Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 10:00 am, 24th October 2018

I will speak briefly. I did not intend to speak—I know everyone says that—but the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton said a number of things that cannot land on the record without correction.

First, I agree with him completely that the process covered in his Bill and the process under way absolutely have to be independent. I agree that the way other countries draw their boundaries, for example, the United States, is not one that I wish to follow. There, elected politicians sit with a map drawing boundaries.

My challenge to the hon. Gentleman is that that is exactly not what happens in this country. The boundaries that are now with Parliament, and with the Government for converting into orders, have not been drawn by party politicians. They have been carefully drawn by independent judicial office holders. They have obviously listened to evidence from the political parties, as one would expect, but all political parties have been able to give evidence. They have heard evidence from other people and produced independent proposals.

Of course, those proposals are shaped by the rules set by Parliament. Those rules are about equalising the size of constituencies, and I think there is general agreement that constituencies should be of equal size, not for our interest, but so that votes across the country are of equal weight wherever voters live.

I do not know whether it is still true, or whether someone has polled it, but I think it would be the case that reducing the number of Members of Parliament remains the most popular policy of the coalition Government. With 600, we would still have more politicians in the country at that level than many other comparable democracies.