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Lord Bruce of Donington: On the basis of such research as I have been able to undertake, it seems to me that it is going to make very little difference to the final membership whatever the size of the new constituencies and their total representation. The South West division has seven Members; the South East has 11 and the North East four Members, giving divisors of eight, 12 and five respectively. Taking the results of the proportion of votes cast at the last European elections and those cast in the constituency elections to Westminster, the result will not be very different.

In the South West constituency, based on the results of the 1994 European elections, Labour would have five seats, the Conservatives two and the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and others would have nil. On the basis of the Westminster election results, apportioning percentage-wise the votes gained by the respective parties, once again the divisor would be eight and there would be seven Members. That would yield the result of four Labour Members and three Conservative Members. There is not a very great difference between those two results.

I turn now to the South East and North East constituencies. It is surprising that once again the results do not differ. Labour would have seven Members and the Conservatives four in the first example and in the second, Labour would have three Members and the Conservatives one. The results do not differ materially.

However, it is a bit depressing--since the impact of the figures first struck me only when I had them calculated--that if any party gets below about 16 per cent. of the vote it has no representation at all. I did not realise that when the Bill was first published. Therefore, on the basis of the same electoral percentages, party-wise in both the last European elections and in the 1993 Westminster parliamentary elections, the result would be very little difference in the number of Members per party. As I have said, it is depressing that a party with less than 16 per cent. of the vote will not get a say, whatever the distribution. I sincerely hope that that was considered when the existing calculation proposals were first incorporated into the Bill. This certainly worries me; I do not know whether it worries my party.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Amendment No. 42 is in a different category from Amendments Nos. 43 and 44

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which go together. Amendment No. 42 seeks to insert the word "county" instead of "unitary authority". If that were to be the position, the table would be wholly meaningless. The Bill specifies geographical areas. A unitary authority does not refer to a geographical area; it refers to the body which administers a particular area. It is right to refer to the "County of Derby" as that is a geographical area. It is administered by the Derby unitary authority, which is now separate from the county of Derbyshire. As drafted, the Bill is correct. The term "unitary authority" does not relate to a geographical area.

The noble Lord, Lord Henley, did not quite strangle Amendments Nos. 43 and 44 at birth, but he abandoned them very shortly after birth. As the noble Lord rightly confessed, the result of his provisions would be a region comprising three Members, which the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, has assured us is much too small. There would have to be a minimum of four Members if it were to be at all proportional. There would be a vast region of 26 Members if we adopted Amendment No. 43 or of 16 Members if we accepted Amendment No. 44. It is true that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, did not dwell on those delights and I must therefore reciprocate and not pour any further scorn upon them. Amendment No. 42 is not necessary. I do not believe that the noble Lord intends to move Amendments Nos. 43 and 44.

Lord Henley: I am grateful for the noble Lord's explanation. I imagine that it will be news to the unitary authorities that they are not geographical areas. However, if they are not geographical areas, I do not know what they are, but that is for them to worry about. I shall take in good part the noble Lord's assurance that my amendment is unnecessary and, as I have said, I shall not press my simple, neat, little drafting amendment.

As regards the other two amendments, as I said, I shall want to return to this matter at a later stage with revised versions of the amendments--versions that do not include regions as small as those having only three Members. As I am sure that the noble Lord will be the first to appreciate, getting this right is a difficult art. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, referred to the possibility of placing Cumbria within the constituency of the North East and thus increasing the number of MEPs in that region from four to five which would obviously improve one's chances of getting some degree of proportionality. As I understand it, however, if the area of Cumbria were to be included in the North East constituency not enough people would be transferred into the North East constituency to increase its Members from four to five. At the moment, Cumbria is only six-ninths of a European parliamentary constituency--in other words, Cumbria plus three other parliamentary constituencies comprise the existing European parliamentary constituency. Therefore, one would have to start transferring other areas into that North East constituency.

If, at the same time, one was trying to create a community of interest within that area or region--or whatever one wants to call it--one would have even

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greater problems. I can speak about Cumbria with authority. The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, said that Cumbria's links are obviously with the North West and follow the west coast mainline and the M.6. That is true, but north of Shap, people look to Newcastle whereas south of Shap, people look to Manchester--or even to Warrington, if I may dare say that to the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle. There is a division between the two. It would be difficult to find the right constituency into which to transfer the electors of Cumbria. I imagine that that could be true of all areas.

Therefore, I suggest that it is not necessary to look for a particular community of interest within any particular region, desirable though that may be, and that one should simply try to make the constituencies the right size, with the right number of electors and Members. We do not want to see these regions being used and being given greater validity and greater authority so that it can later be argued that it is appropriate that those are the areas that should be used for the regional parliaments, regional assemblies, or whatever.

As I said, I have no intention of moving Amendments Nos. 43 and 44, but this is a matter to which I intend to return later. Meanwhile, I thank the noble Lord for his assurances about the undesirability of including the words "unitary authority". I hope that the unitary authorities will be happy with the noble Lord's expressed view that they are not geographical entities. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 42.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 43 to 45 not moved.]

The Earl of Dartmouth moved Amendment No. 45A:

Page 7, line 41, column 3, leave out ("7") and insert ("8").

The noble Earl said: I am conscious that I shall probably be trespassing on the goodwill of the Committee in moving this amendment. However, the anomaly in the Bill which I am seeking to draw to the Government's attention is of significant concern to people living in the region of Yorkshire and Humberside. Earlier in our Committee proceedings, I disclosed my interest in that region in the European elections and in the system of election which appertains thereto.

The Yorkshire and Humberside region covers nearly 6,000 square miles. It contains large areas of social deprivation, especially in the former urban county of South Yorkshire, 85 per cent. of which has development area or enterprise zone status. Even taking the region as a whole, it has a per capita income of only about nine-tenths of the European Union average. However, under the schedules to the Bill, of all the regions in the United Kingdom, Yorkshire and Humberside has the largest number of electors per Member of the European Parliament. Perhaps I may make the same point in a more telling way: Yorkshire and Humberside has the smallest number of MEPs--namely; seven--allocated to it in relation to its electoral population of 3.8 million. The purpose of this amendment is to correct that

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injustice. In so doing the noble Lord the Minister will earn the lasting gratitude of people resident in Yorkshire and Humberside. I beg to move.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The noble Earl makes me an offer that I cannot refuse except with difficulty. This matter develops from the scheme I sought to set out earlier. The number of seats to which the United Kingdom is entitled is fixed. We are entitled to 87 Members--incidentally, the same as Italy and France--and no more. If we give the Yorkshire and Humberside region, which the noble Earl contends is presently a disfavoured region, one extra MEP, that MEP must be taken from another region. Someone more unkind than I may invite the noble Earl to specify which region should give up the prize of an MEP to be transferred to Yorkshire and Humberside. I am far too kind to ask that question.

England has 71 of the 87 MEPs. Schedule 1 sets out the arithmetical mechanistic calculation which the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, has accurately described. We have sought to get the ratio of electors to MEP as nearly as possible the same for each region. That calculation can only ever produce one result. Yorkshire and Humberside would be over-represented if I took the route that the noble Earl invites me to take. I hope that I have explained the position fairly. I shall not ask the noble Earl to specify the happy candidate that must give up one MEP.

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