Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:33 pm on 27th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat 4:33 pm, 27th July 2020

My Lords, I am not grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hayward, for reminding noble Lords that it is my birthday, but I thank him for the commemoration anyway. At my age, I try to forget about it. I agree entirely with my noble friends Lord Tyler and Lord Rennard, so I will try not to repeat what they said. I have to say to the Labour Party that, if we want, we could spend the whole of the Bill refighting battles and arguments from 2011. I do not think that would be useful, because we need to co-operate to scrutinise carefully the legislation that the present Government are putting forward. That requires us to work together.

The 2011 legislation, the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, was a shambles in almost every respect—while it was taking place, in this House and in the way it came out, on all sides. We should learn from that. It teaches a great deal of lessons that are not for today about how to work coalitions, should there ever be another one, and their internal workings. The shambles were a direct result of the internal structure of the coalition, which was far too top-down and dependent on negotiations and deals done between two people, who did not know much about many of the things they were dealing with.

The 5% is important. I have no problems with the Bill increasing the number of constituencies back to 650. I have no problems with 650, and could not understand why everybody was getting so worked up and agitated about the difference between 600 and 650. If people want to reduce it to 300 or 350, it would be something to talk about. I would not agree, but it would be an argument worth fighting if you did. This 600 to 650 is neither here nor there, nor worth talking about.

However, it will not help in Lancashire, where the two proposals were both very similar. People are restricted to 5% and, because they had to start somewhere—and they started on the coast and came inland—by the time they got to the Pennines, it was a complete botch-up. Since we will probably lose a seat because of the changes from present, I do not think it will make much difference. We can talk about that in Committee. I have used up my time. All I will say is: if we and the Labour Party want something sensible from the Bill, let us work together.