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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I am very impressed by that, but we are talking about a clause which deals with Scottish representation at Westminster where we do not have regional representation. We are actually talking about the House of Commons.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: During this interregnum perhaps I may point out that I do not believe that the Minister was talking about the regional seats, but of the regional balance within Scotland. He was quite legitimately making the point that the rural areas of Scotland have, on the whole, a lower quota of members per constituency than urban areas and I thought that a fair point. Perhaps if he finishes with it we can get on with the next amendment.
Lord Monro of Langholm: Perhaps the noble Lord can answer one question. There is obviously great concern in the House about the delay in redrawing the boundaries for Westminster. He has made his case that there is not time to do it. Can he ask the chairman of the Boundary Commission between now and Report stage whether she can carry it out in good time for the next election?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: If it were not for the fact that there are many important things to be done, we could go on discussing this matter for some time. I believe that we were in total confusion, as the Minister will discover when he reads what he said. I accept that the changes in Clause 81 as regards Westminster will have a knock-on effect for the Scottish parliament. That is a point that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and myself do not like at all. But it starts off by having an effect at Westminster because of a re-drawing of the Westminster constituency boundaries. When that is done the argument about regional representation on the second vote does not exist. It is not relevant at all.
I hope that the Minister did not really believe the argument that he was asked to put forward. I think that that is the kindest thing I can say. He made no attempt to address my Glasgow-Edinburgh point. There can be absolutely no argument, on any of the grounds he mentioned, for creating seats of very different sizes. There can be no argument between Edinburgh and
Lord Sewel: At this stage it would be appropriate if the noble Lord paused and reflected on what he said about the Boundary Commission--a major slur on the way in which an independent and respected body has carried out a difficult job. I have been involved in appeals before the Boundary Commission and the outcome has not always gone the way I would have liked. I would certainly not make the accusation that it has run scared as a result of any political fear or pressure. It is important, when we have independent bodies such as the Boundary Commission charged with doing difficult jobs, that we do not undermine their authority and impartiality. I hope that the noble Lord will reflect on what he said.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I shall reflect on it. My reflection is that as I have not had a convincing answer for the conclusion it has come to--and I shall modify my remarks--it was perhaps over-persuaded by the might of the case presented to it by the Labour Party because that is what must have happened. The case presented to the Boundary Commission by the Labour Party was so overwhelming in its arguments that it decided that Glasgow deserved to have very small constituencies in comparison to Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland. If we put it like that, perhaps everybody's honour is satisfied and the Labour Party can preen itself for its brilliance and persuasiveness and the advocates that it chose to do the persuading. I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate was one of them in a previous existence, but if he was, he should take that as a tribute. However, we cannot get away from the point that the Government have made no attempt to explain why there is a difference between Glasgow and Edinburgh.
When the Labour Party told me that it is so important that local connections are taken into account, I just thought about Alloway and Ayr. Alloway and Ayr were removed from the Ayr constituency and put into that of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley. That move was opposed by the Conservative Party, it has to be said, and approved by the Labour Party. The findings of the ultimate body agreed with the commission because that would have split local government boundaries. The fact
The exchange that we have had has been puzzling because I do not think that the Government really understand what they are doing here. I did not understand the logic of the argument about Orkney and Shetland. It seems to me, in relation to Orkney and Shetland, that we do not need this part of the Bill at all. I shall carefully study what the Government say. As I understand it, this is required in order to pave the way for the split seat at the Scottish parliament, due to the linkage between the two. That seemed to me to be the nearest that I could get to a logical argument. I may well come back to the point by removing the special provision for Orkney and Shetland here and putting that constituency on the same basis as the Western Isles. They can put their faith, as the Minister clearly has put his faith, in the Boundary Commission. If the Western Isles have to put their faith in the Boundary Commission, I do not see why Orkney and Shetland should not put their faith in the commission as well. The Committee will not be surprised that I shall advise the Western Isles not to do so.
On the second point about numeracy, I have heard all that the noble Lord has said, and he has not convinced me at all. I have perhaps drawn it quite tightly at plus or minus 5 per cent., but I believe he could have persuaded me to go a little wider. I firmly believe that if we are to continue with first-past-the-post elections in this country, we shall have to address the question of a better distribution of seats as far as numbers are concerned. That is perfectly possible. As I understand it, the United States' House of Representatives redraws the boundaries every two years in order to have elections, to that house, on the basis of equality. They go for equality in a very big way. If it can be done in a country as large as the United States, it can certainly be done in a country as small as Scotland. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment, but I am not pleased with the Government's answers.
Lord Lyell: At this point, I wonder whether it would be in order to ask the Minister a question. I have to declare an interest in that 113 years ago my great-grandfather was a Member of Parliament at Westminster for Orkney and Shetland. He was, by the way, a Liberal, but far to the right of Ghengis Khan, so far as I am aware from the Kinnordy papers. Could the noble Lord advise me tonight or at a later stage of the geographical content of paragraph 3A--at lines six to nine inclusive on page 39--which he read out? Is there any alteration in the geographical area of what clearly was then, and is now, the constituency of Orkney and Shetland? From what he was saying earlier, I wondered
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