HC Deb 25 November 1986 vol 106 cc232-5 10.26 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hogg)

I beg to move, That the draft Parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1986, which was laid before this House on 16th July, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved. This is the draft of an Order-in-Council to give effect to the final recommendations of the report of the Boundary Commission for Wales on its 1985 interim review. The commission reviewed nine parliamentary constituencies in north and mid-Wales, and submitted its report to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 2 July 1986.

The report was laid before Parliament on 16 July, together with a draft order to implement the commission's proposals in full. If the draft order is approved by both Houses, it will be submitted to Her Majesty in Council for the necessary order to be made. The form of the order follows the same pattern as the two previous orders made in 1985 and earlier this year which implemented the proposals arising from interim reviews carried out by the Boundary Commission for England.

The form of the order is as follows: Article 2 substitutes the constituencies in the schedule for the existing constituencies previously created by the Parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) Order 1983. Article 1(2) provides for the order to take effect 14 days after it is made, though it will not affect the present constituencies until the next general election. As a consequence, any by-elections held in the meantime will be held on the basis of the present boundaries.

Let me give a word of explanation as to interim reviews. As hon. Members may know, the parliamentary boundary commissions have the discretionary power to hold interim reviews between their general reviews, which take place every 10 to 15 years. The last general review was completed in 1983 and resulted in new parliamentary constituency boundaries for the general election held that year. Those boundaries were based on the local government boundaries which existed during the review. However, since then, reviews by the Local Government Boundary Commission for Wales have divided district and county boundaries from the constituency boundaries. The Welsh Boundary Commission decided that it was necessary to reconcile these divided boundaries by holding interim reviews, of which this is the first since the last general review.

The commission published its provisional recommendations in the summer of 1985. There were five representations about those proposals. A local inquiry was held in October 1985 into whether the community ward of Eglwysbach, at present divided between the constituencies of Conwy and Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, should be placed wholly within the latter constituency, as the commission had recommended. The assistant commissioner upheld the commission's recommendation, and the commission decided to confirm its original proposals as its final proposals. These are given effect in the order.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has not received any representations objecting to the proposals since they were submitted to him. For the most part, the changes involved are the minimum necessary to align the constituency boundaries with local government boundaries, the one exception being the change which was the subject of the local inquiry.

I commend the draft order to the House.

10.30 pm
Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

I have for the Minister a few brief questions about the review of the boundaries of nine parliamentary constituencies. Have any public meetings been held about the proposals? Has the hon. Gentleman met the boundary commissioners from time to time to discuss the boundaries? I do not think he said exactly how many electors overall will be directly affected. Have the county councils of Gwynedd, Clwyd and Powys played any part or made any representations to the commissioners? I ask the same question about the district authorities and the political parties involved. Was he able to decide upon the points that they raised?

10.31 pm
Sir Anthony Meyer (Clwyd, North-West)

I shall not detain the House for more than a moment or two, but I cannot let this occasion pass, any more than I let it pass in 1982, without taking the opportunity to call down imprecations on the graves of the boundary commissioners. On this occasion they have not mucked up all the constituencies in the county of Clwyd as they did in 1982 and the sins—if there are any sins this time—are only those of the housemaid whose baby was a very small one.

I cannot let this occasion pass without once again drawing attention to the insensitivity of public servants who simply removed from the electoral map of Britain the ancient names of Flint and Denbigh which first sent representatives to this House in 1547 to the last Parliament in which the hon. Member for Calais took his seat. How can a lot of jumped-up boundary commissioners abolish with one stroke of the pen 400 years of history? I am a merciful man and I have always voted against capital punishment, but I will vote for any amendment which makes an exception for boundary commissioners.

10.33 pm
Mr. Keith Raffan (Delyn)

I shall be brief. There is a reference in the report of the Boundary Commission for Wales, on which the order is based, to my representation that the name of my constituency of Delyn should be changed to Delyn and Prestatyn. As I believe the last boundary review showed, not sufficient thought and care is given to the naming of constituencies. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) agrees with me on that. This is not just a matter of local sensitivity, although that is important enough; it is also a matter of accuracy.

My constituency consists of the whole of the borough of Delyn plus part of the borough of Rhuddlan, namely Prestatyn and Meliden. Those two communities make up nearly 20 per cent. of my electorate. Many electors in Prestatyn and Meliden are understandably confused about which borough they belong to. They are in the parliamentary constituency of Delyn, but they are not in the borough of Delyn, and correspondence from these electors frequently goes to the local government officers of the wrong authority. The representation that I made that Delyn be renamed was not accepted because, in the words of the report, the constituency was approved by Parliament only three years ago. Surely it is not a valid reason for perpetuating a mistake to say that it was made only three years ago.

I hope that the Boundary Commission will take the opportunity to change the name of my constituency to a more accurate name when it next has the chance to do so. The new name that I propose is not too long. In Wales, already have Ceredigion and Pembroke, North; Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, and Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. In Scotland, the names are even longer. Indeed, my native land is replete and with triple-barrelled constituencies such as Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley; Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber; Ross, Cromarty and Skye, and Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, which are much more of a mouthful than Delyn and Prestatyn. If those constituencies can be so clearly and accurately defined, I do not see why my constituency cannot receive the same fair treatment.

Apart from that one consideration, I fully agree with the boundary commissioners' recommendations and warmly welcome the 367 electors of the village of Northop Hall, who are now released from Socialist bondage into my tender, loving care.

10.35 pm
Mr. Gwilym Jones (Cardiff, North)

I have a feeling that the Order will go through quite rapidly and I do not want to delay it. I support my hon. Friends from north Wales with the usual trepidation that any south Walian has when interfering in matters that affect north Wales.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

Does the hon. Gentleman understand that there are no Walians, only Welsh persons, so he should have no trepidation?

Mr. Jones

I appreciate the distinction that the hon. Gentleman is making. We all have our own way in which to refer to geographical or traditional differences between one end of the Principality and another.

I support my hon. Friend the Member for what is at present called Delyn (Mr. Raffan). I am sure that he has proposed an admirable alternative, which I hope will be properly considered. These minor changes to half a dozen constituencies should not be treated lightly. At least three are among the most marginal constituencies in the Principality. Alyn and Deeside is held temporarily by Labour with a majority of about 1,100. Wrexham is held temporarily by Labour with a majority of about 400 and Montgomery is held temporarily by the Liberal party with a similar majority. I am sure that the House will be interested to hear that a movement of a little over 2,000 votes would bring those seats into the Conservative fold and complete the process, by the next general election, of the Conservative party being the majority party in Wales.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) spoke of the disappearance of the illustrious names of Flint and Denbigh although they were even easier to pronounce. I should like also to congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on his efforts to pronounce Welsh names correctly.

10.37 pm
Mr. Douglas Hogg

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones) for his support for the Order. Like him, I look forward to the day when the Conservative party dominates the Principality. I fancy that that will not be all that long postponed.

I have very great sympathy for what my hon. Friend the member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan) said. A double-barrelled name is in no way a disqualification for naming a constituency or for naming an hon. Member.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Hear, hear.

Mr. Hogg

All that I can sensibly say is that the Commission decided that this was not a sensible time to make a change. I hope that the House does not feel that it wants to dissociate itself from such a view.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) is right. The constituency names of Flint and Denbigh are distinguished and historic. I am pleased to say that they are represented by an hon. Member who is at least as distinguished, if not as historic.

The hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) raised a variety of points and the answer to most—although not all—of these can be found on page 9 of the commissioners' report. I shall summarise these very briefly. The total numbers involved are 1,018 and the constitution of that figure is conveniently set out in tabular form on page 9. Perhaps I could recommend that the hon. Member for Newport, East study the table. There were five representations, and again these are conveniently summarised on the same page of the report. There was one public meeting held in October 1985 which was presided over by one of the deputy commissioners. Details of that can be found in the report. I think that I have answered the three points that the hon. Gentleman was kind enough to put to me. In these circumstances, I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1986, which was laid before this House on 16th July, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.