John Spellar debates involving the Cabinet Office during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 16th Sep 2021
Wed 30th Dec 2020
European Union (Future Relationship) Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & 2nd reading
Tue 14th Jul 2020
Parliamentary Constituencies Bill
Commons Chamber

3rd reading & 3rd reading: House of Commons & Report stage & Report stage: House of Commons & Report stage & 3rd reading

Oral Answers to Questions

John Spellar Excerpts
Wednesday 12th January 2022

(2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about Sarah Gilbert’s achievements. She was part of our Gender Equality Advisory Council, working across the G7 to give women more opportunities and to enable more entrepreneurship, ideas and innovation around the world.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

T2. Does the Minister share my concern that many older workers who lose their job find it difficult to get back into work, either because of employer prejudice or because of an artificial requirement for paper qualifications, with no allowance made for capability or experience; and what is she going to do about it?

Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Guy Opperman)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The DWP has launched 50Plus Choices, which specifically addresses the issues the right hon. Gentleman raises. I will get the Minister responsible for that matter to write to him.

Oral Answers to Questions

John Spellar Excerpts
Wednesday 24th November 2021

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for everything she does for steel and for Scunthorpe. I can tell her that I do believe British steel has suffered, as a result of decisions taken years and years ago, from unfair energy costs—we need to fix it. This Government are getting on with making another of the long-term changes we are instituting: we are putting in the nuclear base-load that this country has long been deprived of.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Q12. In a couple of weeks’ time I will be introducing a Bill to ban the importing of hunting trophies. Not only has that had widespread public support and support from Opposition parties, but in the past the principle has been supported by Conservative manifestos, the Queen’s Speech and indeed the Prime Minister himself. So on Friday 10 December will the Prime Minister tell his Whips not to block the Bill, but to let it go forward, so that we can work together and end this vile trade as soon as possible?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman is completely right, which is why we are going to introduce legislation in this Parliament to ban the import of hunting trophies and to deliver the change that we promised. I hope that he will support it.

Oral Answers to Questions

John Spellar Excerpts
Thursday 23rd September 2021

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Nigel Adams Portrait Nigel Adams
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his supportive tone! What I can say to him is that in the light of the growing voluntary uptake of certification and the latest data on the state of the epidemic, we do not expect mandatory certification to be needed from the end of September.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

In his evaluation, has the Minister looked at the experience of a number of European countries where this is happening and British holidaymakers and visitors are using the system without any detriment? Has he looked at the views of Scotland and Wales, which are introducing certificates? Can he assure the House of his view that in the event of its looking as though this may be necessary, it must be better to have vaccine passes than once again locking down the hospitality, entertainment and leisure industries, given the impact not only on customers but on hundreds of thousands of jobs?

Nigel Adams Portrait Nigel Adams
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. I can tell him that we do look at how the system is operated elsewhere. We work closely with the devolved Administrations, because there must be a four-nations approach to this. Incidentally, residents of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can demonstrate vaccination status via a letter that can be requested from the NHS.

AUKUS

John Spellar Excerpts
Thursday 16th September 2021

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, and the opportunities are boundless. We are building on firm foundations. It is 50 years since the five power defence arrangements, the oldest defence agreement in the Pacific, which colleagues will know involves Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. There are already structures in that region. AUKUS adds a new structure and a deeply intensified level of co-operation, on a scale that has not been seen before.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I warmly welcome the deepening of our defence and security relationships with our long-standing friends and allies, Australia and the United States, and the bipartisan support for that, not only here but in Australia. At its base, must not this agreement ultimately also be part of the defence not only of our interests but of the rules-based international order, democracy and human rights, and an alliance of democracies? Does the Prime Minister accept that foreign aid soft power is an important component of that too?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, it certainly is. That is why I think the UK can be very proud of the massive commitments that we make—£10 billion this year alone in official development assistance spending. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that this enhanced defence agreement between the UK, Australia and the US is founded on shared values.

Oral Answers to Questions

John Spellar Excerpts
Wednesday 21st April 2021

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let’s bring in the goalkeeper—John Spellar.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I shall decline that invitation, as a west midlands voter. The Prime Minister said earlier that he would use new freedoms to ensure that we buy British steel. Over the last year, the difficulties with PPE provision and vaccine production have demonstrated clearly the risks of neglecting British production capacity, let alone the impact on the prosperity and levelling-up agendas. So will the Prime Minister now instruct Government Ministers, civil servants and public bodies that when purchasing goods and services they must buy British first?

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, of course—look at what we are achieving. Since the PPE crisis began—since the pandemic began—we have turned things round. We have procured 32 billion items of PPE, and 85% of it can now be made in this country, which was completely impossible before the pandemic. Look at what is happening on vaccines: we have the Valneva factory in Scotland, and we have Novavax in Teesside, which is going to be absolutely indispensable for our future success. Those investments will not only help to protect our country against pandemics for the future but will help us to drive jobs and prosperity for the long term across the whole of the UK.

Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

John Spellar Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd March 2021

(10 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Let us be fair, this Budget does try to tackle some of the gross injustices that have plunged many families and small businesses into dire financial straits, often because they do not fit some neat and tidy category, especially freelancers and the self-employed. What they most want to do is to get back to work, and that, frankly, is why I was not only disappointed, but surprised that the Chancellor did not put much more emphasis on the successful roll-out of the vaccine and the health effects and opportunities that opens up.

Fairly or unfairly, that does give the impression that the Chancellor has lost the battle inside Government with the statistical modellers. The Government are seeming to move ever further away from risk management and towards risk avoidance and a belief in blanket bans, rather than seeing how different parts of society can be opened earlier to get the economy moving and people back into gainful and, from the Chancellor’s viewpoint, taxpaying employment.

Unfortunately, Whitehall now seems to be drifting back into its default setting of one-size-fits-all and the convoy having to move at the speed of the slowest ship. Either the Chancellor has lost the war for the Prime Minister’s ear or, like many Ministers and civil servants now, he seems to be focused more on how he will come out of the public inquiry than managing risk effectively. Harold Macmillan once said that the British public expect their Chancellors to be bishops or bookies, and I fear today that the Chancellor has revealed his inner bishop.

The vaccine roll-out programme provides an effective model for governance, and the Government should learn from that. It shows that the Government, the public sector, academia and industry can really work together, making decisions in real time and rapidly rolling them out, and that can transform the country. It should therefore be a learning experience and seen as a template, not just treated as a necessary exception to an outdated anti-Government agenda that has dominated this Government for so long.

The final point I want to address is related to Brexit. Why, when we are out of the EU, are the Government, surprisingly, accepting that we are still bound by its procurement straitjacket—more so, indeed, than many continuing EU members? Frankly, I do not understand it. The Business Secretary is holding talks with Vauxhall, but the local police forces do not buy its cars. We give grants to bus companies to buy Chinese buses. The MOD is still sorting out the fleet solid support. The Chancellor should have made it clear to Departments, the civil service, local councils and all public bodies that they should buy British first, get money moving and get the British economy in all parts of our country back together.

European Union (Future Relationship) Bill

John Spellar Excerpts
John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I will vote for the Bill, as the choice is stark and clear. The important question is: what do we do after Friday? That is when the real work will begin. Gaps have already been identified, including the situation with services, especially legal and financial services; the travel position of our huge cultural and arts sector, particularly our world-leading music industry; and the rules of origin for manufacturing, not least the motor industry, whose revival has driven the midlands engine.

I want to focus not on our relations with our neighbours but on how the British state will actually respond. The EU, imperfect as it is, has had to carry a considerable amount of the weight of our own errors. The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves. This applies both to doctrine, with the stubborn refusal of the civil service and Governments to behave as others do to benefit our industry and our people, and to chronic inefficiency and incompetency in implementation. The Prime Minister talked about free ports. Perhaps he should focus on getting his Transport Secretary to sort out the gridlock at our existing ports.

There has been a lot of talk today about fish, but as an MP whose constituency is probably as far as you can get from the sea, I want to focus on industry. The Prime Minister talked about state aid, regional policy and our great biomedical industry. It was not the EU but NHS bureaucracy that insisted on buying vaccines from abroad, which is why we have only limited capacity and have to import them. It is only now that we are belatedly recognising that and building a new plant. However, it will be not in the north-east, which was the alternative site for it, but in the overheated Oxfordshire area. Oxford scientists have performed magnificently, but we must break this obsession with the south and back the midlands, the north, the west, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It was not the EU that forced us to produce only 1% of personal protective equipment in the UK before the covid crisis, which led to shortages, eye-watering costs and endless scandals. It was not the EU that forced the Government to build the new Navy ships abroad or to use trains from Germany rather than Derby, buses from China rather than Ballymena or Falkirk, and police cars for the north-west from Korea rather than Ellesmere Port. It was our own misguided authorities.

In conclusion, from Monday, whether it is from ministerial offices, Whitehall, town halls or quangos, from boardroom to shop floor the message must be clear: “Back Britain or back off. Shape up or ship out.” Only that way can we make Britain great again.

Public Health

John Spellar Excerpts
Tuesday 1st December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

The Prime Minister talked about the virus being eradicated. Only one virus in history has been eradicated. Containment may well be the only option open to us.

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, completely right. Containment is the objective of the tiering scheme that the Government are announcing, and I hope the Opposition will support that tonight, in spite of what I gather is their decision to abstain, which seems extraordinary to me. We cannot simply allow the current restrictions to expire, for the reason he gives, with no replacement whatever. With the spread of the epidemic varying across the country, there remains a compelling case for regional tiers in England and, indeed, a compelling necessity for regional tiers.

--- Later in debate ---
John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) queried whether Manchester had been discriminated against, because Ministers considered the threat of 500,000 job losses in London and put it in tier 2. He seemed to be suggesting that London should have been put in a higher tier. I disagree. Frankly, Manchester and the midlands should have had the London criteria applied to them, taking account not only of medical evidence but of the risk to the economy, jobs and society.

Let us also not set up a false dichotomy between health and economic factors. We already do this. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence evaluates new treatments. It puts a value on those for each quality-adjusted life year—somewhere between £20,000 and £30,000 a year. We have seen no such analysis done with regard to the pandemic or suggested remedies.

The hon. Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) said that we have not had a proper impact assessment—absolutely right. Yesterday, we had a slightly odd and fairly insubstantial document produced by the Government. It does not really fit the bill; there must be some more rigorous analysis lurking somewhere in Whitehall. However, there were some nuggets in there. It refers to what is termed “economic scarring” as a result of the following:

“Deferred or cancelled investment in physical capital and lower innovation.

The destruction of valuable firm-specific capital and knowledge, due to business failures.

A loss of human capital due to sustained unemployment and changes to business models away from contact-intensive services.

Early retirement prompted by the pandemic.

Increased loss of days worked due to sick leave.”

Behind all those phrases are real human tragedies.

We also ought to be quite clear that the vaccine, while it is a huge breakthrough and enormously welcome—it is important; it is a great advance—is not a panacea, certainly not for a long time. Saying that we must vote for the regulations tonight because the vaccine is just around the corner is, frankly, the mañana option and I do not think it should be given serious consideration.

We have to move from risk avoidance, which seems to be the mark of this Government, to risk management. What we really need is a targeted approach based on robust evidence. The measures that need to be introduced, frankly, are not these. The case has not been made for these measures, and that is why I will vote against them tonight.

Integrated Review

John Spellar Excerpts
Thursday 19th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

If this boost for defence spending is the first fruits of the departure of Dominic Cummings, it is most welcome, especially in ensuring that we can continue to work effectively alongside our long-term allies and partners including the United States—even more so with the welcome arrival of President Biden. Will the Prime Minister ensure that, wherever possible, spending is directed to firms in the UK and that orders are pulled forward to get British industry moving? He can start with the fleet solid support ships by telling the Ministry of Defence to send out the invitations to bid not in some ill-defined spring as the MOD says, but early in 2021. That would be a welcome Christmas present and new year message not only for our shipyards but for our engineering and steel industries and their communities.

Boris Johnson Portrait The Prime Minister
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman speaks for many in what he says about the fleet solid support ships—he certainly speaks for me. This is a great moment for shipbuilding in this country. Be in no doubt of the ambition of my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary, the shipbuilding tsar who is now leading a renaissance in shipbuilding. I am sure he heard the right hon. Gentleman’s points loud and clear.

Parliamentary Constituencies Bill

John Spellar Excerpts
3rd reading & 3rd reading: House of Commons & Report stage & Report stage: House of Commons
Tuesday 14th July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020 - Government Bill Page View all Parliamentary Constituencies Debates Read Hansard Text
Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Quite the opposite: I am arguing that under the status quo the only blockage to the passing of a boundary review has been the Government, and they would, under this Bill, still have the power to put up the same block as they have the past two times that a boundary review has failed to go through this House. It is worth noting that if it was not for parliamentary oversight, we would have a 600-seat Parliament today. Perhaps that is an example of parliamentary scrutiny at its best.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is getting to the nub of the issue. The reason why the Government failed to put the past two boundary commission reviews to the House of Commons was that their stubbornness in sticking to 600 seats meant that they would not be carried. The fault lay with the Prime Minister rather than with the House of Commons. That is the real problem.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend made some thoughtful and interesting contributions in Committee and continues to do so on Report. The points he raised are entirely correct. The Government would do away with Parliament’s role in the process—a role that Parliament has always had. In short, the Bill removes the power from Parliament and hands it to the Executive. The Government’s justification for the change simply does not stack up. The Minister says that her Government are removing Parliament from the process to prevent delay and interference from MPs, but according to Professor Sir John Curtice—and who are we to challenge him?—delay and interference by the Executive will still be “perfectly possible”.

--- Later in debate ---
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are not really doing very well so far, are we? We will have another go at trying to stick to six minutes. John Spellar, I am sure, will do that.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

I shall certainly try, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Can we be frank? Boundary changes are a real nuisance, but a necessary nuisance. We all accept that they have to happen, even though they are a problem for Members of Parliament, and indeed for political organisations and often for constituents. Everyone accepts that; what people do not accept is gratuitous disruption, which is what we have had over the past 10 years.

Let us be clear about what the Bill is trying to do: it is trying to clear up the mess from the shoddy, squalid deal between David Cameron and Nick Clegg, into which they both put exercises for party political advantage. The Lib Dems thought that they would get proportional representation; the Tories thought that they would rig the redistribution process; and neither worked. One of the reasons why there was such opposition in Parliament, and why the changes were never put to Parliament, was precisely that the Government knew that they could not command a majority among their own Members, who recognised that. Several Chief Whips tried to persuade very stubborn Prime Ministers of that fact.

Why did the problems occur? Basically, the idea was fatally flawed, and it was made worse by the 5%. That rigid demarcation ended up forcing the Boundary Commission to make decisions and plans that made no sense on the ground. Take Birmingham: one ward was taken out of Sutton Coldfield, which has never accepted that it is part of Birmingham, and transferred to Birmingham, Erdington, while another ward was taken from Birmingham, Erdington and put into Sutton Coldfield. Nobody was happy with that, but it was forced on them by the narrow constraints. Similarly, my constituency, part of which is right up at the edge of Birmingham, was moved right the way through Sandwell and into Dudley town centre.

There was no coherence, no community, between them, and everybody recognised that. Another one went from the middle of Halesowen right the way in a strip across Birmingham, and that was replicated all around the country.

Mike Wood Portrait Mike Wood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Member will remember that the Halesowen and Selly Oak constituency was dropped by the Boundary Commission in its revised proposals. Does that not show how an independent Boundary Commission can respond well to reasoned arguments—rather better sometimes than parliamentarians?

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

Why did it come up with that in the first place when it was clearly such a dumb proposal? Parliament was the necessary corrective to this. It said: “This doesn’t work”, and by the way Conservative Members were still in a majority at the time. What’s even more extraordinary, in this Parliament, where the Government have a clear majority, they still do not believe they could carry the day with their own Members. There is a danger of that. There is a danger that the bureaucracy of the Boundary Commission will not pay regard to local sensitivities or communities and we will end up once again with boundaries of which Governor Gerry of Massachusetts, the founder of the gerrymander, would have been proud.

At the same time, it would be much better to go back to many of the basic principles, such as the principle, where possible, of not crossing borough or ward boundaries. In urban areas as well, these places form communities. The hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) is right about the size of some of the building blocks. That is why, within boroughs and other areas, people might have to accept some temporary disparity, but that might be a better than having one MP representing part of a particular ward and another representing the rest. Equally, there is the problem of orphan wards, which we have in many areas of the boundary review, whereby one ward is in a constituency in another borough. Inevitably, the focus of the Member of Parliament will be on the main borough. It is unnecessary and gratuitous.

It all depends on whether people believe, as I certainly do, and many Conservative Members do as well, in the fundamental principle of individual constituencies with individual Members of Parliament, not proportional list Members. If people think that Members of Parliaments’ connection to their constituencies does not matter, that is fine—just have a national list. I fundamentally do not believe that—and by the way nor did the British public when they voted it down in a referendum.

Let us be clear: we want to ensure that parliamentarians represent their constituencies and their constituency interests, and that is why we need a parliamentary override and a slightly wider area of discretion, so that anomalies can be properly dealt with and responded to, rather than the artificial constructs the Boundary Commission is forced into—maybe sometimes it goes into them a little too willingly—instead of looking at the interests of localities, particularly in urban areas.

Gareth Johnson Portrait Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was actually enjoying the speech from the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar), and I agreed with some of his points, but it is worth pointing out that the purpose of the original decision by David Cameron and Nick Clegg to reduce the number of constituencies was to reduce the cost of politics at the time. [Interruption.] That was the argument put forward. Then we had Brexit and so on, but I actually agree with the principle of 650 constituencies in the UK, because if we are not going to reduce the size of the Executive, it would create some disparity, so I welcome the changes.

I congratulate the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith), and all the members of the Bill Committee on their work. It can be a complicated matter on occasions. We must not lose sight of the basic principle behind the Bill, which is to ensure that each vote in the UK carries the same weight—that there is an equal suffrage. When someone casts their vote in the polling station at any election, they should be confident that their vote is just as valuable as anybody else’s. We therefore need boundary changes to take place, because there is an unacceptable disparity now.

I agree again with the right hon. Member for Warley that we as parliamentarians and constituency MPs do not like boundary changes, because we put a lot of investment, time and commitment into building up a relationship with our constituents, communities, villages and towns, and at a stroke of a pen the Boundary Commission can remove that connection that we have worked so hard on. In some ways, these changes are welcome, but in some ways they can be very difficult.

The main reason I wanted to speak in this debate is that, as sad as it may sound, I was looking through the Hansard reports of the Public Bill Committee and an awful lot was said about the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and its attitude towards the electoral quota and how much tolerance there should be between the size of different constituencies. I am the UK lead on the OSCE, and I have looked into what it actually said. For Members who are unaware of its work, the organisation sends election monitors to various countries around the world to ensure they are carried out in a fair, impartial and democratic way.

The OSCE does not have a view on whether there should be a 5% or a 7.5% tolerance in the electoral quota, but it is worth noting what it states in its “Guidelines for Reviewing a Legal Framework for Elections”. It states:

“Electoral constituencies should be drawn in a manner that preserves equality among voters. Thus, the law should require that constituencies be drawn in such a way that each constituency has approximately the same population size…The manner in which constituencies are drawn should not circumvent the principle of equal suffrage, which is a cornerstone of democratic elections.”

Gareth Johnson Portrait Gareth Johnson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

People have the option, if they want, to register to vote. That was made a very easy process by the previous Government, particularly through the actions of my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose), who was at pains to ensure that people found it very easy to register to vote. Of course, people have the right not to vote if they wish. I would argue that automatically assuming that somebody wants to vote is incorrect.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman read the Committee reports, but I am not sure he read my comments. I read out the OSCE’s recommendation that

“the maximum admissible departure from the distribution criterion…should seldom exceed 10 per cent”—

departure from the criterion would mean in either direction—

“and never 15 per cent, except in really exceptional circumstances”.

We were being quite modest; we were only asking for a 7.5% departure.

Gareth Johnson Portrait Gareth Johnson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I did read the right hon. Gentleman’s quote, and I have looked into exactly what that was. It was not the OSCE that said that, but the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. It is clear from the quote I gave and from what the Council of Europe has said that the further we move away from the median, and the greater tolerance we give to departures from it, the less weight there is to each individual vote and the more disparity there will be between constituencies.

If the House allows for 7.5% to be the maximum departure from the electoral quota, we would be saying that the size of an electorate can differ by 15 percentage points between individual constituencies. We would then be going down a road where people’s votes would not count the same, so I think new clause 1 should be rejected for that reason. The main reason we are having boundary changes is to ensure we do not have constituencies that are too large, and we have got constituencies that are too large. We also have constituencies that are too small, where people have a greater weight to their individual votes. I argue that we should reject the 7.5% proposal.

--- Later in debate ---
Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It will not surprise anybody that I rise in support of the Bill. The current boundaries of the parliamentary constituencies resulted from the fifth periodical review in Scotland. That was based on data gathered between 2001 and 2003, and completed in 2004. I was thinking about that earlier on, and I had a look at what was happening in 2004. What was in the news? Labour were seven years into a majority Government; the Hutton report was released; the European Union expanded, with 10 new countries joining; “Friends” aired for the final time—Rachel got off that plane; something called Facebook was launched at Harvard University, but I am sure it will never catch on; and Tony Blair banished—sorry, sent—Peter Mandelson to Brussels as our European Commissioner. It was a much simpler time. I was 17 and looking forward to my final year at school. My point is that this Bill is long overdue.

When the last Boundary Commission report altered the boundaries of West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine to their current state, the population in my constituency was just over 81,000. The population of West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine now stands at an estimated 97,041, which is an increase of 16,000. Interestingly, the electoral roll has also grown by about 10,000 in that period. That will come as no surprise to those of us who have witnessed the growth of Portlethen, Westhill and Banchory over this time.

This legislation and the resultant review are long overdue. The geography of many towns and settlements in my constituency has changed beyond all recognition, such has been the scale of house building over the past two decades, and that story is replicated in some form in every constituency across the United Kingdom. Constituencies are not stuck in aspic. People move, the economy evolves, and populations rise and fall, so it is welcome that the Bill requires the Boundary Commission to report every eight years from July 2023. We should never again be in a position where we wait what will be, by then, 19 years between reviews. Not, of course, that we have been waiting 19 years between reviews, because we all know that there have been various attempts and, indeed, various reports from the Boundary Commission between 2010 and now, but today I am glad that we will finally see progress and that in 2023 a report will be implemented.

There must be equal representation of all people in this place, wherever in the United Kingdom they live. Every vote should count the same. How can we have confidence that that will be the case? How do we know that Liberal Democrat shenanigans and parliamentary arithmetic will not get in the way of implementing the commission’s recommendations, as they have done in the past? [Interruption.] I will tell hon. Members why. It is because the single most important part of the Bill, clause 2, removes us MPs from the process. It is frankly ridiculous for MPs to vote on boundary changes. While I would never suggest that—

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will give way, but I am conscious of the time.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

Is he saying that Parliament has been ridiculous for almost the whole of its existence? What was wrong with Parliament being involved in the final stage?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would never suggest that anybody who was in Parliament for all those years was in any way acting ridiculously, and I do not think that it was ridiculous, but it was quite clear that none of the commission’s reports would ever be implemented. The parliamentary arithmetic prevented them from being implemented, whenever it was attempted to do so.

--- Later in debate ---
Cherilyn Mackrory Portrait Cherilyn Mackrory (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This Bill is all about creating fair and proper representation in this House for everyone in the United Kingdom. Although there are many local challenges, we should be proud that the Bill aims to achieve just that, and for that reason I very much welcome it.

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 put in place processes to reduce the number of MPs in this House from 650 to 600. In Cornwall, the number of MPs would have been reduced from six to five and a bit. Reducing the number of MPs in that way meant that it was highly unlikely that the boundary of Cornwall would be respected, but that a cross-border constituency formed of towns and parishes in both Devon and Cornwall could and would be created. When the Boundary Commission for England published its proposals for the new constituency boundaries, it produced a parliamentary seat that quickly acquired the nickname of “Devonwall”, which naturally caused considerable upset in Cornwall and a bit of damage to Cornish pride. I tried at the time to argue that it was the start of a takeover, but the commission was not buying it.

Cornwall is a historic nation with its own traditions, its own heritage and its own language, and in 2014 the Cornish people became protected through the Council of Europe’s framework convention for the protection of national minorities. I am happy to say that because of this Bill, the cross-border issue appears to have been rectified for now, and I am grateful to the Bill Committee.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

Can the hon. Lady see the logical inconsistency? Had the provisions of the Bill about automaticity gone through, there would not have been any way of stopping that; they would have gone through, and Cornwall would have been disadvantaged under precisely that rule.

--- Later in debate ---
Maria Miller Portrait Mrs Miller
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Ben Lake). I am pleased to hear his support for my old new clause 10, which now makes up clause 7 in the Bill. I think he will find that his amendment was what we call technically defective. However, it is good to hear his support.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to this group of amendments on Report, but before I do that, it says it all when Labour characterises boundary changes, as the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar) did, as unnecessary nuisances. The Bill is all about the quality of our democracy. Fair and equal-sized constituencies are at the heart of it.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Maria Miller Portrait Mrs Miller
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Gentleman has had quite a lot of giving way. I am not giving way.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) attributed a statement to me that is not actually what I said. I therefore seek the opportunity to correct that.

--- Later in debate ---
Maria Miller Portrait Mrs Miller
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I actually wrote it down—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman needs to check Hansard.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - -

You got it wrong! I said “a necessary”, not “unnecessary”.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has put his views on the record, but he really must not interrupt in that way.