Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:47 pm on 27th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Labour 5:47 pm, 27th July 2020

My Lords, I am sorry, the unmute button did not work for a minute there. I want to make just a few comments. Several times in the course of the Bill, the comment has been made that, being unelected, we should not give advice to the elected House. I suspect that the paradox is that we are not only unelected but we have no vote in the election of the Members of the elected House either.

One of the things that I recall from when I used to have a vote is that, from one election to the next, it never crossed my mind that the exact balance of the value of my vote was an essential component in comparing issues with people in other parts of the country. I can understand the broader argument for equality in voting, but it was never a fundamental issue. The fundamental issue was the quality of representation and the quality of how it was taken into effect in the House of Commons.

It is for these reasons that I have a lot of sympathy for the points made by my noble friends Lord Hain and Lady Gale and the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. Many of the distinctive features of the constituencies in this country, which we reflect in other ways as well—in the Barnett formula and other mechanisms—relate to the complexity, size, cultural mix and geography of this country.

I can entirely see why it should be that, after any kind of decision has been taken by the Electoral Commission, Members of the House of Commons, in particular, will want to see whether it makes fundamental sense of the arrangements necessary to get effective representation. Certainly, procrastination can be prevented, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, said. It seems to me that we could probably ensure that there are other sensitive mechanisms in this Bill, including ones that allow us slightly greater discretion than the 5%.

This would be valuable if we are to take full account of the geographical character—the distances, mountain ranges and so on. Without these considerations, it seems to me that we are inevitably going to leave people with a lower quality of representation than they would otherwise have. That should certainly be avoided in a Bill of this kind.