Amendment 11

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill - Report – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Janvrin Lord Janvrin Crossbench 3:30 pm, 8th October 2020

I support the amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas; I do so because the impartiality and independence of the Boundary Commission assumes greater importance if automaticity of the implementation of the commission’s findings is accepted under this Bill. I readily accept that the Government understand this, as the Minister pointed out so clearly in Committee. If that is so, it surely makes sense to consider ways to strengthen the impartiality and independence of the commission to meet these new circumstances. The three proposals put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, in this amendment to achieve this are simple and straightforward and he explained them comprehensively in moving the amendment.

The appointment of the deputy chairman by the head of the judiciary, rather than a political Minister, is a reversion to the practice before 2005, when the nature of the Lord Chancellor’s role changed. It brings England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland into line. It would significantly reduce the scope for accusations of political interference, whether real or perceived, in the future.

Changing the appointments process to one more akin to judicial appointments follows the same logic. It is not a criticism of the public appointments system but a recognition that appointing members of the Boundary Commissions must be seen to be in a special and quasi-judicial category. They are crucial arbiters of the integrity of our electoral system. The introduction of non-renewable terms of appointment merely brings these appointments to the Boundary Commissions into line with other constitutional and political watchdogs and regulators.

As has been said, this is about reality and, above all, perception. We are talking about small changes aimed at strengthening the real and perceived impartiality of those who define the framework of our electoral system. We are talking about small changes, but they are changes that might increase trust in elections, politics and the way we are governed. I strongly support this amendment.