Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:41 pm on 27th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Non-affiliated 6:41 pm, 27th July 2020

My Lords, I very much admire two of the speeches made since the tea break—those of the noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, and the noble Lord, Lord Hussain—and their analysis of the structural nature of this problem, which has been excluded, of people being excluded from the register. I hope that the Minister can say a bit more about this in his reply. It ties up with many social problems at the moment. If people are not part of a society, they will not behave as members of a society. That is very important.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have people who are very much members of society and have greater economic weight because of greater educational opportunity. We have to look behind this issue at some of the fractures in British society, although perhaps not in this debate.

I will go off-piste, if I may, and rise to the bait, to mix a metaphor, about moving the House of Lords to York. I do so not because I think that it is anything other than a bit of rhetoric by the Prime Minister, but because he is pretty good at fingering an issue that he thinks will have resonance with people—even though Dominic Cummings probably does not know when he leaves Durham whether he ought to go south-west to Barnard Castle or north-east to Sunderland, where Nissan is going to close its factory because we are leaving the European Union. These socioeconomic questions are much more important to many people than the size of the constituency, as we know. There are so many problems for people, ranging from the Scottish question to those to do with all parts of Ireland, Wales and so on.

Having been born in south Lancashire, I could make the case that we really ought to think for the next 20 years ahead about what would be a balancing factor of another Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Prescott, was always on to this. There are many possibilities. It would not just mean “electing the House of Lords”. I come from the trade union movement, where we had the social contract. It was the forces in society that had to make an agreement between them to make the economy work.

Perhaps those people who have just left the European Parliament on a regional ticket can give us a benchmark of some of the systems that operate in the countries of Europe—we have nothing to learn from them, of course—and that may be relevant to restructuring our politics so that we do not have the sense of relying just on rhetoric to talk about fractured Britain and the north-south divide. Of course, with the north-south divide, the more rhetoric, the worse it gets. That is not to say that the 70,000 people in constituencies around Lancashire—