Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:51 pm on 27th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Randall of Uxbridge Lord Randall of Uxbridge Conservative 6:51 pm, 27th July 2020

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend the Minister on introducing the Bill so ably. I should correct the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall. I understand that Nissan is not closing its plant in Sunderland. Perhaps my noble friend can verify that when he winds up.

I welcome the Bill, for a variety of reasons. Those of us who served in the other place will recognise that constituency boundaries are always a subject of great interest. I agree that the previous proposals to reduce the number of constituencies were well intentioned, but rather misguided. Those of us who have been MPs in recent years can attest to the fact that a combination of factors, not least huge technical changes, have resulted in a vastly increased workload. There is also a great expectation about what services MPs should now be able to provide. When I first entered Parliament in 1997, I did not have an email and the new wonders of the modern mobile phone were virtually unheard of.

I am afraid that I take issue with the rather throwaway comments of my noble friend Lord Mancroft. He does Members of the other place a disservice to imply, however light-heartedly, that they are frolicking on the beach now that the Commons is in recess. My experience is that the hard work of MPs and their hard-working staff does not cease just because the House of Commons is not sitting.

I was extremely lucky in that I represented a constituency that I had always lived and worked in. My house was virtually in the centre of the constituency, but as various boundary reviews have taken place I have found myself slipping towards the borders. However, for the vast majority of the electorate, boundaries are relatively unimportant. All they ask for is to have a readily available representative who they can contact and who will deal with their concerns as speedily as possible. If we increase the number of constituents, that service might inevitably suffer.

Another unintended consequence is that it might increase the possibility that constituencies will cover more local authorities and attendant public authorities. I always counted myself extremely lucky that, with a geographically small constituency, I did not have to deal with the myriad organisations that other less fortunate MPs have to deal with. In this, I agree entirely with the sentiments of my noble friend Lord Trenchard.

I agree with the Government that this change will provide certainty that the recommendations of the independent and impartial Boundary Commissions will be implemented without political interference, or interference from either government or Parliament. This is absolutely the way it should be conducted. I also welcome the provisions that deal with how Boundary Commission reports are implemented. However, I add my support to the comments of my noble friends Lord Young of Cookham and Lord Cormack, and of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, about tightening up the wording about laying Orders in Council, which currently states “as soon as possible”.

Time limitations mean that I will not speak about other measures in the Bill. Suffice it to say that I thoroughly support them and I look forward to its eventual arrival on the statute book. I wish it well.