Skip to main content

Boundary Reviews

Volume 524: debated on Tuesday 1 March 2011

4. What estimate he has made of the cost to the public purse of holding constituency boundary reviews every five years. (42565)

Our current estimate of the costs of undertaking a boundary review under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 is £11.2 million. We are currently working on that estimate to update it to take into account all the changes made to that legislation in the later stages of its progress through Parliament.

Although it appears that the Deputy Prime Minister has calculated the cost of the changes in pound notes, he does not have a clue about the social cost of his plans, which will lead to the fragmentation of communities as new constituencies cut through historical, political and cultural boundaries simply to achieve his arbitrary arithmetical norm. Does the Minister not wish that he had simply decoupled that part of the Bill to secure his miserable little compromise?

The reason why I gave the hon. Gentleman an answer in pounds was that his question was about the cost to the public purse, and I was answering that question.

I do not agree with the premise of the hon. Gentleman’s question. There is a 10% margin, plus or minus 5%, within which the independent boundary commissions can take account of factors such as local ties and local government boundaries, but it has to be right that constituencies should be more equal in size. In the part of the world that the hon. Gentleman represents voters have more weight in the House of Commons than they should, compared with those in other parts of the country, and that is simply not right.

Does the Minister not agree that holding a boundary review every five years will be a recipe for chaos and uncertainty, given that the number of seats allocated in each country within the United Kingdom could change in that period? That would create great uncertainty among local electors, local authorities and local communities, who will not know what constituency they are going to be in. That will have a direct impact on the make-up of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

There is a choice: we can have either infrequent boundary reviews, which would be more disruptive, or more frequent ones, which—all other things being equal—would be smaller. Clearly the first boundary review, with a change in the rules that will result in a reduction in the number of seats in the House from 650 to 600, will be a fairly significant one. After that, however, boundary reviews will simply reflect the movements of the electorate, and I think that that will be a much less disruptive process.