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Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I have two brief questions rather than comments to put. I will not follow the noble Lord down the route of the number of constituencies in the north because, obviously, one of themthe smallestwould be the constituency I previously represented in another place. I would not want my title in this place to be affected by a change in constituency name.
The first question that I should like to ask refers to the nature and scope of the interim review which may follow. It would be most helpful to the House if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate could indicate what scope and limitation there will be on the nature of that particular review and how things might have been different. The noble and learned Lord drew attention to the different situation in Scotland. It would be helpful if he could explain a little more fully the situation in Wales.
My second point relates to a direct interest of mine; namely, the promotion of the Welsh language. Where there are two names in regular usage, I believe that from now on the boundary commission should use both the Welsh language and the English language form whenever it designates the name of a place.
Lord Swansea: My Lords, I have a brief intervention to make. I have no quarrel with the recommendations in the order. However, I believe that I detect one or two slight spelling mistakes in place names. On page 6, under the section relating to the tiny constituency of Pontypridd, "Rhydeflen" and "Rhydfelen" are both mentioned in line 6. Of course, one of those must be wrong. I suspect it is the first one. It should be Rhydfelen. Further, halfway down the same page under the heading "Cardiff Central", I believe that the name "Adamsdown" should be Adamstown; in other words it should be spelt with "t" and not a "d". Then, a little further on, under the heading "The Vale of Glamorgan", "Gibbonsdown" should read Gibbonstown. I just hope that the correct spelling will be incorporated and that those mistakesif they are mistakeswill not be set in concrete.
Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: My Lords, one learns something every day in this House. If I may say so, my noble friend made points that I shall certainly draw to the attention of those who are responsible for setting the exact names to ensure that, when the order is made, it is made in the appropriate fashion.
I turn now to the points raised. Interim reviews and the new local government Act were mentioned. As I am sure noble Lords will recall, even when the new local government Act comes into force for Wales, the counties are preserved for the purposes of parliamentary constituencies and also for the purposes of Lords Lieutenant. The counties are not exactly the same as those which exist now, but the changes are relatively small. Therefore, although the commission could not take account of the new set up, the changes that are likely to be required by virtue of the new preserved counties will not be very large.
As regards the timing of the review, I must stress that that is a matter for the commission. As I indicated, the commission has already said that it does not envisage having such a review before the next general election. As to the scope of the review, that is also a matter for the commission. It is really up to the commission to decide what it wishes to do. Nonetheless, for the reasons I have given, it is not expected that the changes to be made will be substantial. They may be of significance to certain local populations, and so on, but I do not believe that they will be substantial.
I noted the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, as I am sure did other noble Lords. The noble Lord is no doubt aware that much was done during the carrying out of the review by way of ensuring that people who wished to make their representations in the Welsh language had every opportunity to do so. Indeed, that is a further sign of the Government's commitment to ensure that such procedures are correct. With those observations, and sharing those made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, about the need for, and the commendable independence of, such a review, I commend the order to the House.
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I do not know whether, on this occasion, my speech has already been previewed elsewhere, but that may very well be so. Indeed, I see that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is of that view.
Lord Rodger of Earlsferry: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland received the fourth periodical report of the Boundary Commission for Scotland on 15th December 1994. The report recommended changes to parliamentary constituency boundaries in Scotland. I wish, at the outset, to thank the commission under its deputy chairman, Lord Davidson, for all the work it undertook. Again, the commission was presented with a challenging timetable. It fulfilled the task with admirable speed.
When my right honourable friend the Secretary of State received the report, he gave careful consideration to its recommendations. He decided to lay the draft Order in Council which is before the House today without making any modification to the commission's recommendations. The order has been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and was approved in another place. If the draft order is approved by your Lordships today, my right honourable friend the Secretary of state will submit it to Her Majesty in Council.
The new constituencies will take effect at the next general election. Any by-election in the intervening period will not be affected by the new arrangements and will be held on the existing boundaries. Since the last review was completed in 1983, as I said a few moments ago the Boundary Commission Act 1992 has been passed. That set a deadline of 31st December 1994 for the completion of the review. The review has been completed in time. The 1992 Act also reduced the length of time between each review in Scotland from between 10 to 15 years to between eight to 12 years, as in Wales.
The Act also had a further implication in Scotland with the commission having to consider local authority boundaries which were in place on 1st June 1994. This meant that the commission could not take into account the effects of reorganisation of local government in Scotland. The commission decided at the outset of its review that Scotland was adequately represented with 72 constituencies. It therefore did not propose to increase the number of seats. As is required by statute, the commission calculated that the electoral quota for Scotland for the purposes of the review was 54,569. That was a total electorate in Scotland on 16th February 1992the date the commission gave notice of its intention to proceeddivided by the current number of constituencies.
To maintain separate constituencies for the islands areas and also to retain Scotland's representation of 72 constituencies with constituencies of roughly equal electorates, the commission decided to cross regional boundaries. The commission decided to pair Lothian and Border regions together and Central and Tayside regions together. To ensure full consideration was given to all the commission's proposals, in mainland Scotland local inquiries were held in each region, or combination of regions, and with one exception they were all conducted by sheriffs principal who were appointed by the Secretary of State. Most of the recommendations made by the assistant commissioners were accepted by the commission.
Much criticism has been directed at the commission's decision to use regional electoral divisions as its building blocks for the constituencies. In its report the commission explains that these were the only up-to-date electoral arrangements available to it. The commission declined to use a mixture of the old district wards and the new electoral divisions as these could not be used universally because they often did not fit with one another. The commission has recommended a reduction of one parliamentary constituency in Strathclyde and an increase of one in Grampian. A reduction has taken place in the City of Glasgow owing to the decline in the electorate there.
I am glad that the commission has recognised that the existing range in electorate is wholly unacceptable. Discounting for the time being the islands areasthe commission correctly considers that there are strong geographical reasons why they should be considered separatelythe electorates range from 84,000 in Gordon to just over 31,000 in Caithness and Sutherland constituency. Under the proposals recommended by the commission this range of electorate has been reduced to between 67,000 and 42,000. The commission's recommendations will also mean that 69 per cent. of the constituencies, compared with 42 per cent. at present, will fall within 10 per cent. of the 1992 electoral quota. Some people have said that too much emphasis has been placed on numbers. However, had the commission paid more attention to numbers, the range in the electorate would have been even closer.
As with all reviews of this nature, criticisms will always be made. We must acknowledge, however, the difficulty faced by the commission in applying the rules for redistribution of seats which contain sometimes conflicting requirements. Under the current statute the commission is able, should it so wish, to undertake interim reviews. I am sure that the commission will give some thought to the contrast which will arise between the recommended constituencies and the new local authority councils. A decision on whether or not to conduct any future interim review is, however, a matter for the commission. The boundary commission is an independent body which has conducted its review with full public consultation. For this reason I commend the draft Order in Council to your Lordships. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 15th February be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].(Lord Rodger of Earlsferry.)
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