And of course, Mr Owen, we understand and follow every word you say as you direct us. It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, but that pleasure is tempered by the disappointment that, once again, we have failed to receive the money resolution that would have allowed us to proceed.
It is genuinely always a pleasure to listen to the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean. I have said previously that his experience is invaluable in this Committee. Let me put on record the Opposition’s view that there is absolutely no question about the Boundary Commission’s integrity—none whatever. There is an issue, of course, about the guidance, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, that the House gives to the Boundary Commission when it makes its decisions and proposals.
The Bill would not reduce the number of constituencies, but it would allow an ever-so-slightly greater tolerance about the national average than the boundaries currently awaiting the House’s decision. It would allow for an equalisation of the size of constituencies, and a greater recognition of communities of interest around them, which make up an important part of the identity that electors feel with their parliamentary constituency. We absolutely want to progress to greater consistency across the numbers in parliamentary constituencies, because it is not helpful to have too great a divergence from the national average and constituencies of too great a size.
Hundreds of thousands of voters were not on the register on which the existent boundary proposals were based, so there will inevitably be a great variation in the number of voters. It has been suggested to me that some of the inner-city seats in London might have well in excess of 100,000 residents—150,000 in two cases—but not voters, because people have fallen off the register.