HC Deb 29 April 1976 vol 910 cc531-2
1. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the current activities of the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

The Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland has recently notified me of its decision to begin a general review of parliamentary boundaries in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Marten

I am glad to hear that. Will the Minister at the same time seek to amend the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1949 so that the number of seats for Northern Ireland is increased, not because of the emergency but for reasons of pure justice?

Mr. Rees

I accept that the number of seats for Northern Ireland was set in different circumstances. It is still the Government's aim—a long-term aim, I feel sure—to get a devolved administration in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Powell

And Scotland?

Mr. Rees

I am responsible for Northern Ireland, and I am glad that I am not responsible for Scotland as well. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has enough on his plate without including Scotland. I am responsible for Northern Ireland and in that sense we stick to the 12 seats.

Mr. Kilfedder

Does the Minister realise that the people of Northern Ireland assume that the right hon. Gentleman is against an increase in the number of Northern Ireland seats because he puts party advantage before the democratic rights of the people of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Rees

I must admit that there are some hon. Members representing Northern Ireland whom I would not like to see duplicated here, but that is not the reason.

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