Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 17 October 2018.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 10:00, 17 October 2018

I am grateful that you have called me, Mr Owen. I want to put a few remarks on the record that are pertinent to those raised by the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton. First, I should apologise that I was not here last week; I was unavoidably elsewhere. I notice, having assiduously read the fantastic Hansard report, which we are so blessed with in these Committees, that I was mentioned in dispatches, as it were, so I thank the hon. Member for City of Chester who speaks for the Opposition for noticing that I was not here. It is always good when people actually notice that one is not at Committee and that it does not just pass people by.

I want to say a couple of things about the drafting points. First, I am slightly disappointed that the hon. Member for City of Chester appears to be so despondent in his role as a Member of Parliament that he has decided to audition for the job of parliamentary counsel. Having acquainted myself with that, I can tell him that being a parliamentary draftsman is rather better paid than being a Member of Parliament. They are very senior lawyers and it is a very specialist job. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the pay scales, he will see they are rather better remunerated than even Cabinet Ministers. I should say that he would be very sadly missed, so I hope his application to be a parliamentary draftsman is declined.

I notice he offered his services to the Minister, but I think she probably has the services of parliamentary counsel to hand. As she said, it is a complicated process. I know the hon. Gentleman has not had the chance, but I have been able, in a number of roles, to ask civil servants to instruct parliamentary draftsmen. It is actually more complicated than the hon. Gentleman thinks and it needs to be right. What the Minister said last time about the complexity of the task is very necessary.

Given that we can discuss only the adjournment, I will repeat what I said on the final point made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton about a money resolution. As I have said, the House now has the chance to take a decision on the boundary commission reports that have been laid before it. If we were to actually consider this Bill, it should not be considered in Committee. All the previous legislation on boundaries, because they are constitutional in nature, were considered in a Committee of the whole House. If the Bill were to make progress, the Government ought to find time for it so that all Members—because this issue affects all Members—could discuss it on the Floor of the House.

I think that the right approach is to allow the House to take a decision on the boundary commission orders. Obviously, in my current life as a Back-Bench Member of Parliament, I have no influence over that; it is a matter for the usual channels to discuss. However, if we were to discuss it in detail, it should be done in the House.