Taking account of local government boundaries

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 30th June 2020.

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Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 9:25 am, 30th June 2020

It is a great pleasure to see you in the chair again, Mr Paisley. I will speak very briefly, reflecting on the contributions made by right hon. and hon. Members.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Elmet and Rothwell: this is a thoughtful and thought-provoking amendment. Somebody with my own experience would not necessarily have thought of it, but I am now giving it great consideration. However, having listened to hon. Members from both sides of the Committee, my concern is that although we can discuss what is important and what we want the boundary commissions to regard as important factors when deciding boundaries, none of them is relevant as long as we have such a tight variance—5%—around the quota that trumps everything else. The Committee has already considered this. Something as important as language and identity, which the hon. Member for Ceredigion has spoken about, simply will not get a look in because nothing else matters. I ask the Committee to bear that in mind.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman intends to press his amendment to a vote—we will wait and see what his decision is on that—but I ask hon. Members to think about that as we progress through consideration both of the amendment and of the rest of the Bill. Members on both sides of the Committee talk about the importance of community, of identity and of keeping together communities that share common interests, but unfortunately none of that will make a difference when the commissioners come to do their work, because of the very tight variance that we are asking them to use, which is the only consideration in the Bill.

Whether or not the hon. Gentleman presses his amendment to a vote, having provoked me and other hon. Members to think about those forms of identity and community, which I am certainly for, I hope that we will give those matters real thought and consideration and not shackle our hands and those of the commissioners when they are doing their work.