My Lords, I welcome the Bill and the number remaining at 650. It is a sad reflection that the key element of our democracy was allowed to fester in the to-do tray during the Cameron coalition Government, and then the May Government. It is a terrible disgrace that today’s constituencies are based on data from 2000—20 years ago—since when there have been huge changes in population movement and net migration.
I particularly welcome the key element of the Bill on hearings. I remember going to hearings about boundary changes in Northampton, which were always taken at the first stage; it always seemed wrong to me and my advisers that it was not the second stage. I therefore welcome the part of the Bill which proposes that it will be the second stage, not least because that provides better provision for change, particularly in relation to local authority boundaries. I challenge the length of time that is being suggested, with boundary reviews being put up from every five years to eight. Whether we like it or not, we have a party-political electoral system. On my calculation, this means that the Government elected in 2025 will have an effective advantage of an extra three years.
I will look for a second or two at the case history of my own former seat, Northampton South. It first came into existence, as a seat, following the boundary reviews of the early 1970s. As colleagues may remember, the first election there was in February 1974. On the first count my majority was minus 203 but a few of the bundles appeared to have got mixed up in the wrong area and, on appeal, it ended up as 179. At an election that October, I got 141, at another one in 1979—a gap of six to seven years—it was 3,634. Then there was a boundary review and, all of a sudden, I had a huge constituency and I got a majority of over 15,000. That went on until 1992 and then, bang, I got another review in 1997 and lost by 744. There is something not right about going to eight years. If noble Lords want any personal encouragement, a Private Member’s Bill to give each Member of the upper House a vote where they live has had a Second Reading in your Lordships’ House. Most noble Lords are active where they live.