Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 27th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 6:45 pm, 27th July 2020

My Lords, I speak as one who believes passionately in both Houses: this House for its capacity to scrutinise legislation and because it can never be a challenge to the supreme authority of the elected House. It is against that background that I will make a few remarks.

The sinister words in this Bill—which, in many ways, I welcome—were pointed out by my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham. They appear in Clause 2:

“As soon as reasonably practicable”.

The danger in this Bill is that it gives too much power to the Executive. I am a great believer in the theme of Dunning’s Motion, moved in 1780, when he said that

“the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.”

Today, the power of the Executive has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. That is why I favour the ultimate word being taken in the other place by the elected Members of Parliament.

I shall support, with amendments, those who talked about the 5% being too rigid. I was particularly persuaded by the arguments of colleagues from Wales, but the same applies to Scotland and to certain parts of England. Communities must not be broken up by artificial boundaries imposed from elsewhere. Constituencies must not be so impractical to negotiate that it is almost impossible adequately to represent them in the other place. We have to look at this very carefully. I shall certainly support amendments that seek to deal with the 5%.

I particularly feel, as a tremendous supporter of the union, that we must not do anything in these very difficult, parlous times, to jeopardise the union. Of course it is right that England inevitably has the largest number of Members of Parliament, but there ought to be, in a sense, disproportion in favour of Scotland and Wales and, to a degree, Northern Ireland, even though they have regional Parliaments and assemblies. This Bill will need a lot of scrutiny in your Lordships’ House. We must, of course, give it a safe passage, but I hope it will be a safe passage which improves it.