Skip to main content


Volume 514: debated on Wednesday 21 July 2010

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Deputy Prime Minister on the implementation in Scotland of proposals to equalise the size of constituencies; and if he will make a statement. (8912)

By equalising the size of constituencies across the UK, we will ensure that people’s votes carry the same weight. We have proposed the two exceptions of Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles to take account of their special geographic circumstances. The Bill that we will introduce will also provide for an upper limit on the geographical size of a constituency.

In Scotland, there are urban seats that have an electorate of between 50,000 and 80,000; that disparity cannot be justified by extreme geography. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is disappointing that the previous Government had so little regard for the fundamental principle that every vote should have equal value? [Interruption.]

Order. First, some questions are too long, and secondly, at this early stage, the atmosphere is far too raucous. Right hon. and hon. Members need to calm down.

Yes, we have a few traditions to maintain. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans) on the basic principle that votes should have equal weight across the country, wherever they are cast.

Members of the House understand the unique geographical factors that affect island communities, but does the Secretary of State accept that it would be grossly unfair to Scotland’s great cities if their constituency numbers were artificially inflated as a result of that fact, to make up the difference, so that the Government can reach an arbitrary number plucked out by Conservative party central office? Surely the issue should be determined solely by the independent Boundary Commission, not the Conservative party that he seeks to support?

The hon. Lady is trying to advance the very strange principle that across the country there should be different weights for votes, depending on where they are cast. We have to ensure that when we redraw the boundaries, we equalise out those votes to give them equal weight. If people need to register to vote, let us get on with ensuring that they do; there is a responsibility on all of us, and on local authorities, to ensure that that happens.