Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Wednesday 12 March 1986



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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Harry Gourlay

Atkinson, Mr. Norman (Tottenham)

Brinton, Mr. Tim (Gravesham)

Budgen, Mr. Nicholas (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Bulmer, Mr. Esmond (Wyre Forest)

Callaghan, Mr. Jim (Heywood and Middleton)

Cartwright, Mr. John (Woolwich)

Colvin, Mr. Michael (Romsey and Waterside)

Coombs, Mr. Simon (Swindon)

Corbett, Mr. Robin (Birmingham, Erdington)

Goodhart, Sir Philip (Beckenham)

Gregory, Mr. Conal (York)

Grylls, Mr. Michael (Surrey, North-West)

Madden, Mr. Max (Bradford, West)

Neubert, Mr. Michael (Romford)

Ryman, Mr. John (Blyth Valley)

Taylor, Mr. Teddy (Southend, East)

Thompson, Mr. Jack (Wansbeck)

Waddington, Mr. David (Minister of State, Home Office)

Mr. A. H. Doherty, Committee Clerk

3 Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 12 March 1986

[Mr. HARRY GOURLAY in the Chair]

Draft Parliamentary Constituencies (England) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1986

10.30 am

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Waddington): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Parliamentary Constituencies (England) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1986. This is the draft of an Order in Council to give effect to the final recommendations in the Boundary Commission for England's report on its 1985 interim review of 19 parliamentary constituencies. The report was submitted to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on 23rd January and laid before Parliament on 20th February, together with the draft order which is intended to implement the commission's proposals in full. If the draft is approved by both Houses, it will be submitted to Her Majesty in Council to be made. The form of the order is idential to one made last year following the completion of the commission's 1984 interim review of 23 constituencies. Articles 2 to 6 substitute the constituencies in the schedule for the existing constituencies created by the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 1983. Article 1(3) provides for the order to take effect 14 days after it is made without affecting the present constituencies until the next general election. Therefore any by-elections before then will be held on the basis of the present boundaries. As the Committee may know, interim reviews of this sort are conducted at the discretion of the Parliamentary Boundary Commission between its general reviews, which take place every 10 to 15 years. The English commission's last general review was completed early in 1983 and led to the implementation of its final recommendations for 523 new constituencies at the general election in June of that year. Those recommendations were based on the local government boundaries which existed during the review. However, reviews by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England have since divorced several county, district and district ward boundaries from the boundaries of the constituencies created by the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 1983. Hence the need for the commission to conduct a number of interim reviews. The 1985 review was the second such review and the commission published its provisional recommendations at the end of June. In each case the recommendation was that the boundaries of each of the constituencies concerned should be aligned with the altered local government area. With one 4 exception, the responses received by the commission on those proposals were favourable. The exception was one response in which there was an objection to the boundary between two constituencies, only one of which was included in the review. The commission decided to confirm its original proposals as its final proposals which are given effect to in the order. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has not received any representations objecting to the proposals since they were submitted to him. The best illustration of how limited they are in their effect is that the number of electors affected in each of the constituencies varies from only two to 246. Therefore I hope that the Committee will approve the draft order.

10.34 am

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington): The Opposition agree with the order.

10.35 am

Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon): I am sure that all Conservative Members will agree with the order as it rationalises boundaries between local government and parliamentary constituencies. There are plenty of ways of confusing electors without the added problem of confusing boundaries. Hampshire is the county most affected by the order and the time has now come for a more major revision of that county than is proposed in it. Hampshire has grown so rapidly in recent years that there is now an average of 76,370 electors in each of the 15 constituencies, compared with 68,716 in the country as a whole. That is 11·1 per cent. above the average. If the Boundary Commission increased the number of constituencies by one, to 16, it would still mean that each of Hampshire's constituencies had an average of 71,597 electors, which is nearly 3,000 above the average. Population growth in Hampshire has been so great that it is almost at a point where even with two additional constituencies, the average number of electors per constituency would be above the national average. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will take that point into account when he considers whether to ask the parliamentary Boundary Commission to currect such imbalances more regularly by undertaking, whenever necessary, interim individual reviews of counties and other electoral areas between the major reviews which are carried out every 10 to 15 years. It is wrong for Hampshire's electors to be so severely under-representated, and for them to have to face that prospect for many years until a major review is implemented. The problem can be corrected without increasing the number of Members of Parliament because there are areas where population changes have reduced the electorate drastically. One such area is the metropolitan district of Birmingham, which is over-represented in the same way that Hampshire is under-represented. I am sure that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) will be interested in that. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will consider those points because they drastically 5 affect the people of Hampshire. However, I support the order.

Mr. Waddington: My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) raised an important question which will doubtless be noted in the proper circles. However, that subject is a matter for the Boundary Commission, which can address the problem at its next general review, or, if it so decides, at an interim review. It is not a matter for the Government. Therefore, I 6 must simply say to my hon. Friend that his views have been noted.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1986.

Committee rose at twenty-three minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Mr. Harry Gourlay (Chairman)

Brinton, Mr.

Budgen, Mr.

Colvin, Mr.

Coombs, Mr.

Corbett, Mr.

Goodhart, Sir Philip

Gregory, Mr.

Neubert, Mr.

Thompson, Mr. Jack

Waddington, Mr.