HC Deb 08 April 1976 vol 909 cc618-9
7. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to conclude his consideration of the part to be played by Boundary Commission regarding the drawing of constituency boundaries for the purpose of direct elections to the European Parliament; and what instructions he proposes to give the Commission.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

This will probably be one of the matters to be considered by the proposed Select Committee.

Mr. Miller

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that from his remarks on this subject on 30th March it was far from clear whether he thought that Parliament should instruct the Boundary Commission or deal with the matter by legislation? Will he give some idea of the decision that is likely to be reached on this matter, and whether organisations such as political parties will have the opportunity of making representations?

Mr. Jenkins

I like my remarks to be both clear and sensible. I am sure that on the occasion to which the hon. Gentleman refers they were sensible, but I regret it if they were not clear to him. I would prefer the constituencies for direct elections to the European Assembly to be drawn up by the Boundary Commission rather than by this House. I also wish to see the elections conducted with reasonable expedition, and that we should not be laggards. There may be a conflict—though not necessarily so—between these aims. The Boundary Commission has no power to draw up constituencies for the European Assembly unless it is given the power by this House. It is sensible that the Select Committee should consider expeditiously whether it wishes the Commission to be given the power. If it does, the House should decide whether the power should be given.

Mr. Heffer

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we are to have direct elections to the European Assembly, the boundary decisions should be made in this country by the Boundary Commission and accepted by the House of Commons? In the last analysis, should not this matter be decided by the British Parliament, and not left to the Europeans?

Mr. Jenkins

No one has ever suggested anything to the contrary.

Mr. Marten

If the French proposal for 198 seats carries the day, does the Home Secretary realise that the constituents of a European Member of Parliament will number well over 1 million? What is the Government's view of that figure?

Mr. Jenkins

I gave some indication of our views on large constituencies in the debate on 30th March. This seems to be a more useful subject for debate than for a quick question and answer exchange. There are larger constituencies in the world, but there would be advantages in having a rather larger number of Members of the Assembly than the present 198.

Mr. Beith

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that Parliament has not decided on the system to be used for elections to the European Parliament, and that a wildly unrepresentative result could be produced by the use of the present British system? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear that in mind in his present office, and in any future office that he may hold?

Mr. Jenkins

I agree that Parliament has made no decision. It is not for me to say that; Parliament knows it. I shall certainly bear in mind the point made by the hon. Gentleman.