HC Deb 15 April 1993 vol 222 cc936-7
3. Mr. Adley

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the arrangements he intends to make for the additional European parliamentary constituencies.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Peter Lloyd)

My right hon. and learned Friend is currently consulting colleagues on this matter. Once proposals are formulated, we will consult formally the Opposition parties.

Mr. Adley

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that the parliamentary boundary commissioners rightly enjoy an enviable reputation for impartiality? Will he ensure that a similar system is established to create the new constituencies, and give an assurance that twixt the initial announcement and implementation there will be ample time for representations to be made?

Mr. Lloyd

I can assure my hon. Friend on both points. We shall not necessarily use the boundary commissioners to propose the new boundaries, because they are very much occupied with the parliamentary boundaries, but we will want to have similarly independent recommendations for the new Euro-constituencies. We are determined that there will be an opportunity for public consultation, although it will be constrained by a comparatively tight timetable.

Mr. Trimble

The Minister will have seen press speculation that the additional seats will be available on a proportional representation basis in order to secure the votes of the Liberal Democrats for the Maastricht treaty. May we take it that there will be no question of adopting the single transferable vote system, or will the Minister follow the logic of that and tell his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that he should follow it, too?

Mr. Lloyd

I am always sceptical about reports in the newspapers. We will not announce our final proposals until they have been formulated. We will then discuss them with leaders of the Opposition parties.

Mr. Hicks

Does my hon. Friend agree that where areas are distinctive historic entities, such as Cornwall, there is a case for making them Euro-constituencies in their own right rather than the present situation of unholy alliances?

Mr. Lloyd

I think that the basis on which we want to make the new Euro-constituencies is a traditional one. We want Euro-seats of comparatively the same size in terms of population, but taking into account geography and other local connections. No doubt the body making recommendations will bear those thoughts in mind.

Mr. Allen

The Government are clearly afraid that their own Back Benchers will do to the European boundaries Bill what they are trying to do to the Maastricht Bill. Will the Minister take the opportunity to allay the suspicions of the House that the European constituencies will be redrawn not by the independent and much-respected boundary commissions, but by a hand-picked group of Home Office officials, with all the potential for gerrymandering that that allows? With the next European election so close, the House has a right to know when the Bill will be brought before it.

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Gentleman obviously prepared his question before he came into the Chamber because I have already dealt with it. I said that the new Euro-constituency boundaries would be recommended by an independent body. I also said that we would be discussing the way forward and the timetable with the Opposition parties.