Taking account of local government boundaries

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

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Photo of David Linden David Linden Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 4:00 pm, 25th June 2020

I rise to speak to amendments 6 and 7, tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion. I do not wish to detain the Committee for long, so I will be brief in explaining the rationale behind these probing amendments. One of the clearest themes throughout our evidence hearings, particularly with boundary commissioners, was a request to leave them with as much latitude and flexibility as possible and not to tie their hands. The amendments seek to remove the restriction on local government boundaries that the boundary commission may take into account, rather than fixing them at a technical level as at the start of the review.

The use of modern technologies should give the boundary commissions the ability to adapt to local authority reviews during the course of their reviews in a way not envisaged when the original legislation was put in place in 1944. There are also likely to be local authority ward reviews all but completed at the start of the review but for which orders had not been laid to give effect to them. I am all for giving the boundary commissions the flexibility they need to get on with the job, and I hope that the Government are with me on that. The Bill helps in allowing prospective boundaries to be taken into account, but they are all fixed at the start of the review, and I am for further flexibility.

As I indicated, this is a probing amendment, so I would be interested to hear the Minister’s thoughts on the merit of the suggestion and whether the Government feel that such flexibility for the boundary commission would be of use. I am happy to resume my seat and hear what the Minister has to say.