Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:18 pm on 27th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative 5:18 pm, 27th July 2020

My Lords, I welcome the Bill. It gives impetus to the long overdue process of revising the current constituency boundaries. MPs are representing constituencies that were drawn up on data that is now 20 years old. Election night and the incoming results show the consequences, as the different sizes of constituencies have such variable electorates.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, does not like to be reminded of his birthday, but I seem to remember that I was the Whip on a previous Bill in this House, which became the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011. Its flaws have been pointed out by many speakers before me, but to address the failings of the situation that arose, the Conservative Party manifesto in 2019 made a commitment to ensure

“updated and equal Parliamentary boundaries, making sure that every vote counts the same”.

The abortive 2018 Boundary Commission proposal is cancelled under this Bill as we revert to 650 constituencies, and it ensures an automatic system for the commission to implement its recommendation. It avoids further procrastination by the Government or Parliament after the commission has made its final report, and the final report is to the Speaker of the House of Commons. He is the agency for delivering the commission’s report into law, and the Secretary of State and Parliament lose—in my view, quite rightly—the ability to amend by Order in Council.

None the less, the commission has a challenging task. As so many noble Lords have pointed out, fitting community cohesion with the power that it will need for equal-value voting within a range no greater than 5% either way is what the Bill provides for, but that is a 10% variation in constituency size. That is why I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, about the importance of the independence of the Boundary Commission. That is why it is so vital to preserve its integrity.

The first target is to implement these changes by 2023. I support the creation of excluded status for the four constituencies, which will now include a fifth, Ynys Môn. My noble friend the Lord Speaker will be delighted to see two Members for the Isle of Wight at last.