Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.



Wednesday 26 October 1988



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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse

Arbuthnot, Mr. James (Wanstead and Woodford)

Bennett, Mr. Nicholas (Pembroke)

Boswell, Mr. Tim (Daventry)

Brown, Mr. Michael (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

Campbell, Mr. Menzies (Fife, North-East)

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)

Dunnachie, Mr. Jimmy (Glasgow, Pollok)

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas (Perth and Kinross)

Fyfe, Mrs. Maria (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Home Robertson, Mr. John (East Lothian)

Hood, Mr. Jimmy (Clydesdale)

Hunter, Mr. Andrew (Basingstoke)

McAvoy, Mr. Thomas (Glasgow, Rutherglen)

Maclean, Mr. David (Penrith and The Border)

McTaggart, Mr. Bob (Glasgow, Central)

Monro, Sir Hector (Dumfries)

Rowe, Mr. Andrew (Mid-Kent)

Sims, Mr. Roger (Chislehurst)

Stewart, Mr. Allan (Eastwood)

Walker, Mr. Bill (Tayside, North)

Gerhold, Mr. D. J. Committee Clerk.

3 Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 26 October 1988


Draft Parliamentary Constituencies (Scotland) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1988

10.30 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Parliamentary Constituencies (Scotland) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1988. This draft of an Order in Council gives effect to the final recommendations in the report of the Boundary Commission for Scotland on its 1988 review of 22 parliamentary constituencies. The report was submitted to my right and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on 24 June 1988 and laid before Parliament on 13 July 1988 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. The form of the order is similar to one made last year following the completion of the commission's 1986 interim review of 14 constituencies. Articles 2 to 9 of the draft order substitute the 22 constituencies in the schedule for the constituencies that exist now. Article 1(3) provides for the order to come into effect forthwith but without affecting the present constituencies until the next general election. Any by-election before then would take place on the basis of the present boundaries. Interim reviews of parliamentary constituencies are undertaken entirely at the discretion of the Boundary Commission between its general reviews which take place every 10 to 15 years. They are usually undertaken, as in this case, to realign the boundaries of constituencies with those of altered local government areas. The commission's last general review was conducted in the period 1978 to 1983 and was implemented in full in March 1983 by the Parliamentary Constituencies (Scotland) Order of that year. The constituencies created as a result of that review were based on the local government boundaries which existed during that period. However, reviews by the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland have since divorced several regional and district boundaries from the boundaries of those constituencies—hence the need for the commission to conduct several interim reviews. The 1988 review was the second such review. The commission published its provisional recommendations for the first six groups of constituences mentioned in the report in February 4 and, following the making of further orders implementing changes in local government boundaries in other areas, for the last three groups of constituencies in April. In each case, the commission intended to make the minimum change necessary for the constituency boundary to conform with the new regional and district boundary. The total number of electors affected is fewer than 180, of whom 100 are situated in Yoker, parts of which were transferred between Clydebank district and the City of Glasgow district in June. The numbers of electors affected in the other areas range from nil in five groups of constituencies to 35 in Fife, Central and Fife, North-East constituencies. The constituencies of four members of the Committee are affected. The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) loses four electors and gains four electors. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) gains one elector. The hon. Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) has no electors involved and the honourable and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) will gain 35 electors. Therefore, in terms of numbers, the changes are minimal.

Sir Hector Munro (Dumfries): Why are we doing it then?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Because the local government boundaries have changed, it is logical to change the parliamentary ones. Paragraph 4 of the commission's report records that, with the exception of the representations referred to at subparagraphs (1) and (n), no representations were received in respect of the proposals. My right honourable Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) wrote that he had no objection and the director of planning for Glasgow wrote pointing out a minor discrepancy, which I am glad to say has been corrected. My right honourable and learned Friend the Secretary of State has received no representations on the proposals since they were submitted to him. The changes in the local government boundaries had the agreement of the local authorities concerned. On that basis I hope that the Committee will approve the draft Order.

10.34 am

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian): The low attendance in the Committee shows that this measure is not of burning controversy in Scotland or anywhere else, although my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) is worried that she may lose two thirds of her constituency. I welcome the interest of those present—the hon. Members for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) and for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot)—in the minutiae of parliamentary boundaries in Scotland. In particular, I welcome you to the Chair of the Committee, Mr. Lofthouse, because today is extremely significant for us both. It happens to be the 10th anniversary of our election to the House of Commons at significant by-elections on 26 October 1978.I hope that we will 5 survive for another 10 years, either in the Chair or elsewhere, preferably in Government. I have much sympathy with the sedentary intervention of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), who asked why we were making these boundary changes if only a handful of people is involved. That is a fair question. In the adjustment to the boundary of my constituency I shall lose four people at Marldene and gain four people at Newhailes. Marldene has been in East Lothian for centuries, but for some reason someone has decided to shift it into Midlothian. Why on earth should that be? I suppose it makes geographic sense, but I wonder whether the changes have been made by someone who is trying to justify his existence by minor tinkerings with boundaries year in, year out. If a major review of parliamentary boundaries is needed, fair enough, but why fiddle with a few hundred yards here and there? The Minister has confirmed that in five of the changes nobody is involved; it is just a piece of open space being transferred from one constituency to another. Why on earth should the Boundary Commission waste its time and money on fiddling with that, expecting civil servants to travel here from St. Andrew's house to brief Ministers on the subject? Why should a Committee of the House have to discuss this farce? I cannot see what it achieves. It would be useful if the Minister could comment on that. I take this opportunity to say a fond farewell to those four people of Marldene. I wish them well for their future in Midlothian.

10.38 am

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): I was gratified to learn that my majority may go up from 19,346 to 19,347, or may go down one, as the case may be. Will the Minister clarify a point? Page 5 of the statutory instrument refers to "electoral divisions 14, 15 and 16 in City of Glasgow District." 6 I presume that that means regional electoral divisions and not district electoral divisions, because there are six district divisions in Maryhill constituency, numbered 11 to 16. When I first read this document I had the fright of my life. I thought that I was losing Summerston, Maryhill and Milton, which are Nos. 11, 12 and 13, but the document may be referring to divisions of the electorate for the regional council. If so, it would be clearer to say so.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: Yes, they are regional electoral divisions. I thank the hon. Member for East Lothian for his welcome of this order.

Mr. Home Robertson: Not quite.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: The hon. Gentleman accepted the geographical logic of the order, but asked about the purpose behind it. Under rule 4(1)(b) of the statutory rules for the redistribution of seats the commission must have regard to the boundaries of local authority areas. That rule applies whether or not any electors are involved. The boundaries of the districts involved have been altered following interim reviews by the Local Government Boundary Commission in the interests of effective and convenient local government at the request of the local authorities. So the hon. Gentleman should make representations to his local authority if he has strong feelings on the subject. The purpose of the Boundary Commission's reviews is simply to realign the constituency boundaries affected by the transfers of the local authority areas. I strongly commend the order to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved. That the Committee has considered the draft Parliamentary Constituencies (Scotland) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1988.

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


Lofthouse, Mr. Geoffrey (Chairman)

Arbuthnot, Mr.

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas

Fyfe, Mrs.

Home Robertson, Mr.

Hunter, Mr.

McAvoy, Mr.

Maclean, Mr.

McTaggart, Mr.

Monro, Sir Hector

Walker, Mr. Bill