§ 1. Mr. Rose
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will initiate legislation to amend the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, so as to abolish university seats and the consequent plural voting and to reduce correspondingly the number of seats in the Northern Ireland Parliament.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)
No, Sir. Under Section 14 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, the Parliament of Northern Ireland has power to alter the law relating to constituencies for elections to the Northern Ireland House of Commons provided that the number of Members is not altered. I understand that the Government of Northern Ireland have a review of constituencies in hand.
§ Mr. Rose
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the Northern Ireland Minister of Home Affairs recently stated that there are great disparities in the electoral position, and would he not at least set up a commission of inquiry to look into the whole scandalous position of the electoral franchise and voting methods in Northern Ireland? In connection with the university seats, does not 1789 my right hon. and learned Friend support the policy of the Northern Ireland Labour Party which is to redraw the electoral boundaries so as to redistribute the seats, and does he think that an enabling Act would be necessary?
§ Sir F. Soskice
I have already said that the Government of Northern Ireland have a review of constituencies in hand. There is a well recognised constitutional convention that the Westminster Parliament does not legislate with regard to matters within the province of the Northern Ireland Parliament.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that the official Labour Party in Ulster does not want a reduction in the number of seats? May I tell him how much his visit to Northern Ireland recently was appreciated for the courtesy and understanding he showed, and for his recognition of the Northern Ireland Government's good work? Would it not be a good idea if some of his less enlightened colleagues went to Northern Ireland? It does not cost very much, and instead of sniping they would be able to see what the position was for themselves.