Taking account of local government boundaries

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 30th June 2020.

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Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Conservative, Basingstoke 10:00 am, 30th June 2020

This will probably be a slightly longer speech than I would have hoped given the note that we received from the boundary commission last night. Now might be a relevant point to discuss the content of that note, although it will not necessarily be easy given that we have had it for such a short period. The reason why it is relevant to discuss it at this point is that clause 6 refers to the rules to achieve the overall objective in the Bill, which is to create constituencies of equal size, and those rules are set out in schedule 2 of the 1986 Act. Therefore, in this stand part debate I would like to talk about three different points so that the Minister might be able to respond and so that they are on the record for the boundary commission to understand the importance of these things to getting this right.

The first point is the content of the boundary commission’s note, which will help us create equal-sized constituencies by looking at sub-ward level. The second point is about protected constituencies, which I know we will come on to when we consider my string of amendments to the schedule, but I will briefly touch on it. The third point is how we take into account future growth, which I raised in an evidence session, but it was interesting that nobody really answered the question, so I am going to raise it again for the Minister to perhaps respond to.

Looking at the first issue, the number of electorates per constituency at sub-ward level, I put on record my thanks—and I am sure the thanks of the whole Committee —to Mr Bellringer of the Boundary Commission for England and his team for the note of 29 June and such a rapid response to the issues raised when he gave evidence. The lengthy note we received uncovers that we have hit upon something important. My right hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell and others made the point several times that it is important that, first and foremost, we look at equality in the context of local ties. I think the only issue I take with the note from the boundary commission is the assertion that wards always—they say generally—

“reflect communities of broad common interest in an area”.

I think they mostly, but not always, do that. We could all give great examples of where wards even in our own constituencies do not particularly reflect communities of broad common interest.