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Westminster Parliament

Volume 888: debated on Thursday 13 March 1975

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5.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will commence discussions to create a more equitable representation of the people of Northern Ireland in Parliament.

Any proposal to change the number of parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland can only be considered after the Constitutional Convention has sat and when the future arrangements for the government of Northern Ireland are known.

The Secretary of State has just said that Northern Ireland is a matter for Her Majesty's Government, and Her Majesty's Government only. But is it not for this Parliament to decide these matters? Why should Northern Ireland be treated differently from other parts of the United Kingdom over representation? Should we not put in a boundary commission to look at and at least to report on this matter? Indeed, it may produce more Labour seats.

The final decision on this matter will be taken by this House. This is one of the proposals that the Constitutional Convention will want to look at. This Parliament can then look at those proposals in total before making a final decision.

My right hon. Friend seems to be putting great reliance on the Constitutional Convention. When will the elections be held, and when does he expect that the Convention will hold its first meeting?

My right hon. Friend will shortly be making an announcement on this matter.

If a member of the Opposition may join in the parliamentary practice of referring to the election manifesto of his party, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that it is the firm opinion of the Conservative and Unionist Party that Northern Ireland is under-represented in this House?

We are aware that that is in the manifesto. We are also aware that those who sat on the Government Front Bench in the previous Parliament did not necessarily hold that view.