HC Deb 27 May 1976 vol 912 cc613-5
5. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many United Kingdom parliamentary seats the citizens of Northern Ireland would have if there were parity of electorates between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Rees

If the existing 635 seats for the whole of the United Kingdom were reallocated between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland strictly in accordance with the size of the electorate in each of the several parts of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland would have 16 seats.

Mr. Marten

As parity of representation is an essential part of democracy, should we not compare like with like, and compare Northern Ireland with Wales and Scotland rather than with the United Kingdom as a whole? That would give Northern Ireland about 20 seats.

Mr. Rees

Taking account of any future decisions on that subject, the hon. Member must consider it in terms of the current devolution for Scotland and Wales. The devolved powers of the Northern Ireland Government over 50 years were far greater than anything we envisaged for Scotland or Wales.

As in discussions on Home Rule before 1918, this raises questions in terms of representation, because of the extent of the powers of the devolved administration, which cover industry completely.

Mr. Dalyell

If Northern Ireland were treated as generously as the Scots are at present, there would be 23 Members for the Province. How can the Secretary of State justify, in essence, giving Scotland an Assembly and denying one to Northern Ireland?

Mr. Rees

I am not denying anything to Northern Ireland. I deal with Northern Ireland matters and I am pleased to leave Scottish matters to other people.

Sir Nigel Fisher

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that if the Government sets up Assemblies in Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland, the disparity in representation here will be even more marked and more inequitable? Is he content with that state of affairs?

Mr. Rees

If we get into the position in which a decision is taken that there should be no devolved administration in Northern Ireland, unlike elsewhere—I hope that we never shall get into that position—and that the Province should be integrated as part of the United Kingdom, the argument, in one sense, would be complete. But to imagine that the rest of the United Kingdom should have devolved administration and Northern Ireland should not, in the long run, is something that I do not want to contemplate.