Removal of duty to implement, etc. in relation to current reports

Parliamentary Constituencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 30th June 2020.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

It is that part of the morning, Mr Paisley, where you keep me on my feet all morning, going through a rattle of clauses. Here we go.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Exactly; the audience awaits—or, as my three-year-old managed to learn to say the other day, “And the crowd goes wild!”. That surprised me coming out of the mouth of a three-year-old, but perhaps the same will be true of the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill Committee.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

What does clause 8 do? It removes the legal obligation to implement the 2018 boundary review. As hon. Members will recall from when we discussed clause 5, the Bill will amend the existing legislation to ensure that we continue to have 650 parliamentary constituencies, as we do now. In order to achieve that, clause 5 set the number of constituencies at 650 for future reviews. That in itself does not resolve the current legal obligation on the Government to implement the 2018 boundary review, which was based on 600.

The boundary commissions have submitted their final reports for that review, but the recommendations have yet to be brought into legal effect. Clause 8 therefore brings the 2018 boundary review to a close without implementation. It removes the Government’s obligation to bring the recommendations of the 2018 review into effect, because those proposals would take us down to 600 constituencies at the next election, which this Committee has already agreed is undesirable.

Under this clause, that obligation would be removed retrospectively, with effect from 24 March of this year. I can explain that specific date to the Committee: it is the date on which the Government announced their intention to retain 650 constituencies in the written ministerial statement that I laid before the House. Without this clause, there would be a very irregular situation. We would be legally required to implement the 2018 review and implement the reduction to 600 constituencies at the next general election. I think that this Committee would agree, having already taken the decision to move from 600 back to 650, that that situation would be confusing and undesirable. Therefore this clause, although technical, is important and I urge that it stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement

I will make a brief comment, not least to give the Minister a breather and a chance to get some water as she rattles through the clauses. I just ask her whether she is pleased to be able to have clause 8 in the Bill because the 2018 review did not have the automaticity clause that future reviews will have.

Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Assistant Whip, Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

The debate would not have been complete had the hon. Lady not raised that point. I think it is fair to say that we have answered that one comprehensively in the course of these Committee proceedings so far; and given that we have also already agreed that automaticity is the right thing to do in this Bill, I am not going to entertain the argument any further.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 8 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.