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 Alec Shelbrooke Alec Shelbrooke Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell 4:00 pm, 25th June 2020

I am once again most grateful to the hon. Member for Glasgow East for taking the time to table these probing amendments, because this is an important part of the Bill and we should discuss whether we can assist the boundary commission when it goes about its work in England. As we know, when the quotas come out, they are based on regions, with certain regions having to lose seats and other regions having to gain seats. It seems odd that regions are broken down into specific local government authority boundaries.

I was born in 1976 and I still get grief on my doorsteps in Wetherby about the 1974 redistribution of councils, and the fact that people are now in West Yorkshire and not North Yorkshire. People tend not to ever forgive local government boundary changes even when they are long ago.

Another interesting thing is that my constituency is purely in West Yorkshire; the outer boundary of my constituency is the boundary with North Yorkshire. My constituency is called Elmet and Rothwell, and the Elmet part of the name refers to the Celtic kingdom of Elmet, which roughly covered West Yorkshire. Some interesting DNA work was done about five or six years ago, which showed that the DNA of the Celtic kingdom of Elmet has not really moved beyond West Yorkshire; that was quite interesting.

However, because Elmet was a kingdom, it did not just follow boundaries as they are set down now. In Elmet, there is the village of Sherburn, which is in the seat of the Minister for Asia, my hon. Friend Nigel Adams. Such things make people write to me, as the MP for Elmet and Rothwell, because they live in the village of Sherburn in Elmet, so it makes perfect sense to write to the MP for Elmet and Rothwell, but of course Sherburn is separate.

This brings me back to the point that constituents—members of the public—really do not care where the line of their constituency is drawn. They can get wound up about the fact that they are in a certain county, or not in a certain county, but overall as things get spread across we are into a different area.

In Yorkshire, we understand our areas better than they do anywhere else. We try not to come back to our area all the time; we do not want to be seen as being self-interested, and things such as that. It is just that we understand “area” better. Based on the current figures that we are using until 1 December—although that is about to change, we only have those figures to work on—North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire are half a seat too big on each side, so there has to be a crossover point. Again, this is a situation where, if we do not want to do some very odd things, the boundary commission needs to forget where the local government boundaries are and look again at the community side. That is a really important point; indeed, it goes to the heart of the Bill, as I have said before.

The amendment is a probing amendment. We should not start the process with the hands of the boundary commissioners tied and saying, “Right, let’s dig into this local authorities”, because there is a wider picture to consider, across many areas. I have read the evidence about Cornwall and I do not really want to get into that argument; I do not think we have any Cornish Members on the Committee. However, the important point is that the boundary commission will have heard those arguments about Cornwall; the commissioners know them at this stage.

I am sure there are many anomalies in the part of the world of the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood, the north-west. I do not know her part of the world very well at all. I have been up there—