Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill - Political and Constitutional Reform Committee Contents


3  'Reduce and equalise'

57.  The second part of the Bill would affect the composition of the House, both the number of Members and the constituencies they would represent.

58.  Under the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 the four Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently required to carry out reviews of parliamentary constituency boundaries every eight to twelve years.[84] Clause 8(3) of the Bill would increase the frequency of reviews to every five years, with the first review under the new rules to have reported to Parliament by 1 October 2013.[85] This would provide eighteen months for local constituency organisations to reconstitute themselves, undertake a candidate selection process and for that candidate to then canvass the constituency before a general election on 7 May 2015.[86] It would bring about more frequent change to constituency boundaries than has hitherto been the case. It would also ensure that boundaries were based on more up-to-date electoral information than has been the case in the past.

59.  Clause 9(1) of the Bill would replace Schedule 2 of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986. This Schedule contains the rules under which the Boundary Commissions operate.

Number of seats

60.  New Rule 1 in the Bill would reduce the number of Members of the House of Commons from 650 to 600 for the next general election. The number of Members in the House has fluctuated since the turn of the twentieth century. At the same time, the British population has risen from just over 38 million in 1901 (not including the south of Ireland), to just under 60 million in 2001. In 1900 the number stood at 670 (including the south of Ireland), increasing to 707 following the passing of the Representation of the People Act in 1918.[87] The secession of the Irish Free State in 1922, together with a reduction in the number of Members for Northern Ireland, led to a drop in numbers to 615,[88] but the second half of the twentieth century overall has witnessed a general rise in the number of constituencies - with intervening fluctuations - for example, to reduce the number of Scottish seats in the light of devolution - to 650 today. The rise has largely been the result of the complex operation of the Rules for Redistribution of Seats used by the Boundary Commissions, first set up in 1944, which set no absolute cap on the number of seats in the House.[89]

61.  The Conservative Party manifesto for the May 2010 General Election contained a commitment to reduce the size of the House of Commons by 10% to 585.[90] The Liberal Democrat manifesto similarly had a commitment to reduce the number of MPs by 150, although the reduction was contingent upon the introduction of the single transferable vote electoral system.[91] The coalition agreement committed the Government to "the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies."[92] On 5 July 2010 the Deputy Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the number of MPs would fall from 650 to 600, a reduction of 7.7%.[93]

62.  The proposed reduction has caused surprise and concern among the contributors to our inquiry. Peter Facey of Unlock Democracy told us:

I…do not know why, we have gone for 600 seats. I would have preferred a debate about what the function of the House of Commons should be and what the appropriate number of MPs should be for that function and then have the debate about the number of constituencies because that...I have a slight fear that we have put the cart before the horse…[94]

63.  Lewis Baston of Democratic Audit agreed: "A decision about the number of MPs should proceed from an analysis of the functional needs of Parliament, and the representative role with constituents, rather than being arbitrarily imposed."[95] The Hansard Society could find no rationale for the reduction to 600 members noting that there was "real concern" the number had been "plucked from thin air- 600 simply being a neat number."[96] Dr Stuart Wilks-Heeg called the reduction "arbitrary".[97] Professor Ron Johnston rejected the notion that the Government had decided to reduce the House to 600 because any further reduction would disadvantage the Conservative party:

I am not quite sure how they would have worked that out. It may be the case that they have done some clever simulations and come up with that conclusion but I have not. It is believed that the major gain from equalisation will be a reduction in the bias that the Labour Party has in how the system operates because in general Labour electorates are smaller than Conservative electorates and whatever number you went down to that would be reduced to some extent. It seems to me it would always be slightly in the Conservative interest to reduce the number of seats and equalise. It is equalising that really is the point of removing that Labour advantage. As I understand it, reducing the number of MPs was part of the response to the expenses scandal, "We're proving to the country we can work harder with less money."[98]

Professor Justin Fisher agreed, calling the reduction in MP numbers a "rather populist response to the expenses scandal".[99]

64.  The Hansard Society has expressed concerns about the effect of reducing the number of Members of the House:

Prior to the emergence of these proposals there was already concern about a mismatch between the scrutiny mission of Parliament and its capacity to carry out that mission. The Hansard Society therefore recommends that, before proceeding with the reform, an audit of an MP's key roles and functions should be performed to assess what impact, if any, the reduction in numbers will have on key areas of activity: for example, on public bill committee membership and workloads; on select committee activity etc.[100]

65.  The Hansard Society has also expressed doubt as to whether a simple reduction in the number of Members would result in financial savings, as suggested by the Deputy Prime Minister (see below). Increasing the average size of constituencies would lead to a rise in an individual Member's casework. Moreover, a larger number of constituencies would cut across administrative boundaries, requiring Members to engage with a greater number of local stakeholders, for example local authorities, healthcare trusts and education authorities: "Cumulatively this will require more time and resources and will therefore have some cost implications."[101]

66.  The Deputy Prime Minister gave us the following explanation of how the coalition government had arrived at the specified reduction in the number of Members:

We took some of [the ideas in our manifestos] as our starting point and decided that we needed some flexibility to make sure we did not create totally unfeasible straight lines on the map which made absolutely no sense. We have now settled on 600 which is a 7.6% cut in the total number. A third of Members already operate [with the constituency size] on which many other Members will operate after the boundary review. In our judgment [600] struck the right balance in making the change we wanted to, cutting the cost of politics, making sure that votes were of equal worth wherever they were in the country but also creating a chamber of sufficient size both to represent constituents and hold the executive to account.[102]

67.  The reasons for the reduction focused on the financial savings involved and comparisons with other national legislatures.

We settled on 600 MPs, a relatively modest cut in House numbers of just less than 8%, because it saves money-about £12 million each year-and because we think it creates a House that is sufficiently large to hold the Government to account while enabling us all to do our jobs of representing our constituencies. It also creates a sensible average number of constituents…76,000…that we already know is manageable because there are already 218 seats that are within 5% of that number. That is why we feel 600 is about right.[103]

68.  The House of Commons, at 650 Members, is not much larger than the German Bundestag (622), the Italian Chamber of Deputies (630) and the French National Assembly (577). Lewis Baston, of Democratic Audit, has written that any international comparison fails to take account of the unique nature of the United Kingdom's political structure: "Most comparisons with other countries with smaller lower houses and larger population miss the points that the US and Germany, for instance, have federal and state tiers of government, and the legislature in some countries like the US and France does not supply the ministerial bench."[104] In both the Bundestag and the French National Assembly, members of the Government do not occupy seats as Members of Parliament. Germany, as a federal republic, also has 16 state parliaments, with more than 1,800 members between them.

69.  Were a government in a country with a less long-established democratic culture to use its control over the legislature to remove 50 elected representatives from Parliament without meaningful consultation, it might well  be condemned by British public and political opinion as tyrannical or arbitrary.

70.  The Government proposes to reduce the number of Members of the House from 650 to 600 at a single stroke. This is a relatively modest reduction in numerical terms (although it represents more than a quarter of the seats in Wales), but it is unprecedented in recent British history: the last comparable fall in the number of Members followed the secession of the south of Ireland. The decision to make this reduction has not been prefigured by any public consultation on the role of a Member of Parliament, nor by any analysis of the impact of the reduction on constituency casework. It has not been accompanied by any compelling international comparisons, nor by any information on what the Government proposes should be the size and role of a reformed upper House. The reduction would, on current plans, be made entirely from the backbenches, with no proposals to reduce the number of Ministers or of others on the Government payroll sitting and voting in the House, thus increasing the extent of executive dominance of Parliament. The savings that the Government claims, but has not proved, the reduction would lead to, would make no discernible impact on the national deficit, amounting as they do to around one millionth of the annual budget of the National Health Service. There may be a case for reducing the number of Members of the House to 600, but the Government has not made it.

Equalisation of constituency electorates

THE GOVERNMENT'S PROPOSALS

71.  Rule 2 as included in the Bill would provide that equality of size would be the overriding requirement for setting constituency boundaries. Except in named cases (Rule 6) or where the constituency covers more than 13,000 sq km (Rule 4), a Boundary Commission would have scope to deviate from the electoral quota by no more than 5%.[105] This provision is a significant change from the current position where Boundary Commissions have great discretion to take other factors into account.[106]

72.   Rule 5 would continue to allow the Boundary Commissions to take these factors into account, but only within the size constraint. The factors are:

  • special geographical considerations, including, in particular, the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency;
  • local government boundaries as they exist on the most recent ordinary council-election day before the review date;
  • any local ties that would be broken by the changes;
  • (in later reviews) the inconvenience attendant on changes.

73.  New Rule 3 states that constituencies cannot cross national boundaries, although they will be able to cross regional, county and other boundaries.

74.  Unequal constituency size is a factor in producing an effect called "electoral bias" where parties receive significantly different numbers of seats in an election despite having similar levels of voter support. In the last few decades, electoral bias has favoured the Labour party, although this has not always been the case. Professor Michael Thrasher, who has examined the impact of bias on the 2005 and 2010 general elections, has explained that equalisation of constituency size would go only some way towards rectifying this bias:

There is a common misconception that periodic boundary reviews should remove electoral bias. This view is mistaken because such reviews are only concerned with one element that contributes towards bias, viz., unequal electorate size (malapportionment). Other elements are contributing towards overall bias. Apart from malapportionment these remaining elements are, vote distribution (geography); differential turnout (abstention); and the effects produced by competition from smaller parties. There are, in addition, the interaction effects that result from two or more of these components interacting with one another, for example, a party wins its seats in small electorate areas where abstention is also high.[107]

75.  Equalisation would be likely to have a party-political impact, but calls for reform of the current rules have come from conspicuously impartial sources as well as from political parties. The Boundary Commission for England has called for a review of the Rules for Redistribution on a number of occasions on the ground that they are internally inconsistent.[108] The Committee on Standards in Public Life considered electoral boundary matters in its review of the Electoral Commission in 2007, calling in its report for a review of the rules, which, it stated, needed to address the "progressive inequality of electoral quotas, and increase in the size of the House of Commons that appear inbuilt to the operation of the current rules".[109]

THE CURRENT SITUATION

76.  Currently constituency electorates vary widely from Na h-Eileanan an Iar with around 22,000 voters, to the Isle of Wight with around 109,000 voters. These are outliers, however, which do not reflect the more general picture:

Of the 533 English constituencies in the last review, 474 (88.9 per cent) were within 10 per cent of the English quota and according to the Boundary Commission for England's latest figures available there were still 429 within this range (80.5 per cent). Only 10 English seats outside a range of 15 per cent were proposed (one over, nine under) and on 2010 electorates there were 30 such seats (18 over, 12 under).[110]

77.  A significant proportion of existing constituencies already have electorates within the range likely to be required by the Bill. Members representing these constituencies do so without obvious significant practical difficulty. As the Deputy Prime Minister told us:

People talk about this as if we are entering into a completely new universe where people will represent constituencies in a way that has never happened before. About one third of Members here are already doing it. It seems to me that if that can be done it can easily be extended to other places as well.[111]

Some constituencies would be significantly enlarged as a result of the Government's proposed measures. Such enlargement is likely to lead to consequential issues which we are not convinced have been considered adequately by the Government.

CONSTITUENCIES CROSSING OTHER BOUNDARIES

78.  Requiring all constituencies to be within 5% of the electoral quota would mean, however, the creation of constituencies crossing regional and county boundaries, not least in Cornwall and Devon. Keep Cornwall Whole, a cross-party group campaigning against this aspect of the Bill, told us that creating a constituency with a number of historical, political and geographical identities would pose a serious challenge to the local MP, and that "there is a severe risk that elements of it will go under-represented or indeed unrepresented." They have stated that loosening the equalisation requirement for constituencies to within 10% of the electoral quota would mean avoiding the need for a constituency to cross the Devon-Cornwall border. [112]

79.   Another practical effect of the 5% equalisation requirement is that many more constituencies than at present would cross local authority boundaries. The numbers involved will vary across the UK: Scotland is likely to see 15-20 (out of 50) cross-local government border constituencies, Wales between 23 and 28 constituencies (of 30), and in England, where 34 constituencies already cross a London borough boundary, the commissions "expect to cross boundaries to an even greater extent in a review carried out under the terms of the Bill."[113] The Secretaries to the English and Scottish Commissions, Bob Farrance and Hugh Bucanan, told us they intend to take local authority areas into account when designing constituencies. In Wales very few constituencies will be able to follow local authority boundaries.[114]

80.  A further practical consequence of the need to cross local authority borders to achieve electoral parity is the impact on holding elections. The Association of Electoral Administrators observed that running the 2010 election had been complicated by the number of constituencies straddling different local authorities. The AEA asked "that legislators and the Boundary Commissions consider the administrative impact of the proposed new approach and seek to achieve, in as many cases as possible, coterminosity with local government boundaries. Electoral areas need to function as administrative entities as well as representative ones."[115]

81.  Another consequence of the 5% equalisation requirement is that the boundary commissions will have to split wards in order to achieve the required number of electors in each constituency.[116] The commissions have identified data below ward level which they would be able to use in each country.[117] Professor Ron Johnston told us that research suggested that political activity declined when wards were divided:

when a ward was split [in Bristol] a lot of the ward activitists drifted away. They had lost their rationale to represent this place, this place no longer existed, it was in two parts and political activity declined.[118]

PROSPECTS FOR ONGOING WIDE-SCALE CHANGE

82.  The equalisation requirement will also mean significant changes to constituency boundaries in subsequent reviews, because of changes in the electorate. Boundary reviews are conducted, effectively, on a snapshot of the constituency population. A British Academy report on the Bill has concluded:

…population movements are considerable over relatively short periods of time, and it is likely that within five years a not-insignificant number of constituencies could fall outwith the +/-5% size constraint in some parts of the country. If that constraint is to predominate then frequent redistributions appear necessary.[119]

The report identified a number of consequences:

some MPs…could find that the constitution of their constituencies changes considerably with great regularity (or even that they are, in effect, abolished after only five years); party organisers and electoral administrators would have to change their arrangements very frequently; and electorates would be confused by the frequent changes.[120]

83.  Keep Cornwall Whole observed "that effective constituency representation relies on a degree of constituency stability as well as local links…5 yearly reviews focused almost entirely on numbers would greatly weaken this."[121]

CONCLUSIONS ON EQUALISATION

84.  Lewis Baston queried whether the Government had made the case for an inflexible rule on electoral quotas during boundary setting: "the rules are being replaced without any attempt to form a consensus". Mr Baston noted the following as questions that had not been satisfactorily resolved:

How much importance do the public really attach to the government's definition of equality of size? Would people, in their own constituency, prefer an equal sized seat that does not correspond to the boundaries of their perceived community and daily lives, or one that was perhaps a bit large but made sense on the ground? How do people feel about not having the same parliamentary boundaries from one election to the next?

Mr Baston concluded: "The government appears not to have attempted to discover what people want from representation."[122]

85.  Along with a number of other Labour Members of Parliament,[123] Rt Hon Paul Murphy MP, a former Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland, has written to us of his concerns about the potential impact of equalisation:

The creation of very large constituencies, rigidly defined by numbers, will destroy community-based constituencies since it would appear that, to create such constituencies, local ties, geography and tradition are likely to be ignored. This will further distance MPs from their constituents and impact adversely on the service that can be offered to members of the public. This is especially alarming in areas such as the south Wales valleys, where the very landscape necessitates careful consideration regarding constituency boundaries, with historical north-south communities in valleys separated by mountains. Until now, MPs have been able to represent roughly distinct communities, something which these proposals threaten.[124]

86.  The Deputy Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the equalisation requirement was being introduced so that each vote carried the same weight. He told the House at Second Reading:

To the people we serve it is patently obvious that individuals' votes should carry the same weight, and if that means reforming the rules for drawing boundaries, that is what we must do.[125]

There is an argument, however, that the point of a constituency-based system, rather than a system of proportional representation, is to prioritise representation of the views of local communities over absolute equality of votes for individuals. It is important that the equalisation requirement is not drawn so tightly, that new constituencies lack a sense of local identity as a result.

87.  The principle that people's votes should carry an equal weight regardless of where they live is one with which it is hard to argue. It is worth remembering, however, that it is a principle that is most perfectly achieved through proportional representation. One of the advantages of a constituency-based system is that it allows local communities to be effectively represented in the national Parliament. It is essential that the Boundary Commissions should have sufficient freedom to design constituencies that have meaning for the people living in them and can be well represented by the Members elected to them. The House should ensure that the new rules as proposed by the Government would not draw the equalisation requirement so tightly that new constituency boundaries would take insufficient account of geographical considerations, local ties and local authority boundaries.

88.  We have not as a Committee attempted to determine the precise level of variation from the electoral quota that would be appropriate to achieve this goal: this is a matter for further political argument. Before the 2010 general election, the Conservative Official Opposition tabled amendments to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill which would have limited variation to 3.5% from the quota.[126] Lewis Baston in his evidence suggests that 10% would be a more appropriately flexible figure.[127]

89.  The British Academy Working Group on the Bill has observed that under the Government's current proposals, however, the Boundary Commission for Wales could find that it is significantly more limited in practice in its scope for variation from the electoral quota than the Boundary Commissions for England and Scotland. This is because the number of registered voters in each part of the United Kingdom will vary from the number of seats allocated to that part by up to half of the quota for a single seat, because of the need to allocate a whole number of seats to each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will matter less in parts of the country with larger numbers of constituencies. But in Wales, which is likely to have only 30 seats, this discrepancy could make a material difference, as a report from the British Academy Policy Centre makes clear:

an even more severe burden of equality could fall on Wales. Suppose that Wales's exact share of 598 is 29.49 and it is rounded down to 29. Then its total electorate is 29.49 x 76,000 = 2,241,240 and its average constituency size is 2,241,240/29 = 77,284. This is about 1.7% larger than the UK quota. In effect, the permitted deviation among constituencies in Wales would be only 3.3% instead of the 5% target.[128]

90.  The Bill already recognises that the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland may need some additional flexibility as a result of this factor.[129] We consider it important that the four Boundary Commissions should operate under the same constraints, and that each Commission should therefore have the same degree of flexibility in practice as regards constituency electorate size, to give them the same ability to take account of other relevant factors when drawing up constituency boundaries. Members of the Committee have therefore tabled an amendment to the Bill which would give each part of the United Kingdom a very slightly different electoral quota, to ensure that each of the four Boundary Commissions should retain the ability to vary the number of registered voters in a constituency by a full 5% in either direction.

Impact of equalisation on the next general election

91.  The imposition of equalisation would change the boundaries of almost every constituency in the country, even those currently within the target electorate. Bob Farrance, Secretary to the Boundary Commission for England, told us: "The effect of setting a parity target, as well as a reduction at the same time, leads to the inevitability of widespread change across the whole of the country."[130] Robin Gray, a former Boundary Commissioner, agreed, predicting "massive change" in constituency boundaries across the UK.[131]

92.  All four Boundary Commission secretaries agreed that every constituency would be impacted by the change, even those currently at or close to the quota: The review proposed by the Government is not the redrawing of 650 existing constituencies, but the creation of 600 completely new ones. The impact within all parties will be immense and Parliamentary scrutiny of the Government will inevitably take second place to time-consuming internal disputes in the run up to the General Election. The proposals seem likely to strengthen central party management, weaken local party structures and activism, and destabilise individual Members and prospective parliamentary candidates. The review the Government is proposing will mean that every prospective parliamentary candidate, current Members of the House included, will not know until eighteen months before a general election in 2015 what the boundaries will be of the constituency they intend to contest, or if indeed they will have a constituency to contest. It is also not clear whether political parties have the necessary resources and resilience at a local level to adapt successfully within this timeframe to contesting new constituencies across the whole of the country.

Impact of 'reduce and equalise' on local politics

93.  The proposals for reduction and equalisation seem to have been brought forward with little or no consideration of their potential impact on the ability of Members of Parliament to fulfil their responsibilities to their constituents. The service offered by Members will be placed under greater pressure. Constituencies are already 25 per cent more populous than they were in 1950 and there are now greater expectations on Members of Parliament in terms of casework, yet the rules introduced by the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) have seen a reduction in budgets for Members' staff by 10 per cent. Members representing poorer parts of the country—statistically underrepresented on the Government's benches—have many more social problems to deal with than previously. Some of these cases involve individuals who do not have the right to vote in general elections. Following a boundary review as proposed by the Government, more Members would have a greater multiplicity of different public authorities to deal with, as more parliamentary boundaries would have to be drawn to cross local authority boundaries. In addition, Members who are Ministers have executive responsibilities to fulfil as well as those to Parliament and constituents, unlike in democracies with a separation of powers. We recommend that the Government and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority should consider the impact of the proposals on the ability of individual Members of Parliament to perform their duties effectively when deciding upon individual Member resource allocation.

94.  The Government also seems to have given no consideration to the impact of its policies on the structure of local politics. Local party infrastructure is invariably sustained by volunteers and small donations, and the identity of local parties of all colours is founded on local communities. Where constituency boundaries cross natural and local authority boundaries, this will weaken local political identity. For the added stress of boundary change to occur potentially every five years is likely to further undermine local party organisation, and in turn strengthen the already dominant position of the central party organisations and leaderships. We recommend that the Government should assess thoroughly the likely impact of the provisions on party-political organisation, particularly at a local level, and explain what steps it intends to take in migitation before the Bill is sent to the House of Lords.

95.  One possible way in which the impact of the measures could be made less stark would be to provide for a more gradual approach to the reduction in the number of constituencies and to the equalisation of their size than the current proposals intend, over a series of boundary reviews rather than over a single review.

Preserved constituencies

96.  The Bill explicitly exempts Orkney and Shetland and Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Western Isles) from the 5% rule. The two constituencies currently have electorates of 33,085 and 21,780 respectively. The Deputy Prime Minister has told the House that "in both those cases, geographical size and remoteness make any change to the boundaries completely impractical."[132]

97.  There have been calls for further exceptions, for example from people on the Isle of Wight, who do not wish a constituency to be formed made up of part of the island and part of mainland England.[133] The Hansard Society commented that the proposed exception to the equalisation proposals "appears arbitrary…An obvious additional candidate for an exemption, for example, is the Isle of Wight."[134] We have also received strong representations from other areas including Cornwall and Wales.[135]

98.  We acknowledge the grounds for making exceptions from the electoral quota requirement for the constituencies of Orkney and Shetland and Na h-Eileanan an Iar on the grounds of practicality. This will mean, however, that votes cast in these constituencies will have a proportionately much greater weight than votes elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

99.  The House may wish to consider further exceptions for parts of the United Kingdom where it is the wish of voters (expressed, for instance, through petitions) to be under-represented in Parliament, for reasons of strong local ties.

Accuracy and completeness of the electoral roll

100.  The first boundary review under the Bill would be carried out using data from the December 2010 electoral roll.[136]

101.  The accuracy and completeness of this data takes on a particular significance in light of the Bill, because it would be the key determining factor in fixing constituency boundaries for the next general election, rather than simply one of many countervailing factors. As one of our witnesses, Dr Pinto-Duschinsky, observed: "The entire project of equalising constituency electorates depends on the existence of a reasonably accurate way of determining the number of eligible voters in each ward."[137]

102.  We have heard doubts as to whether this is in fact the case. The Electoral Commission has estimated that as many as 3.5 million eligible voters may be missing from the register.[138] According to the Electoral Commission, figures for electoral registration in the United Kingdom stand at just over 91% of the electorate. The Electoral Commission has stated that this level of registration is comparable with international figures.[139]

103.  Since 2004 Dr Roger Mortimore of Ipsos Mori has led on a rolling programme of research into electoral registration for the Electoral Commission.[140] Dr Mortimore's research has examined people who are unregistered and shown that the completeness of the register varies according to location, age group, social class and ethnicity.[141] In an analysis of the 2009 register across eight study areas, the completeness of the register varied from 73% to 94%. Similarly, the accuracy of the register (the proportion of the register entries that correctly refer to people eligible to be registered) varied from 77% to 91%. These findings mean that, in a constituency where the register recorded only 73% of eligible voters, over 20,000 people would not be counted in the boundary review, meaning that the total of those eligible to vote in the constituency could vary from the proposed electoral quota of 76,000 by up to 27%.[142]

104.  Dr Stuart Wilks-Heeg of Democratic Audit told us that he had serious concerns over the completeness and accuracy of the current electoral registers:

It is not clear that the electoral registers are 'fit for purpose' in undertaking radical changes to reduce and equalise constituencies. Recent research into the completeness and accuracy of the electoral registers highlights that there has been a sharp fall in registration levels over the past decade, and variations in under-registration appear to be growing.[143]

105.  Dr Wilks-Heeg also expressed concerns over the assumed relationship between the completeness and the accuracy of the electoral register:

The [Electoral Commission's] research highlighted that the rates of completeness of individual electoral registers (the percentage of missing entries) tends to mirror the rates of accuracy of those registers (the percentage of entries which are redundant or false). It could be argued that this will mean that inaccuracy will tend to counter-balance incompleteness, thereby producing electoral registers which approximate quite well to the total number of eligible electors…However, based on the [Electoral Commission] research, I would argue that this assumption is likely to be flawed.[144]

106.  We asked both Dr Mortimore and Dr Wilks-Heeg whether there were any measures that could be taken in order to improve the accuracy and completeness of the register in time for the December 2010 electoral roll. They agreed that little could be done. Dr Wilks-Heeg told us: "It's too late [to do anything]. We're in the middle of the annual canvass and some local authorities are very advanced in that process already."[145] However, Dr Wilks-Heeg told us that research showed that there were:

"particular practices which Electoral Registration Officers can follow, which if they all follow, virtually to the letter, will maximise the annual canvass return, which is crucial, which then in turn maximises the completeness and accuracy of the registers.., it would seem that there are certain local authorities where perhaps not all of [the Electoral Commission's] best practice is being used, but that is certainly, in terms of future canvasses, a key area to focus on."[146]

107.  Dr Pinto-Duschinsky told us:

If we look at the register and the problems of the register, we know roughly where the problem areas are. For example…in inner London we have voter problems in certain conurbations, but in those areas one of the problems is that [the local authorities] do not spend money on follow-up canvassing…I imagine there would be about 50 to 100 constituencies that are potentially problem areas and…the Government [could require] them, as it is entitled to do by law, to carry out a house-to-house, or other sufficient, inquiry…[147]

108.  We explored with witnesses whether the introduction of individual voter registration or giving new powers to electoral registration officers to mine other data sources would improve the quality of the electoral register for future boundary reviews. Dr Wilks-Heeg told us that individual registration would improve the accuracy of the registers but have limited effect on their completeness:

I think individual registration would clearly help to make sure we remove ghost voters from the rolls…[regarding] other ways in which we would need to clean up the registers, individual registration probably only goes so far. What will be critical is the extent to which electoral registration officers can access other data sources and what data sources they do access…if they access...addresses held by the DVLA…only certain people have driving licences, that is only going to take you so far…in terms of eliminating the problem of electors being registered simultaneously in different places when they're not supposed to be. Again—as the legislation proposes—you would need to supplement it with core [data], otherwise you simply can't know whether you've got voters registered in multiple different places…[148]

109.  The national census will be taken on 27 March 2011, although data from it would almost certainly not be available in time to influence the December 2011 electoral register. Dr Mortimore told us that the census "is the best [thing] that can be done, in terms of checking the register but it's going to be a long way short of perfect because what you're comparing it with is also short of perfect."[149] Dr Wilks-Heeg thought that census data would "give us a unique opportunity to look at the completeness and accuracy of the registers in a far more thorough way than we usually can."[150]

110.  During the Second Reading of the Bill the Deputy Prime Minister told the House:

The [boundary] commissions will continue to use the electoral register as the basis for their reviews. That has been a feature of the system for decades, under Governments of all shades. With registration in Great Britain at well over 90% and in line with comparable countries, the register remains the best basis for reviews…We are investigating a number of solutions, including freeing up local authorities to use existing public sector databases to identify people who are not registered, and then actively encouraging them to register.[151]

111.  On 15 September 2010 the Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office told the House of Commons that the Government planned to bring forward legislation to implement individual registration in 2014.[152] He also announced that the Government would be trialling:

data-matching during 2011-that is comparing the electoral register with other public databases to find the people who are eligible to vote but who are missing from the register…These pilots will enable us to see how effective data-matching is and to see which data sets are of most use in improving the accuracy and completeness of the electoral register. If they are effective, we will roll them out more widely across local authorities on a permanent basis to help ensure that our register is as complete as possible.[153]

112.  The Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office told us that census data would not be of assistance to electoral registration officers in identifying who might have failed to register to vote:

Census data is of population and does not look at whether people are eligible to vote, and of course many people who live in the UK are not citizens and are not eligible to vote for various reasons… [in addition] Electoral Registration Officers are able to access Census data and use it, but Census data at the individual level that could be used to track whether actual people exist…is not published at that level of detail, but…aggregated. Therefore, with regard to electoral administrators using it as a source to identify people who exist in an area and who are not registered, they can look at overall number and make some assumptions, but it does not really give them the detail to drill down.[154]

Dr Wilks-Heeg's point was, however, slightly different: his suggestion was that census data could help the Electoral Commission and electoral registration officers to estimate more accurately the extent to which registers were accurate and complete, rather than that it could be used directly to identify those missing from the registers.

113.  If the first boundary review under the Bill is to be completed in good time for a general election in May 2015, as the Government wishes, there seems to be little option but to use data from this year's electoral roll, to be finalised in December 2010, as the basis for drawing up new constituency boundaries. This data is certain to be incomplete and inaccurate, and the extent to which this is the case will vary across the country, potentially with political repercussions. It is for individual Members to judge whether the flaws in this data are such as to undermine the principle of equalisation that the Government claims motivates its proposals.

114.  For the longer term, given that many people who fail to register to vote do so through no conscious choice of their own, it would be desirable to identify a system whereby those eligible to vote could be automatically registered, and only removed from the register at their request.

Public consultation on boundary changes

115.  The Bill would both abolish local inquiries for proposed boundary changes, and give the Boundary Commissions significantly less scope to make alterations to constituency boundaries than has been the case up until now. This will affect significantly how people can engage with the Commissions' proposed recommendations. Until now, Boundary Commissions have been able to take account of representations as they have seen fit. If, however, a representation under a future review proposed a boundary change that would break the rule on constituency equalisation, then, however strongly felt that representation might be within the locality, a Boundary Commission could not implement it, at least, not without making other boundary changes elsewhere, which had not been part of its original proposals.

116.  Under the existing Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, the Boundary Commissions are required to publish provisional recommendations and the reasons for those recommendations in the local media and in public areas such as town halls and libraries.[155] Following publication there is a statutory period of public consultation of four weeks.[156]

117.  If the Boundary Commission receives objections from more than 100 electors (including groups) or one from an affected local authority, the Commission must hold a public inquiry which is open to all regardless of whether they previously submitted representations. Public inquiries have taken place in around half of reviewed constituencies. The inquiries are led by independent lawyers, usually QCs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Sheriffs in Scotland[157] When the inquiry concludes the relevant Commission then considers the resulting report and maintains or revises the recommendations.[158] Revised recommendations must then be published for consultation as before, and may be subject to a further public inquiry, although this rarely occurs in practice.

118.  Clause 10 of the Bill would amend sections 5 and 6 of the 1986 Act by explicitly prohibiting the holding of public inquiries into proposed boundary changes. Following the publication of provisional recommendations, the Bill would, however, extend the consultation process from four to twelve weeks. The Bill would also give the Boundary Commissions greater discretion over the format in which they publicise their provisional recommendations, repealing the requirement for them to be published in a local newspaper.[159]

119.  Because of the more rigid mathematical approach the Bill requires to defining constituency boundaries, the general approach taken by each Boundary Commission could make a substantial difference to the provisional recommendations it can make, and the scope for changing those recommendations without revisiting its general approach. Members of the Committee have therefore tabled an amendment which would require the Boundary Commissions to hold a one-off short consultation on the way in which they intend to approach the division of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland into constituencies, before the 2011-13 review takes place. It would allow people to give views on the extent to which, for example, county boundaries should be crossed, the extent to which ward sub-division might be desirable, and where wards are to be sub-divided, the kinds of sub-divisions to be used. We ask the House to consider whether our proposal would increase the perceived legitimacy of the Boundary Commissions' decisions, and reduce the likelihood of local frustration and the possibility of legal challenge to the Commissions' recommendations.

120.  Public inquiries prolong the time taken for boundary reviews considerably. The process has also been criticised for being dominated by political parties seeking to protect a majority or weaken that of an opponent. The Boundary Commissions told us: "The Commissions' experience is that, while local inquiries have served a useful function, many of those attending have a specific party political affiliation which significantly determines their evidence"[160] and Professor Ron Johnston observed:

although you occasionally get the case where a local community will come forward and say, "You're breaking our local community", they are doing it in a non-political way - it happens - and very occasionally an individual will come up with some very interesting things to say, but the public inquiries are dominated by the political parties and they are using the rules obviously for promoting their electoral gain.[161]

121.  Professor Johnston also told us that many public inquiries had little impact on the Boundary Commissions' final recommendations: "Public inquiries often have no impact. Of the public inquiries last time half of them made no change and a lot of them only very, very minor change, one ward moved from one constituency to another or whatever."[162]

122.  Despite these reservations, many of our witnesses believed public inquiries serve a useful function. Lewis Baston of Democratic Audit, while acknowledging that proceedings can "sometimes become political theatre", told us:

The public inquiry, at its best, can be a forum for testing the strength of arguments for the provisional recommendations and alternative schemes under the Rules, and how they correspond with other (possibly less self-interested) representations from the public. Assistant Commissioners often take pains to discount self-interested pleading and ascertain which plan best fits the constraints and the realities on the ground…In terms of gaining consent and a sense of ownership of the proposals in the locality, the level of scrutiny of the broad pattern and local detail gained from a public inquiry is sometimes indispensable.[163]

123.  Robin Gray, a former Boundary Commissioner, while agreeing with Professor Johnston that public inquires had limited impact on the final report, believed public inquiries enhanced the legitimacy of boundary changes for the public as they provided assurance that the "issues have been looked at, debated and an independent [lawyer] has come to a view…" and could produce "very good inputs from community groups and the odd individual. It is unusual but you do sometimes [get them] and that is quite important." Mr Gray also told us that the inquiries "reassure" the Commissions:

It is quite helpful to be reassured by hearing [the] evidence pored over, the cross-questioning between the main participants and so on, so that…when we are looking at the Assistant Commissioner's report and making up our minds, [we] can say, "Ah, yes, we did more or less get it right", or, and in one or two cases…we can actually reject the Assistant Commissioner's recommendations and either stay with our original recommendations or alter them slightly because when we look at the transcripts of the inquiry and the evidence we think we need to do something slightly different.[164]

124.  The equalisation requirement together with the reduction in the number of Members of Parliament will mean that constituencies will cross county boundaries for the first time, as well as geographical and historic features. Professor Johnston, who generally welcomed the abolition of public inquiries, told us that the recommendations on which they made the greatest impact were when there were new constituencies being formed:

places where public inquiries had a big impact from what the Commission initially proposed to the final solution was where either a seat was being added to a county or being taken away and then everything was up for grabs and, not surprisingly, there was much more fighting over it. That is an argument against me because that is an argument for having public inquiries this time because you are drawing a totally new map with new constituencies and nearly everything will be different. In general terms the experience over the last three or four inquiries has been that public inquiries have been fine involving people but in the end it is really about the politicians seeking to gain their own advantage. This time you are going to have much more where the local people are going to be concerned because suddenly the pattern of representation is going to be very different from what they have been used to for a long time.[165]

125.  Hugh Buchanan, Secretary to the Boundary Commission for Scotland, told us it was unclear what the impact of the Bill's provisions on the public's response to consultation would be: "One of the great unknowns of a review under this Bill is what the public engagement will be. One of the challenges for ourselves will be in trying to encourage people to understand what the law allows us to do and doesn't allow us to do. So I think the Commissions will want—as far as they can within the law—to reflect communities wherever they can, but clearly that discretion is reduced from the current position."[166] Mr Buchanan also noted that political parties are vital to ensuring the public are both engaged and informed.[167] The Hansard Society expressed concern that the limits on consultation as result of the equalisation requirements and reduction in the number of MPs could result in voter disengagement: "Our research into the legislative process demonstrates that a singularly damaging aspect of consultation is that government too often gives the public the impression through the process that 'all options are open - even when it is obvious that the Government has a clear direction in mind'".[168]

126.  A possible outcome of the proposed consultation process is legal challenge, by political parties or local cross-party or apolitical campaign groups such as Keep Cornwall Whole. The decisions of the Boundary Commissions are potentially subject to judicial review. Robin Gray told us that he thought "that what [the proposed consultation procee] could lead to is more judicial review. We were only subject to one judicial review [in the last boundary review] right at the end of the process in West Yorkshire. I can see that in this sort of situation you could end up with a lot of people around the country applying for judicial review."[169] Professor Ron Johnston agreed: "I can well see people using [judicial review] as a [means to] address the issues that they think they are not able to address because they are not having public inquiries."[170]

127.  The Deputy Prime Minister told the House of Commons at the Second Reading of the Bill that the reasons for abolishing public inquiries were primarily to do with the amount of time they take, as well as the dominance of them by political parties:

By having more frequent boundary reviews-one every five years-constituencies will be kept more up to date, reflecting changes in where people live. In order to make that possible, we are changing the consultation process. Consultation is, of course, vital, but as leading academics concluded in a report published just last week, local inquiries have become "the playthings" of political parties and have had, in practice, little impact on the commissions' final recommendations, so we will abolish local inquiries. Instead, we will triple the time that people have to make representations to the commissions to have their say-from one month to three months.[171]

128.  The report referred to by the Deputy Prime Minister was the British Academy report co-authored by Professor Johnston which concluded that "most" inquiries have been "dominated" by political parties. As we note above, Professor Johnston told us that this boundary review is likely to see much more engagement with the consultation process by apolitical individuals and groups as, in many cases, long-standing constituency boundaries will be dissolved.

129.  The legitimacy of the next boundary review in the eyes of the public is likely to be strongly influenced by their ability to participate effectively. A representation to change the boundaries of one constituency could well require further changes to other constituencies to keep each constituency within 5% of the electoral quota. It would therefore be difficult or impossible to make informed representations without access to detailed information on the number of electors within sub-ward divisions of constituencies across the relevant region and possibly beyond.

130.  Members of the Committee have therefore tabled an amendment, which is intended to improve the quality of the consultation. This amendment would allow people to make representations to the Boundary Commissions on proposed constituencies other than the one in which they live and to provide for information on the number of electors within sub-ward divisions of constituencies to be made available on a nationwide basis. We commend the amendment to the House.

131.  The Boundary Commissions noted the retention of their power to appoint an Assistant Commissioner to provide independent scrutiny of representations, commenting: "It may be that a Commission may still find it useful to ask an Assistant Commissioner to assess and evaluate written evidence submitted to the Commission."[172] This would appear to be an answer to the apparent concern expressed elsewhere in their submission that: "Local inquiries, chaired by a person skilled in dealing with and assessing evidence, are a useful process for forming a judgement on the arguments presented. That task will now fall to the Commissions, and will take time to carry out thoroughly."[173] Professor Ron Johnston also noted that the use of Assistant Commissioners avoided the impression that a boundary commission was "judge and jury in its own case".[174]

132.  We welcome the retention of the Boundary Commissions' power to appoint an independent Assistant Commissioner to consider written representations. The changes in the consultation process are likely to lead to written representations that are longer and more complex. Appointing an Assistant Commissioner will allow the Boundary Commissions to obtain independent, expert advice which will enhance the transparency and legitimacy of the process while giving them flexibility in their resourcing.

133.  The prohibition on public inquiries means that representations must be written, although this is not stated in the Bill.[175] The Boundary Commissions told us: "The Bill does not specify the means of making representations. We believe it should specify written representations, to allow full and fair assessment of all representations."[176]

134.  The House may wish to consider whether the Bill should be amended so that it makes clear that only written representations will be received by the Boundary Commissions, subject to the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The abolition of public inquiries is a hugely significant change in the process of boundary setting. Clarity in the changes to that process is vital if the consultation process is to be meaningful and so enhance the legitimacy of the Boundary Commissions' decisions.

Executive power

135.  Finally, we wish to bring the House's attention to two provisions in the Bill which would preserve or increase the power of the Government over Parliament in a way that we consider to be unwarranted.

SECRETARY OF STATE'S POWER TO AMEND THE BOUNDARY COMMISSIONS' RECOMMENDATIONS

136.  Clause 8(6) of the Bill preserves the right of the Secretary of State to implement a Boundary Commission's report with "modifications". Boundary reviews can have highly party-political impacts, particularly in parts of the country where the votes between the parties are finely balanced. More than 90 Members were elected in 2010 with majorities of less than 5% of the votes cast.[177] A number of witnesses told us that the majority of public inquiries were instigated by political parties. Professor Ron Johnston of the University of Bristol, observed that "the public inquiries are dominated by the political parties and they are using the rules obviously for promoting their electoral gain". The Boundary Commissions told us:

The Commissions' experience is that while local inquiries have served a useful function, many of those attending have a specific party political affiliation which significantly determines their evidence…In practice, the main participants at inquiries have been representatives of political parties and local authorities.[178]

137.   As the Explanatory Notes to the Bill state:

The Commissions are independent, non-political and totally impartial bodies. They emphasise very strongly that the results of previous elections do not and should not enter their considerations when they are deciding their recommendations. Nor do the Commissions consider the effects of their recommendations on future voting patterns.[179]

138.  We asked the Minister why it was appropriate for the Secretary of State to retain the power to implement Boundary Commission reports with modifications. He explained:

There is a very strong convention that Ministers lay the Order in Council putting in place the recommendations of the boundary commissions without changing them. [the power to modify is]...to deal with the situation where Boundary Commissioners lay their reports and it turns out that there are errors or mistakes in them and there would be no other way of correcting them...It is not the intention of any Minister to make changes, and the wording is not a change in legislation—it just carries forward existing law. Ministers intend to be bound by the existing convention that the Boundary Commissioners lay their reports...and the Order in Council that Ministers lay before Parliament absolutely reflects them, on the same basis as in the past.[180]

139.  Notwithstanding the Government's commitment to use the power to make modifications when implementing the reports of the Boundary Commissions only in response to mistakes that can be corrected in no other way, we believe that the power of the Executive to depart from the recommendations of an independent statutory body should have clear statutory limits to prevent abuse for partisan advantage. We recommend that the House should consider amending clause 8(6) to limit the Secretary of State's power to modify the implementation of a Boundary Commission's recommendations only to situations where this is with the agreement of the Boundary Commission in question. Members of the Committee have tabled an amendment to this effect, and we commend it to the House.

SIZE OF THE 'PAYROLL VOTE' IN THE HOUSE

140.  The House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 limits the number of Government Ministers who can sit and vote in the House of Commons to 95.[181] The number of Parliamentary Private Secretaries and the size of the Opposition front bench are based in effect on the size of the Government. If there were no proportionate reduction in the number of Ministers in a House of 600 Members, this would be very likely to mean that all 50 of the Members removed from the House would be backbenchers. On the face of it, therefore, reducing the size of the House would amount to reducing that part of the House involved in scrutiny of the Executive.

141.  In March 2010 the House of Commons Public Administration Committee considered the impact of the steady increase in ministerial positions since 1900, despite the end of Empire, the introduction of privatisation and the devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Committee concluded that the "payroll vote" "harmed" Parliament and recommended limiting the proportion of Ministers able to sit in the House to 15%, including unpaid and unofficial posts.[182]

142.  The Hansard Society has made the link between a reduction in the number of Members and the power of the Executive:

Unless a move to reduce the number of MPs is accompanied by a parallel commitment to reduce the size of the Government's payroll vote, it will merely enhance the executive at the expense of the legislature by reinforcing the power of the frontbench in proportion to the overall size of the House of Commons.[183]

143.  In evidence to us and to the House the Deputy Prime Minister asserted that the reduction in the number of MPs would create "a House that is sufficiently large to hold the Government to account". Mr Clegg did not accept that a reduction in the number of Members required a reduction in the number of ministers:

If we arrive at a parliament that is 600 rather than 650 we have the current number of ministers but in the next parliament a subsequent government should have an open mind about whether the number should be reduced…The cuts we propose will not take place this side of the next general election…if there is a link [between the number of MPs and the number of ministers] then that link…should be made in the number of ministers when the change occurs. It has not occurred yet.[184]

144.  Mr Harper told us that reducing the number of ministers in the House of Commons was not a "very simple mathematical question" because shrinking the size of the ministerial bench in the elected house without shrinking the size of the executive overall could mean that more ministers would sit in the upper House instead. He assured us "we will have a serious look at that issue and I think that the Prime Minister and the Government will have to take a view about the size of the Government as a whole."[185]

145.  It is self-evident that a reduction in the number of Members of Parliament will increase the dominance of the Executive over Parliament if the number of Ministers sitting and voting in the House is not correspondingly reduced. This is a matter of constitutional importance that goes to the heart of the relationship between the Executive and the House. That the Government claims that no progress can be made on this issue because no conclusion has yet been reached on the overall size and nature of government is ironic at best and hypocritical at worst, given the Government's readiness to reduce at haste the number of Members in one House without consideration of the number of Members there should be in the other. Members of the Committee have put their names to an amendment to link the size of the House with the number of Ministers allowed to sit and vote in it, and we commend this amendment strongly to the House.


84   Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, s 3(2) as amended by Boundary Commissions Act 1992  Back

85   Clause 3(2) Back

86   Clause 1(3) of the Fixed Term Parliament Bill proposes that elections to the UK Parliament be held every five years Back

87   House of Commons Library Research paper 10/55, Oonagh Gay and Isobel White p 27 Back

88   Ibid. Back

89   Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, Sch. 2 Back

90   Invitation to Join the Government of Britain, The Conservative Party Manifesto 2010, p 67 Back

91   Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010 p 88 Back

92   The Coalition: Our programme for Government p 27 Back

93   HC Deb 5 July 2010, c 24 Back

94   Q 44 Back

95   Ev 86 Back

96   The Hansard Society (VPR 05, para. 14) Back

97   Q 214 Back

98   Q 94 Back

99   Q 116 Back

100   The Hansard Society (VPR 05, para. 15) Back

101   The Hansard Society (VPR 05, para. 17) Back

102   HC 358- i (2010-11), Q 62  Back

103   HC Deb 6 September 2010, c 39 Back

104   Ev 86 Back

105   Clause 9(1)  Back

106   Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, Sch 2, Rule 5 Back

107   Ev 115 Back

108   See for example, chapter 6 of the Fifth Periodical Report, Cm 7032 Back

109   Committee on Standards in Public Life Eleventh Report of Session 2007-08, Review of the Electoral Commission, Cm 7006, p47 Back

110   Ev 94 Back

111   HC 358-i (2010-11), Q 51 Back

112   Ev 92 Back

113   Ev 94 Back

114   Ev 94 Back

115   Association of Electoral Administrators (VPR 06, para. 6.4) Back

116   Ev 94 Back

117   Ibid Back

118   Q 107 Back

119   Drawing a new constituency map for the United Kingdom British Academy Policy Centre, ed Ron Johnston et al (September 2010) Back

120   Drawing a new constituency map for the United Kingdom British Academy Policy Centre, ed Ron Johnston et al (September 2010) Back

121   Ev 92 Back

122   Ev 86  Back

123   Ev 138 onwards Back

124   Ev 141 Back

125   HC Deb 6 September 2010, c 35 Back

126   New Clause 99 (Committee of the Whole House) Back

127   Ev 86 Back

128   Drawing a New Constituency Map for the United Kingdom, p 41 Back

129   New Rule 7 Back

130   Q 151  Back

131   Q 58 Back

132   HC Deb 6 September 2010, c 37 Back

133   HC Deb 6 September 2010, c 73 Back

134   The Hansard Society (VPR 05, para. 9) Back

135   Ev 92 Back

136   HC Deb 6 September 2010, c 34 Back

137   Q 46 Back

138   Understanding Electoral Registration: The extent and nature of non-registration in Britain, The Electoral Commission (August 2005) Back

139   Ibid. Back

140   Details of the research can be found at VPR 04 Back

141   All publications in the rolling programme including Understanding Electoral Registration, Mortimore et al, (2006)and Population change, turnout and the elections, Mortimore at al,(2005)can be found at www.ipsos-mori.com Back

142   Clause 9(1) Back

143   Ev 102 Back

144   Ibid. Back

145   Q 200 Back

146   Ibid Back

147   Q 46 Back

148   Q 211 Back

149   Q 214 Back

150   Q 214 Back

151   HC Deb 6 September 2010, c 40 Back

152   HC Deb 15 September 2010, c 884 Back

153   HC Deb 15 September 2010, c 885 Back

154   Q 324 Back

155   Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, s 5(1) and (2) Back

156   Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, s 5(2)(b) Back

157   There is no statutory procedure although the boundary commissions issue guidance.  Back

158   Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, s 5(3) Back

159   Clause 10(1) Back

160   Ev 94 Back

161   Q 63 Back

162   Ibid Back

163   Ev 86 Back

164   Q 63 Back

165   Q 62 Back

166   Q 163  Back

167   Q 187 Back

168   The Hansard Society (VPR 05, para. 10) Back

169   Q 66 Back

170   Q 67 Back

171   HC Deb, 6 September 2010, c 38  Back

172   Ev 94 Back

173   Ibid Back

174   Q 65 Back

175   Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, new s 5(1)(b) Back

176   Ev 94 Back

177   For example, Glenda Jackson, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn has a majority of 42 Back

178   Ev 94 Back

179   Explanatory Notes to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill para 18  Back

180   Q 367 Back

181   House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, s 2(1) Back

182   Public Administration Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2009-10, Too Many Ministers?, HC 457 Back

183   The Hansard Society (VPR 05, para. 16) Back

184   HC 358-i (2010-11) Q 63 Back

185   Q 384 Back


 
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