HC Deb 05 April 1973 vol 854 cc596-8
11. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the average electorate of Westminster parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland as against the comparable figures for Scotland, Wales, England and the United Kingdom as a whole, on the bases of the latest electoral registers.

Mr. van Straubenzee

In 1972 the average number of electors for each Westminster parliamentary constituency in Northern Ireland was about 86,000; in England the number was 65,000; in Wales, 55,000; in Scotland, 52,000; and in the United Kingdom, 63,000.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is not it right and reasonable for Northern Ireland—the most troubled and strife-torn part of the United Kingdom—to enjoy representation in this House at least commensurate with that in England, especially as, regardless of the semantic arguments about the devolutionary powers of the Assembly, Ulster will have lost a Governor, a Prime Minister and a Parliament? Does she not deserve some compensation for them?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I shall limit myself exclusively to parliamentary representation in this House. The factor which my hon. Friend has, with some significance, left out is that if everything proceeds as we trust Northern Ireland will have an Assembly with considerable powers properly devolved to it. That makes it very different from other parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Orme

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is nothing semantic, therefore, in the powers which will be handed to Northern Ireland? On that basis Northern Ireland will be adequately represented both here and in the new Assembly, which we hope will soon be elected.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says. Judged by a Minister's postbag—to take but one example—the Ministry of Health and Social Security is one Department which rightly attracts a great deal of post from those who are at present Northern Ireland's Members of Parliament. If all goes well the affairs of that Department will be among those which will be devolved.

Mr. McMaster

Nevertheless, does not my hon. Friend agree that in matters still reserved to the Westminster Parliament, including such important topics as taxation, foreign affairs and defence, Northern Ireland is entitled to a full voice in this Parliament and that the number of Members should therefore be increased to the average for the United Kingdom as a whole?

Mr. Kaufman

Better Members.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Surely my hon. Friend will agree, because he is knowledgeable about these matters, that defence and foreign affairs, for example, have always been the concern of this House—before and after Stormont.