Report (3rd Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:05 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) 6:05 pm, 9th February 2011

My Lords, as a coalition Minister, I am more than delighted to reply to the noble Lord's amendment, which would result in an exception for Rutherglen, Cambuslang and Halfway so that they remained in a constituency which does not cross the boundaries of the South Lanarkshire Council area. The amendment in the Marshalled List brought back memories, as I recall my great aunt and uncle had a Halfway telephone number-I cannot remember the digits, but it was certainly Halfway exchange and, as a child, that always interested me as I wondered where it was halfway between.

I recognise the strength of the communities that the noble Lord used to represent in the other place but, as has been made clear on a number of occasions in Committee and on Report, the Bill as originally drafted had two named exceptions to the principle for a clear and tightly defined set of reasons. Both those exceptions involve remote locations and populations too small to be put in the parity target. The Bill now includes the Isle of Wight, following the vote in Committee on that. I do not think it is possible to argue that extreme geographical considerations apply in South Lanarkshire.

However, I have no doubt that when it comes to the Boundary Commission having regard to the circumstances and the community ties that link Cambuslang, Rutherglen and Halfway, it will be permissible under the rules for the Boundary Commission to take those ties into account and give such regard as it thinks fit to the fact that those communities have had historic links. I have no doubt that, under the public hearing arrangements for which the House voted yesterday, the noble Lord will-I have every certainty-make a very eloquent case when the opportunity for a public hearing comes, assuming that the Boundary Commission does not, in its original proposals, have Cambuslang, Rutherglen and Halfway together.

I think the noble Lord recognises that the case has not been made for an exception to be on the face of the Bill in this respect, but, of course, as I have indicated, community ties is an issue to which the Boundary Commission can have legitimate regard. I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.