§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Lord ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:200
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are confident that the reports of the Parliamentary Boundary Commission for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have been received by early 1982, and that the implementation of their recommendations will not be delayed if by then the commission has not completed its consideration of the European constituencies.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, I understand that the Parliamentary Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are likely to have completed their tasks of reviewing parliamentary constituencies by early 1982. The commisson for Wales has not yet begun its general review but is expected to do so shortly.
Under the provisions of the European Assembly Elections Act 1978, the commissions for England, Scotland and Wales may not report on their reviews of Westminster constituencies until they have completed their reviews of European Parliament constituencies. The Government are, however, considering the case for amending the Act to permit these commissions to submit their proposals for correcting the present serious disparities between the electorates of 'Westminster constituencies as soon as they have finished preparing them.
§ Lord ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, While thanking the noble Lord for that rather satisfactory Answer, may I ask that if consideration of the European boundary constituencies has not been completed simultaneously with the Westminster constituencies, will legislation be introduced so that the commission may submit its recommendations on the Westminster constituencies without delay? Does the noble Lord not agree that there could be disastrous consequences for our electoral system if by the next general election the existing boundaries are not changed, because there are scandalous discrepancies between the size of electorates in different constituencies at present as has been highlighted by the four by-elections which have taken place during this Parliament—one in a constituency of some 30,000 electors and another of 201 only 20,000 electors, when there are many other constituencies of electors of more than 100,000?
§ Lord BELSTEAD
My Lords, if I may answer my noble friend's two supplementaries together, of course the Boundary Commissions must complete their reports by the spring of 1984 at the latest—that is the extreme of the 10 to 15 years since their last general review, although I said in my reply earlier that we hope it will be in 1982. Clearly, after this lapse of time there are serious disparities—I agree with my noble friend on that—between constituencies, and to have to await the reviews of the European constituencies could delay matters by many months more. It is in this context that the Government are considering the matter.
§ Lord UNDERHILL
My Lords, may I ask whether it is not the case that Parliamentary reviews are based to a great extent on the areas of district authority wards? It is not also the case that the parliamentary reviews will be followed by the local government review, and therefore is there not a case for endeavouring to synchronise both local government and parliamentary reviews? —otherwise we shall find that parliamentary constituencies based on district boards will be soon out of date.
§ Lord BELSTEAD
My Lords, there is some inter-relation between the work of the local government and the parliamentary Boundary Commissions, but I am not aware of any serious delay on this account in the reviews of parliamentary constituencies now in progress.