as is practicable", in paragraph (1) in the amendment, while establishing a presumption, avoid adding any rigorous straitjacket to the Bill, and paragraph (2) in the amendment lays down:

"Where the geographical area of a special authority forms part of not more than one constituency, the name by which that constituency is known shall refer to that area".

This mirrors the present statutory status of the City.

In Committee, I set out the long history of the City of London constituency, which merged with Westminster as recently as 1950, and described how it led up to its precise present status. In Committee, the Minister kindly agreed to a meeting with us between Committee and Report, and I thank him both for that and for his open-mindedness. I thanked in Committee those who universally spoke in favour of the amendment on that occasion, and I single out in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, on the Benches opposite, who moved a similar supportive amendment of her own that evening. I beg to move.