Taking account of local government boundaries

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 30th June 2020.

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Photo of Shaun Bailey Shaun Bailey Conservative, West Bromwich West 9:45 am, 30th June 2020

It is great to see you in the Chair again, Mr Paisley. I thank the hon. Member for Ceredigion for his probing amendment. I am a something of a fledgling Welsh speaker and taught myself in his constituency. Ydw, ‘dwi’n gallu siarad Cymraeg—ddim yn rhugl, ond yn iawn. Diolch yn fawr iawn. {Translation: Yes, I can speak Welsh—not fluently, but okay. Thank you very much.]

My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke made a really pertinent point—my one concern is that the amendment could better limit how it define local ties— but the hon. Gentleman makes some really good points about language. Unless someone has been there and experienced a language in a community, they can never fully appreciate it, particularly in Wales. I speak of Wales because in my experience, the language, the community and the identity are so fundamentally ingrained there, meaning that the level of conversation and the way it flows is totally different depending on whether it is in Welsh or in English. That needs to be experienced as a Welsh speaker.

As many hon. Members have said, this is a really interesting probing amendment and it is great that the hon. Gentleman has tabled it so we can think about that. Hopefully, reaching 1 million Welsh speakers, which I think is an absolutely vital goal set by the Welsh Government and one with which I agree, will change the dynamic. I was pleased to hear in our evidence sessions about how the Boundary Commission for Wales takes language into account, which we saw in the proposals for the joined-up constituency of Ceredigion and Machynlleth in the aborted review; language played some role in drawing that boundary.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: we cannot forget linguistic considerations. However, as my right hon. Friend for Basingstoke said, we need to be really careful not to constrain ourselves, so I cannot support his absolutely fantastic amendment, which I hope the Minister will consider carefully none the less.