Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 20th June 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 9:30 am, 20th June 2018

I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, which is perfectly sensible. I just do not agree with matters being conducted “in parallel”, for two reasons. First, if we are going to debate the Bill, we should find out the House’s view of the boundary proposals. Although he asserts, as he did yesterday, that he knows what the answer is, in my experience—as a Back Bencher, a Minister and Government Chief Whip—it is always quite useful to test the opinion of the House through a Division rather than just assuming what the answer will be, because sometimes the answer will be a pleasant surprise and sometimes it will not be such a pleasant surprise. We should not assume that we know what the answer will be.

Secondly, if the Government are not successful in getting those Orders in Council through, the debate on the Bill would be better informed by the Government’s having listened to the concerns that Members express in the debate on the Orders in Council.

I know that it would be a slight tragedy, because I would effectively be arguing for not continuing to debate things in this Committee, but given that the boundary legislation is constitutional in nature and by definition affects every single Member of Parliament, there would be a case, were we to make progress with the Bill at some point, for the debate on it not to take place in Committee. Committee stage should take place on the Floor of the House, as it did for the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. That is generally what happens to constitutional legislation: all stages are taken on the Floor of the House.

That is another reason why it is better to wait for the House to have the opportunity to consider the boundary proposals. If the Government do not get those proposals through and want to make progress on the Bill, using it as a vehicle, it would be better if time were found for all its stages to be debated on the Floor of the House because of the nature of the subject matter. Realistically, we cannot do that when we do not know the outcome of the boundary commissions’ proposals.

For all those reasons, it is right for the Committee to adjourn. We shall know what the boundary commission reports are in four sitting weeks, and the Government will then reflect on them—I hope, reasonably quickly—before they come up with the Orders in Council. That is why it is right for the Committee to adjourn, so I hope that we agree that motion.