Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:50 pm on 27th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence) 4:50 pm, 27th July 2020

My Lords, I begin by adopting the observations made by my noble friends Lord Rennard and Lord Tyler. I will take up the issue on which the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, commented, in which he was dismissive of those of us who argue for proportional representation. I wonder whether he understands that it takes a Green MP 33 times the number of votes as an SNP MP to be elected to the House of Commons. Mr Farage’s party fought a general election and got 3.5 million votes, and yet it did not have a single representative in the Commons. How would the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, deal with that problem while we wait for the remarkable achievement of all the opposition parties coming together?

I certainly support voting for 16 and 17 year-olds in this context. If your Lordships have any doubt about that, accept one of those outreach engagements and go and talk to a class of 16 year-olds. You will find that they know just as much as anyone else about political issues and about the remedies which might be used to deal with them.

I am also of the view that the less influence that Parliament has, the better it will be for the system. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, referred a little earlier to something being grubby. Nothing has been grubbier than the fact that successive Governments of all colours, including the coalition, were willing to disregard the obvious way—the orthodox way—in which the reports of the Boundary Commission should be dealt with. In that respect, I am much attracted by the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, that the way in which to deal with the Order in Council is to make its laying subject to a time limit.

Finally, I come back to the issue of 650 constituencies rather than 600. The coalition Government took office back in 2010, and a great deal has happened in those 10 years. What has happened for Members of Parliament is that access to the internet has increased to an exponential degree among the public, and the contents of what we as MPs used to describe as our postbags has increased to a quite remarkable extent. That the demands are greater than they have ever been is reflected in the fact that IPSA has consistently raised the amount of money available to Members of Parliament for their staff. I favour some of the other parts of the Bill but I hope that we will have the opportunity to consider these issues later in Committee.