Report (3rd Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 9th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lords Spokesperson (Attorney General's Office), Lords Spokesperson (Wales Office), The Advocate-General for Scotland, Lords Spokesperson (Scotland Office) 5:15 pm, 9th February 2011

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Brooke for tabling the amendment and the other noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, who have spoken to it. As my noble friend said, Amendment 22E requires that the area of a special authority, as defined by the Local Government Finance Act 1988, should form part of only one constituency, and the constituency name should refer to that special authority. As he said, in practice, only one authority area satisfies the definition of a special authority, and that is the City of London. As has been explained many times, the number of exceptions in the Bill has deliberately been kept as low as possible. In introducing the Bill, the Government accepted only two seats where there is genuine extreme geography precluding them from being readily combined with other constituencies.

As has been said, we debated an equivalent amendment in Committee moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town. That made clear the expert knowledge of many noble Lords of the past and present of the City of London, and their connections with it. I certainly would not wish in any way to diminish the rich history of the City, nor the importance which the City has played and continues to play in the life and economy of our nation.

From a practical point of view, I hope that I can offer some reassurance by reminding the House that in the 25 wards in total, the City has approximately 7,000 electors, which is smaller than some individual wards. Although it would be for the Boundary Commission to decide, I suspect that it is unlikely that the City would be split between two constituencies. Nevertheless, I recall the argument made that it is desirable from an economic point of view to have one MP who can say unequivocally that he or she represents the City of London's interests in Parliament. I certainly valued the opportunity to meet my noble friends Lord Brooke and Lord Jenkin and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter. They elaborated on the potent arguments that they made in their speeches in Committee, which they have made again today.

I have clearly heard the case that they make. The Government understand the strength of that concern. Although I cannot commit myself to the wording of the amendment, I am happy to tell your Lordships' House that we will take this away and that I fully expect to be able to address the issue when we return to this at Third Reading. I hope that, on that basis, my noble friend will be prepared to withdraw the amendment.