Taking account of local government boundaries

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham 3:30 pm, 25th June 2020

The hon. Member for Glasgow East has provoked an interesting debate about how we go about this process. I did not understand some of Mr Bellringer’s arguments. We all know our constituencies extremely well, and we know the level of detail that electoral registration officers produce, road by road and building by building. On a fixed date, when we enter into the parliamentary boundary review, the number of people registered for a particular street is known. I do not understand why the boundary commission, in communication with the local registration officer, could not, where it needed to, investigate that level of detail, so I did not understand those answers.

As the Bill progresses, perhaps some thought can be given to expanding the areas of information that the boundary commission uses to draw up the parliamentary boundaries. We had an interesting discussion in the evidence sessions about the use of polling districts and what their legal basis was. Peter Stanyon from the local government boundary commission explained that it was often dictated by the location of a suitable venue for a polling station, the accessibility for people with disabilities, and the convenience, to enable communities to vote. Those are important factors, and they seem to be things that lead to a community being provided with a suitable location, which is desirable. Those might be suitable building blocks.

However, Mr Stanyon also said that, post a parliamentary boundary review, local government has to have a review if there are changes within its area to a parliamentary boundary. That use of technology could therefore allow the boundary commission to go down to sub-street level in the knowledge that, at some later date, the polling district will be changed to meet the new boundary that the commission has drawn up.

The commission does not need to be restricted to the distinct polling district area. It can now move forward in the knowledge that, if it can avoid creating a parliamentary boundary that goes across the jurisdiction of a local authority area, which brings in all sorts of difficulties, it has the flexibility to create an additional polling district or to add an additional community from within that local government area, in order to avoid all the problems that come with that cross-border situation. The local government boundary commission has made it quite clear that it would move the boundaries to suit that new parliamentary boundary if it were created.

I think that the hon. Member for Glasgow East is on to something, and that should be explored as the Bill progresses. We are creating a rigid set of criteria where some flexibility could avoid lots of difficulties that will be created by having small sections of communities in different local authority areas represented by an MP who primarily supports and represents a different community. We should explore that further.