HL Deb 17 December 1987 vol 491 cc865-6

1.40 p.m.

The Earl of Arran rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 5th May be approved [20th Report from the Joint Committee, Session 1986–87].

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the two draft orders before your Lordships' House this afternoon implement the recommendations made by the Boundary Commission for England in two reports. These two reports do however cover the same interim review of constituency boundaries, so that it is entirely appropriate that they should be taken together.

The Boundary Commission announced its second 1986 interim review of 55 constituencies in December 1986. Draft proposals were published in January 1987, and in the case of 53 of the 55 constituencies there was general agreement. The proposals for two constituencies, Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal, were, however, the subject of a petititon opposing them, and the commission ordered that a public inquiry should be held. The commission decided, however, to report immediately on the 53 uncontentious constituencies, and this was the report laid before the House on 6th May.

The local inquiry into the remaining two constituencies was held on 12th May, and the assistant commissioner upheld the commission's proposals. A separate report on Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal was made to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and laid before the House on 21st October.

The Boundary Commission's purpose in undertaking these reviews is to ensure that the parliamentary constituency boundaries are realigned with local government boundaries which have been altered by the Local Government Boundary Commission. All the changes proposed are the minimum necessary to realign the boundaries.

In 12 of the 13 counties under consideration this afternoon the changes to the constituencies affect comparatively few electors—between two and 527. The changes in Lancashire are more extensive, with up to 2,375 electors moving between constituencies, although the net effects are less.

The orders implementing these changes are similar in form to the Welsh Constituencies Order recently approved by your Lordships' House. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has considered them. Articles 2 to 13 of the No. 3 Order and Article 2 of the No. 4 Order substitute the constituencies in the schedule for those which exist at present. Article 1(3) of the No. 3 Order, which was laid before the House at a time when a general election was in the air, will come into effect when it is made by Her Majesty in Council. Article 1(2) of the No. 4 Order requires that the order shall come into force 14 days after it is made. Both orders will, however, take effect at the next general election, and will not affect any by-elections held in the meantime.

My Lords, I commend these orders to your Lordships' House.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 5th May be approved [20th Report from the Joint Committee, Session 1986–87].—(The Earl of Arran.)

1.45 p.m.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for explaining the two orders. I have read fully both reports of the Boundary Commission and I have noticed, as he has said quite rightly, that very few electors are involved in the constituencies concerned.

It may be argued that we in this unelected House should not be worried about constituencies. As we have no votes we have all the more reason to be interested in certain matters because ultimately the elected Chamber decides upon matters that we may be considering.

There are two important points of principle which I have noted from the report and to which I wish to draw attention. The noble Earl referred to the local inquiry into the Ipswich and Suffolk coastal constituencies. The question was raised by an individual about the marginality of one of the constituencies affected. The deputy commissioner made it absolutely clear that he did not know which way people would vote but in any case he would reject any discussion whatever on the question of marginality of constituencies.

The other point affected my own constituency of Epping Forest where I note that there were no objections to the recommendation. However, the local Conservative Association thought that the time and cost involved in preparing these interim reports were wasted and it accordingly protested. However it did not disagree with the representations.

I agree completely with what the commission has said; namely, that apart from the fact that it has a duty to look at these interim reports, it is also important that we should have identity between local authorities and parliamentary constituencies not merely because of those two bodies, which is very important, but also because of the effect upon the organisation of political parties.

With those two observations which I have drawn from the reports I naturally support the two orders.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I am grateful for the general air of satisfaction which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has expressed. As regards his other comments I take due note of them.

On Question, Motion agreed to.