All Rachel Hopkins contributions to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020

Tue 10th November 2020
Parliamentary Constituencies Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments
Ping Pong
Ping Pong: House of Commons
Leader of the House
3 interactions (640 words)
Tue 14th July 2020
Parliamentary Constituencies Bill
Commons Chamber

3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage
Report stage: House of Commons
Report stage
Cabinet Office
3 interactions (345 words)
Tue 2nd June 2020
Parliamentary Constituencies Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading
2nd reading: House of Commons
Money resolution: House of Commons
Programme motion: House of Commons
2nd reading
Cabinet Office
3 interactions (675 words)

Parliamentary Constituencies Bill

(Consideration of Lords amendments)
Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Tuesday 10th November 2020

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Leader of the House
Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell). I send my good wishes to the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, the hon. Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith).

I listened with great interest and, dare I say it, increasing incredulity to the speech by the Leader of the House, particularly his comments on the appointment of the Boundary Commission, given the context of the vote that we are to have tonight on the Committee on Standards, but also events surrounding the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the appointment of the Chair of the Liaison Committee, the appointment of the chief executive of Track and Trace and the role of Kate Bingham; the list is endless. I appreciate, however, that there is a long-overdue need for us to review the boundaries. The 2011 proposals were made by a coalition Government under the leadership of David Cameron, but I never understood the desire to reduce the number of Members of Parliament from 650 to 600 while increasing the number of unelected Members in the other place to around 800 to 850—I do not quite get that, in terms of the argument around democracy.

Given the time, I want to focus on Lords amendments 7 and 8. Amendment 7 is about the deviation from quota from 5% to 7%. I would stress—as has been done widely around the House, certainly by Members on the Opposition side of the Chamber—the importance of community and identity, and relations between those communities.

Warwick and Leamington is a very good example. When the previous review was undertaken, there were moves to divide the constituency, so that Warwick would become part of a constituency with Stratford, and Leamington would become part of a constituency with Kenilworth. If you knew the geography, you would say that Warwick and Leamington were twinned; they are close relations. There is a symbiosis between those two towns that makes them mutually dependent. That desire to change the boundaries would have driven those closely linked towns apart.

The Council of Europe, through the Venice Commission, said that the standard permissible tolerance should be plus or minus 10%. I believe that is crucial in understanding the communities that we represent, because that is what it is about—the people, and how they have formed communities. The 5% rule creates too small a tolerance to take account of that. Written evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee’s inquiry noted that the 5% rule caused huge disruption. It noted that the reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600 was not a cause of substantial disruption, but it was mostly

“caused by the introduction of the uniform national quota and the 5% tolerance.”

In the study of the 2013 review, the Committee found that the easing of the tolerance to 7% to 9% gave the commissioners much more flexibility.

Looking at Wales, which has perhaps the most constituencies to lose, the topography and the geography are critical. They shape our communities. They shape our economies. It is impossible to understand that when you are looking, perhaps, at the levels of Somerset or at cities such as London—the way in which those community ties are formed. The right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) cited Rhondda at 50,000, but we really do have to revisit how the communities, say in the valleys, are formed. They face one way. They are discrete, distinct communities. We must not mess with the arbitrary and artificial association. You only have to look at the US congressional districts to see exactly what that means.

Finally, I commend Lords amendment 8, which perhaps we might refer to as the Lord Shutt amendment, and the work that went into it. We must connect with young people. They are so disillusioned by democracy. We must use this opportunity to drive young people’s engagement with the political process, That is why that amendment is fundamentally important, and why I shall vote for it.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
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10 Nov 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I will make a few final comments, because many have been made in the Chamber today. The effectiveness and legitimacy of the democratic process is contingent on the public’s confidence in the processes and the commitment of elected representatives to upholding its principles. So I agree that a boundary review must go ahead, as the current constituency boundaries are two decades old, but it is crucial that the review strengthens the functioning of democracy. Lords amendments 7 and 8 are important steps forward in defending and advancing the key principles of representation and voting rights in our democratic process.

I reiterate the important point that I and many others made on Second and Third Reading of the Bill, and here today, that the Government could still change course on amendment 7, which would widen the variance from quota from 5% to 7.5%. As a boundary geek, having worked for the Local Government Commission on ward boundaries, I have done the work of trying to make good boundaries. A strict 5% inhibits the ability of the Boundary Commission to invoke common sense when devising constituencies that protect local ties, reflect local authority boundaries and recognise natural topography, as has been said. Whether it is hills, valleys and rivers, or motorways, main roads and green space, it is really important that we take all of this into account when creating good constituencies to represent our communities.

From my work experience, I understand how the public respond to well-made and to poor boundaries, but it is not just the boundaries: as I understand it, it is also sensible and coherent constituencies that recognise local ties, as against those that look strange, that are strange and that do not reflect community ties. Giving that little extra leeway will give the Boundary Commission greater scope accurately to group community identities, connections and geographical areas. It is not just to do with the fairness of the vote. We also need to talk about the fairness of the representation when we are elected, recognising, for example, how much more difficult it is for Members in the valleys of Wales to get around their constituencies compared with those in a condensed urban constituency such as my own.

The Government have recognised the principle of flexibility in the arrangements that have been made for Isle of Wight and Ynys Môn. I hope that that could be recognised further in creating good constituencies, so we could adopt that slightly higher flexibility to avoid the ratcheting effect, as I call it—or, as it was nicely put earlier today, “the butterfly effect”—where just one constituency could have that extra tolerance. It is important to avoid a number of constituencies not accurately reflecting their constituents.

I also wish to speak in favour of Lords amendment 8. Much has been said about the fact that turnout is healthy for our democracy, which I agree with, and that the ability to vote is a right, not a privilege. Improving the completeness of electoral registers by enabling the Government to ask local authority registration officers to add 16-year-olds to the electoral register when they get their NI number, or ensuring that they are provided with information on how to apply to join the electoral register would be a significant step forward in expanding voter registration and would enable greater participation among young voters. Although the Government are not willing to do the right thing and introduce votes at 16, which I am in favour of, improving voter registration for young voters is a basic, non-controversial change, which could see a vital increase in the number of young people voting. I hasten to add that, when others tell me not to do something, I often think there must be something in it. So, young people, think about why they do not want to encourage you to be on the electoral register.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I begin by thanking the hon. Member for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins). It is an absolute pleasure to follow her. I used to find that I was very often in agreement with her distinguished father on matters relating to the European Union, though it has to be said not on anything else. I thank all Members who have contributed to this debate on their lordships’ amendments. It has been a pleasure to be part of this important Bill, and I am very grateful for all the kind words that have been said about my hon. Friend the Minister for the Constitution. I will ensure that a copy of Hansard is sent to her so that she knows how highly respected and valued she is both as a Member of this House and as a Minister.

I also spoke on Second Reading, and both then and now, it has been a genuine pleasure to hear about the constituencies of hon. Members. In particular, I noted the plea from the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western), who basically said that he loved his constituency and likes it as it is. I think that many Members across the House have huge sympathy with that view. It makes these types of debate extremely difficult for us, because all of us have an enormous affection for the places that we represent and we have incredible ties to them. I did not agree with all of his speech, but I must confess that I sympathised very much with the bit when he was praising his own area. However, this Bill will meet the Government’s manifesto commitment to have updated and equal parliamentary boundaries, and I am glad to see that it has broad support across the House, even though there are differences over some of the details.

If I may come to those, I will not try to repeat the points that I covered in my opening remarks, in the interests of time, but the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith)¸ made a point about young registration. I would point out that we have seen a significant number of 18 to 24-year-olds register since online registration came in, with 8 million of them taking the opportunity of that.

The hon. Lady referred to the appointment of the deputy chairmen. It is worth reiterating that they are High Court judges anyway, so their independence has already been proved at the earlier appointment. I do not think we need have any worry about their continued independence. The hon. Lady also accused the Government of appointing a crony as the BBC chairman. As the appointment has not yet been made, I am not sure how we can have appointed the crony, unless the hon. Lady is accusing the Government of being Billy No Mates, which may possibly be the case, because no appointment has been made.

The hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden), as always, made an extremely charming and well-informed speech, with his one aim clearly in sight. His one aim is, of course, the independence of Scotland. That is his view; that is what he campaigns for. I fundamentally disagree with him, but he always puts his case elegantly and in the best traditions of this House. I just remind him that there are particular protections for Scotland, with the regulations relating to constituencies over 5,000 square miles and, of course, the protection of the constituency of Na h-Eileanan an Iar. I think that should be in entrenched legislation to keep the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) safely in this House, as he is a great figure and contributor to our debates. I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I did not notify the hon. Gentleman that I was going to mention him, but I hope he will not mind.

I am also relieved that the hon. Member for Glasgow East, when he read out at the end of his speech my words on an earlier occasion, had not looked through my speeches on the parliamentary constituencies Bill when it was passing through the House in 2010 and 2011 and did not quote those back at me. That might have been rather more embarrassing.

I come to the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar) and the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). I am afraid I think they should stand for election to the House of Representatives, because they seem more interested in American politics than in British politics. Fascinating though that is, this House is concerned with the politics of the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for North East Fife (Wendy Chamberlain) is not in her place, but she made the point that there will be an extensive change with the 5% level. That is inevitable because this change has been so long delayed. English constituencies are based on the register for 2000 and therefore are 20 years out of date. She made the very fair point that the difference between 5% and 7.5% is a variation on a theme, which is why I think we can reasonably, as a House, agree on 5%. It is a matter of getting the balance right. I think 5% is reasonable.

If I may come to my hon. and right hon. Friends, a number of them—my right hon. Friends the Members for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) and for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke) and my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson)—raised the issue of ward divisions. It is important to note that the Boundary Commission—the independent Boundary Commission—has the ability to use smaller areas, and therefore if it wants to use smaller areas to meet the 5% requirement, it will be able to do so.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke asked the specific question whether, basically, the Boundary Commission will have to follow the law, to which the answer is of course yes, it will have to follow the law, although in doing so it is independent. She also pointed out that Lords amendment 7 basically seeks to undermine the principle of the Bill by widening it, and if we end up widening it too much, we get away from what we are trying to achieve.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Tom Randall) made a telling point about the different purpose of data that has been collected. Suddenly using it for one thing rather than another raises all sorts of problems. He also kindly pointed out that the deputy chairmen are already impartial judges, which I reiterate because it is fundamental to the fairness of this process.

My hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton made, I must confess, both a wise and entertaining speech and noted the partisanship of some of the amendments. I must confess that we have seen through the Opposition’s tricks and noted that the amendments are partisan, and that is why we will have pleasure in voting against them. Let us be honest about it: the Opposition know they are partisan too, but they felt they had to make some complaints on a principle—that we should have equal seats—that most people across the House agree with.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) pointed out the size of his own constituency and the right of people to choose whether they participate in the electoral process or not. Of course that is a freedom that we have.

I loved the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden) that we should follow Malta, and we must—what a great thing to do. Malta is a wonderful place, and one thinks of its fantastic history in surviving not one but two sieges, one in the 16th century and one in the 20th century. I will not say the joke about making a Maltese cross, Madam Deputy Speaker, as you might think it out of order, and it is very old and hackneyed.

Parliamentary Constituencies Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Tuesday 14th July 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
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I rise to speak to new clauses 1 and 3. New clause 1 is perhaps the biggest piece of contention on both sides of the House. When I read through the Bill Committee’s proceedings, I noticed that at the very start and the very end—in sittings one and eight—the Opposition Front-Bench spokesperson really pushed the point about 5% versus 7.5%. I cannot understand how the Labour party, which historically has campaigned for one person, one vote, can now be campaigning for something that would make that less likely. It is totally logical to want as small a variant as possible between populations.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) talked about wards being the building blocks of our communities. I totally disagree with the point, which he made in an intervention, that church halls and polling districts are not the building blocks. Church halls are the heart of communities in our constituencies; they are were people gather, where the scouts and brownies go, where people have coffee mornings, and so on. They are the building blocks of our communities, and the Bill should be based on them, not on arbitrary boundaries.

I actually agreed with the hon. Member on his point about looking at wards more generally. I would be very much in favour of single member wards. Some parts of my constituency have one member, while some people are represented by three councillors. It is bizarre that in one part of my constituency someone can ask three people to represent me, but in another part only one. We dealt with that in this place in the 1950s. I think we could deal with it on a council level as well and would support any moves the Government make in that direction.

The switch to 7.5% is not a price worth paying to keep wards together. On that point, there is a fundamental disagreement between the two sides of the House. I am very happy to go with polling districts. I listened to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory), who is the co-chair with me on the all-party group on local democracy. We represent a lot of town and parish councils. Such things are much more important and should be recognised where possible. If the Minister could speak to that, it would be really helpful. I generally agree also with my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), who is not in his seat, about this obsession with metropolitan wards being large contiguous units. It is not true. Some of these wards have 15,000 or 20,000 people in them. They are not one community and could easily be divided up.

On new clause 3, the hon. Member for North East Fife (Wendy Chamberlain) mentioned this idea that we should want to try to estimate things. I remember what happened to her colleague, the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), in the 2017 general election. The Lib Dem counters on election night mis-estimated his votes and thought he was about to lose, which was why they left him in a car park for several hours when he was leader of the party. We should not bring estimates into this. The current situation is sensible. The electoral roll has been the basis for some time and is the right basis.

In conclusion, I urge hon. Members to support the Government today and back this excellent Bill, which is not before time.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
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I speak in this debate with previous experience of the process of making electoral boundaries. As I referred to on Second Reading, I used to work for the Local Government Boundary Commission for England on periodic electoral reviews of local government boundaries, and I must declare an interest: some of my friends and colleagues moved on to work more recently for the Boundary Commission for England on parliamentary reviews.

I am pleased the Government have accepted our call to scrap the plan to cut the number of MPs to 600. A reduction would have weakened the role of Parliament to the benefit of the Executive, and recently we have seen the value and importance of a breadth of scrutiny of Government during the covid-19 pandemic. I am pleased also that the numeration date changed to 2 March 2020 to ensure maximum reflection of the electorate, rather than one impeded by covid-19.

I still have concerns, however, about the Government’s intention to remove parliamentary scrutiny from the boundary review process and the imposition of a restrictive electoral quota, so I am speaking strongly in favour of amendment 1, to remove clause 2, and of new clause 1, both tabled in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. Effective democracy is reliant on transparency and public confidence in the structures and processes, so removing parliamentary scrutiny and approval of the structure from the process raises questions about the integrity of our democracy. It would give the Government of the day unequal influence over the process, but the most important point is the one made very eloquently put by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle). The point about democracy is that our constituents can hold us to account for the decisions we make, and the proposal takes that away.

The Government’s intention to impose a 5% electoral quota will have a detrimental impact on the democratic representation of our communities.

Flexibility must be central to our boundary review system in order to recognise community identities and connections, and to facilitate the accurate representation of different geographical areas.

From my experience of boundary making, I have an informed understanding of how the public responds to well-made and poor boundaries, or should I say, sensible and coherent constituencies that reflect local community identity and ultimately make sense locally, and those that do not. A 5% electoral quota will restrict the Boundary Commission’s ability to construct constituencies that protect local ties, reflect local authority boundaries and recognise the natural topography of rural and urban areas. The statistical difference in size of constituencies is marginal, but the positive impact that it will have on the functioning of our democracy is overwhelming. It would help to reduce the ratcheting effect where, to be within the tolerance of the quota, an amendment is made to one constituency which has a significant knock-on effect across multiple constituencies, resulting in a poorer sense of community identity in many constituencies simply to avoid a single constituency having only a few hundred more or fewer votes. I urge the Minister to reflect on that and agree that, in certain circumstances, it is more important that people who have common interests and live in a common identifiable community are kept together, rather than divided in order to meet these very tight constraints on the size of constituencies.

Parliamentary Constituencies Bill

(2nd reading)
Rachel Hopkins Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd June 2020

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
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I am delighted to have the opportunity to say a few words in this important debate. I have been privileged to be involved in Bexley borough since 1983, as the MP for Erith and Crayford until 1987 and for Bexleyheath and Crayford since 2005. I have seen many boundary changes, and I know how difficult they are for communities and for Members of Parliament, as well as how difficult they are administratively.

Our 2019 Conservative party manifesto pledged to ensure that

“we have updated and equal Parliamentary boundaries, making sure that every vote counts the same”.

That is surely a cornerstone of our democracy, and frankly, we need to get on with this. I welcome the fact that the Government are delivering on their promise, and this Bill has my strong support. It is necessary, it is sensible, and it is important. I was disappointed with the comments from Labour Members, because there are basic principles that they support. They can discuss and debate some minor areas of the Bill in Committee, but I was disappointed that they could not give their total support to the principle.

The last boundary review proposed reducing the number of seats to 600. I believe that that was arbitrary tokenism, rather than valuable to democracy. With Britain now thankfully having come out of the European Union, we have more work to do as Members of Parliament. The Government’s decision to maintain 650 seats is therefore a good one, and I strongly support it.

A reduction in the number of seats would also have meant that communities were split up, as I said in my intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson), which is not good for representation. My constituency in the Borough of Bexley is a collection of small towns—Bexleyheath, Welling, Crayford, Erith and Slade Green. Those communities are valued and supported by residents, local businesses and community activists. Historical and community ties matter. The boundary commissions must make those a top priority, because together with the numbers, the community interest is so important.

I welcome the fact that there will be an electoral quota. Whether it is 5% or 7.5% is something we need to discuss, and I am sure the Leader of the House will take that on board when the Bill goes into Committee. I think 5% is fine, but we can debate these things. I also believe that we need to have the most up-to-date electorate possible, to ensure that we are not looking at out-of-date registers for the size of constituencies, as we have too often in the past. That is sensible.

In terms of the review process and what the Minister said about the initial consultation period, it is good that the public hearings will be after the second proposals, which gives more time for constituents, community groups and other organisations to give feedback to the commissions before the final recommendations.

This is a good Bill, and we need to get on with it. It is a Bill that improves democracy. Change is often difficult for all of us, but it is important that this Bill goes through, that we get down to some business and that we implement our manifesto commitment. I give this Bill my wholehearted support and look forward to its passage through the House.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
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2 Jun 2020, midnight

I am pleased to be able to speak in this debate, as electoral boundaries have a special place in my heart—not just as a newly elected MP, but as someone whose career prior to being elected to Parliament included a thoroughly enjoyable stint some 20 years ago working for the Local Government Commission for England on periodic electoral reviews of local government boundaries. I am still friends with many of the other boundary geeks who worked there, and it is right that I declare an interest in that some of those friends and colleagues moved on to work more recently for the Boundary Commission for England on parliamentary reviews.

It would be remiss of me not to mention or thank all the hard-working electoral administrators working across our local authorities. Good democracy requires good administration, and it is important to recognise the immense efforts that many of these officers continue to make to ensure that all our constituents are accurately and appropriately registered to vote and that elections are well run and within the law—all against a backdrop of ever diminishing council budgets during the decade of austerity.

I speak in this debate with some experience of the process of making boundaries and an understanding of the public’s response to both well made and poor boundaries, and as a politician with a keen eye on the outcome of any boundary changes for the length of time I may have to serve in this place. However, I want to focus on the first two points in supporting the reasoned amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith). First, the legitimacy of our democracy rests on public confidence in the process as much as in the outcome. As part of that, the process of making boundaries must be as transparent as possible so that the public can have as much ownership of the structures of elections as of the outcome. For this reason, I believe that the removal of parliamentary approval from the process is a backward step. Parliamentary scrutiny of any proposals ensures transparency of the process within the public domain and avoids any perceptions, right or wrong, of power grabs by the Executive.

Secondly, I welcome the Minister’s comments about the proposed enumeration date being set at 1 December 2020, but I recognise that the annual canvass for the electoral register this year in late summer or autumn is likely to be significantly impacted by coronavirus. If the electoral register for December 2019 is to be looked at, she might also want to look at the ONS figures, which stated that almost 500,000 people joined the register between 1 December and 12 December, so it will be really important to get accurate data.

My final point is about the variance from the electoral quota. This can have a detrimental impact on the representation of communities and on effective administration, as has already been said. If the number of MPs is fixed and the electoral quota is fixed, the only element of flexibility to support community identity and community connections is the percentage variance from the quota. That can be reflected in whether it is moved further away to 7.5% or 10%, which is something that can be debated. It can also reflect the topography in more rural areas, and it can help to better reflect the community connections in urban areas. The numbers are quite small when we look at them in the round. Finger in the air, if the quota is around 73,000, a 5% variance would give around 3,500 electors. A 7.5% variance would be around 5,500 electors. That is not much of a difference. In fact, people in this Chamber have smaller majorities than that. Maybe that is why they want to stick with the 5%. Some would say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but I would suggest that greater flexibility in the quota helps to create better constituencies by providing for better community identity and connections with constituencies, and by ensuring greater public buy-in to any proposals.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con)
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2 Jun 2020, 12:06 a.m.

The imperative to review our boundaries is absolutely essential now. We are talking about an electoral register of 20 years ago. I know that every Member of the House will agree that it is time to get this job done, and I commend the Government for moving forward on this as fast as possible. The Bill will create a new political map for the United Kingdom that will see us through at least the next two general elections, but there is one area that needs to change, and I will focus my remarks on that.

We have an opportunity to create not only 650 constituencies based on equal numbers, but ones that are based around actual towns, communities and places of genuine social, historical, geographical and cultural connections, giving greater recognition to local ties, which unfortunately the current system often prevents. The cause of this is simple. It is the lack of flexibility that results from rigidly using whole local government wards as the main building blocks, when smaller building blocks such as polling districts could be used instead. I commend the Boundary Commission for its independence, but apart from a few exceptions, its unwillingness to divert from using entire wards instead of smaller areas such as polling districts leads to unnecessary changes and upheavals, mass confusion and people who are accustomed to being in one constituency suddenly finding themselves being transferred to an area with which they have much less or no connection. We often see communities divided as a result, and a loss of local identity.

The dismay people feel when they are shunted from their traditional constituency into another one, from which they feel totally disconnected, is damaging to our democracy, as is the failure to have continuity of elected representation. I therefore say to the Lord President of the Council, who is in his place, that I hope the Boundary Commission will be willing to include parts of wards and make smaller, incremental changes that still meet the requirements of the Bill, but make larger changes much less likely and allow communities to unite within one constituency.

It is wrong to force communities to go through massive upheavals when small changes can satisfy the numbers within the scope of the Bill, and prevent a radical and unwelcome change for both constituents and the Member of Parliament, who may have spent many years looking after a community and become familiar to local people. I could provide many examples of that. In the Rush Green community in my constituency, 3,000 people from a polling district could have been moved into the area. Instead, the Boundary Commission chose to bring in an entire ward, dividing up other communities. That approach has to change.

The Boundary Commission needs to review the way it does things to make them more sensible and more community-orientated, while keeping within the numbers set out by the Government in the Bill. This really does matter. I hope the Government will use their influence to ensure that a more flexible approach is used and mandate the Boundary Commission to alter its criteria to allow judgments based on local ties, using smaller areas, polling districts or even a road or a house if it means a smaller area being moved to meet the criteria. It could ensure that we avoid communities being broken up and avoid the radical upheavals that have caused so much unnecessary division in previous boundary reviews.

One final request: one more MP, for Gibraltar, please. They have asked for it. Let us have one more MP.