Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:50 pm on 27th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Truscott Lord Truscott Non-affiliated 5:50 pm, 27th July 2020

My Lords, I welcome the fact that the number of parliamentary constituencies will be kept at 650, not reduced to 600 as previously planned. With Covid-19, Brexit, economic recession and the deteriorating geopolitical situation, MPs will have a greater workload, not a lighter one. The UK’s growing population places additional strains on a society under pressure.

Like many noble Lords, I am concerned about removing Parliament’s role in approving any Boundary Commission changes before they are finalised. As has been said in the other place, the Bill would disproportionately and undemocratically concentrate the power to cut constituency sizes and amend boundaries in the hands of the Executive. It is welcome that the current ability of the Secretary of State to amend Orders in Council, if rejected by Parliament, would be removed, but that is not enough of a safeguard. Her Majesty’s Government argue that a similar system to the one proposed operates in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. That may be the case, but it means that such a system is unique to those three countries, out of 195 across the globe.

It may also be pointed out that we have a Prime Minister who has shown scant regard for parliamentary sovereignty, as witnessed by his latest plan to move your Lordships’ House to York after a cursory consultation. As the Lord Speaker recently pointed out, Parliament, not government, is sovereign in our democracy. A classically educated Prime Minister, steeped in ancient Greece as the cradle of democracy, should well understand that, but our PM acts more like an autocratic Slavonic Tsar, aided and abetted by his own delusional Rasputin. For that reason, the less he tampers with our parliamentary institutions the better.