HL Deb 27 June 1978 vol 394 cc139-41

2.54 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why the Boundary Commission for England in their notice dated 21st May 1978 concerning the European Assembly Elections Act failed to state that the requirement that the electorate in a European Assembly constituency shall be as near the electoral quota as is reasonably practical is nevertheless governed by the need to have regard, where appropriate, to special geographical considerations.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, the form of the notice given by the Boundary Commission for England in their provisional recommendations for European Assembly constituencies is a matter for the Commission to decide, within the statutory requirements.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Will he not agree that it was very misleading to publish the requirement about the size of the electorate without, at the same time, publishing the very important qualification on that requirement imposed by Parliament? Will he not also agree that the public were not given full enough information in the notice about the terms of reference of the Boundary Commission to enable them to determine whether they have proper grounds for objection?


My Lords, no; I do not think that I would agree with those criticisms of the Boundary Commission. This is a difficult matter. I think that the Commission have taken quite a number of steps to publicise their recommendations. I must point out that the recommendations are only provisional. As I have already indicated, I think that the Commission have taken quite significant steps to publicise them, and I do not think they are in any way blameworthy.


My Lords, is the Minister aware that the administrative county of North Yorkshire has been abstracted and taken into Durham, whereas the former constituency of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell—Easington—has been taken away from Durham, kidnapped and put into the constituency of North Yorkshire and Cleveland? Surely, the Boundary Commission—whose recommendations are merely provisional—could, by a slight exchange, assuage the grievances of both the noble Lord and myself.


My Lords, no doubt that point will be made to the Commission by the noble Lord.


My Lords, can the noble Lord inform us where we find the principle set out under which mathematics are to be preferred to geography, and vice versa?


My Lords, that is a rather broad question which I approach with some caution. As far as the Act is concerned, the Commission had a responsibility for making up constituencies in England which took account of the existing Parliamentary constituencies. This is a difficult matter. I think that the Commission have gone about their job with considerable dispatch, for which I think we have all been grateful. Certainly if people are dissatisfied, they must make representations to the Commission, as is provided for in the Act.