Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill

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

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Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip 10:00, 24 October 2018

It is, as ever, a great pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Owen. I looked at the Order Paper and saw that this is the sixteenth meeting of the Committee—my goodness, I am sure there will be a Netflix documentary about us soon.

I want to pick up on one or two points made by the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean. As I was not a Member of this place during his time as Chief Whip and when he was a member of the Government, I was not aware that he was a great reformer who sought to abolish our cronies in ermine. I am none the less disappointed that he was not successful at that—I am sure he would have had the support of the Scottish National party, and he certainly would have had my personal support. He is absolutely right to make it clear that the boundary commissions are entirely independent; none of the members of this esteemed Committee is questioning the impartiality of the fine civil servants who serve on the boundary commissions.

It comes back to the principle that has been directed to civil servants by Government, which is to reduce the number of seats from 650 to 600. The noise of a reversing JCB digger could almost be heard as the right hon. Gentleman talked about how they arrived at this magical number of 600. The technical way of saying how they found it is that they put a wet finger up in the air, and that is how they came up with the figure of 600 —I have other feelings about that.

I wanted to make a brief contribution today because, having looked at the Order Paper for the main Chamber, we are of course considering some very important legislation for Northern Ireland. One point that I made in Committee last week was that before my time as a Member in this House, when I was a researcher, and now as an MP, I have seen the Government countless times bring forward legislation for Northern Ireland very quickly. The Minister is a former Northern Ireland Minister herself, so she will know how quickly legislation for across the water can be drafted. I find it a little bit bizarre that legislation for Northern Ireland can be drafted so quickly and, indeed, passed so quickly— in one day—yet Orders in Council take months to be brought to the House.