Publicity and consultation

Part of Parliamentary Constituencies Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:45 pm ar 25 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Chris Matheson Chris Matheson Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 2:45, 25 Mehefin 2020

First, I welcome the Minister’s explanation of the clause. I have been through a few of these boundary reviews now. I remember attending one in the mid-1990s for Cheshire, which was held in Winsford, in the geographical centre of Cheshire, along with my old mentor Lord Hoyle—as he is now is—and Mike Hall, another former MP, and the late and much-missed Andrew Miller, another former MP.

More recently, the Cheshire review was held in my own constituency in Chester, in The Queen hotel, and in that circumstance I found myself speaking against my own party’s recommendations, because the numbers had forced the party to exclude a part of the constituency from Chester that I felt rightfully belonged to it. It was a strange and uncomfortable situation, but I did what I did because it was right.

Having heard the hon. Member for Glasgow East speak to his amendment, I think there is a principle that flows throughout the Bill, which is the importance of taking into account geography, in terms of the overall impact of the Bill and its overall implications. I could easily get from Chester to Winsford and from Chester to Warrington; that would not be a problem. Speaking from my own experience, I think that Cheshire could get away with having one public inquiry.

If I think about parts of rural northern England, the far south-west, or large parts of Scotland and Wales, the sparsity of population makes it less easy to hold public inquiries than in Cheshire or in large boroughs. It is the same principle and the same argument that we will discuss later in the Bill—I do not want to wander too far off the subject of this clause—where we have numbers overriding geographical considerations. There are parts of the country that need to be treated differently because sparsity of population and geographical features make it more difficult for individuals to take part

The hon. Member for Ceredigion asked the Minister a question that had also occurred to me, about whether, in principle, she may consider a slightly different amendment, if she accepts that some areas need more attention because of their geography and sparsity of population. Obviously, the Minister cannot speak to a hypothetical amendment, but I would support that suggestion. The principle that flows through the Bill is that we cannot simply go on bare numbers. Geography, population density and the ease of people getting to, and taking part in, consultations need to be considered. I have a lot of sympathy with the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Glasgow East.