Taking account of local government boundaries

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 25th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 4:00 pm, 25th June 2020

I am happy to do so, Sir David. I thank the hon. Lady for raising this interesting issue, which touches on some of the broader themes that were raised in the witness session, which we may not necessarily come to in the rest of our consideration.

As the hon. Lady explained, this proposal would insert a new clause into rule 5(1) of schedule 2 to the 1986 Act—the factors set I mentioned earlier—to add an additional factor that the commissions may take into consideration. As I understand it, she thinks there ought to be

“data from the Department for Work and Pensions about non-registered voters” who are eligible to vote, should they choose to register.

We have already discussed, and no doubt will again, the fact that boundary reviews are conducted on the basis of the electorate. That is a major principle. The electorate are defined at paragraph 9(2) of schedule 2 to the 1986 Act as being

“the total number of persons whose names appear on the relevant version of a register of parliamentary electors.”

The register of electors is used, and has always been used, because it is the most up-to-date, verified and accurate source of information we have on those who are eligible to vote. Hon. Members who enjoyed the witness sessions will recall that we had some discussion about what it means to talk in terms of completeness and accuracy. These are the signal terms we use when we talk about the electoral register.

This proposal goes beyond that because it talks about those who are not registered. I understand the desire to catch and reflect those who are eligible to vote but who, for whatever reason, have not registered to do so. However, I have to tell the Committee that there are some significant practical considerations that argue against this proposal, because it does not take them into account.