Supporting the Isle of Wight

Lord Norton

The House is again in committee on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill.  For the second time, the House took the unusual step of passing a closure motion to bring debate on one amendment to a close.  The amendment was then defeated.  The Opposition objected to the use of this exceptional procedure.

However, the House then moved to debate an amendment moved by former Conservative Cabinet minister, Lord Fowler, to retain the Isle of Wight as a single constituency.  This was taken to a vote and, against the wishes of the Government, was carried by 196 votes to 122.  The Content lobby was truly cross-party.  It comprised 123 Labour, 28 Conservative, 25 Crossbench, 14 Liberal Democrat, and 5 Other peers, and 1 Bishop. 

This is the second defeat the Government has suffered on the Bill, somewhat undermining the claims – made repeatedly during Monday’s marathon session – that the Coalition can get through whatever it wants using its presumed majority in the House. 

We await developments as to whether agreement is reached between the front benches as to how to make progress with the Bill.  Otherwise, we may again be in for some long sittings.

9 comments for “Supporting the Isle of Wight

  1. tory boy
    19/01/2011 at 10:32 pm

    There were some peers who got cross with the use of a closure motion by Lord Thomas of Gresford, I tend to agree it was only a ninety minute debate. (This does not meet the unprecedented use of a closure motion). The house then went on to debate the question that the house be now resumed, this debate was led by some v well respected peers who seemed to bang heads together of peers on both sides, who have not been behaving in the best interests of the house it was the only good debate I have followed on this bill in committee! I believe the Isle of Wight was a govt concession is this why they lost the vote? Was there a heavy whip? I am pleased to Baroness Sharples who will turn 88 in February still active in the house at half ten at night!

  2. Carl.H
    19/01/2011 at 11:25 pm

    I watched this part of debate and the vote. Making a special case on the Isle of Wight will be a contentious issue, it is for me. How can we make a special case not only of Scottish Isles but now of the Isle of Wight without saying these partitions actually happen on the mainland too ? Hackney is way different to Islington, Thorpe Bay to Southend et al.

    It was however pleasant to see some life on the Conservative benches and realise they perhaps are not the sheep they looked the other evening.

    I can`t help but feel this Bill is the loaded gun given to the House particularly by the PM. The question remains does the House do what is right or what is right for them ?

  3. Dan Filson
    20/01/2011 at 10:07 am

    The Isle of Wight is a tricky one – almost too big to be one seat, and too small to be two; and not wanting to be annexed to the mainland to make one of those two viable. Once you pick and choose which anomalies to retain, inevitably you go back to the 1832 debates which in effect tended to move the issue from general principles to particular cases.

    I doubt if the British public is bothered much by variations of up to 10%. Clearly that tolerance alone will not solve all the problems like the IoW or the north-west of Scotland (to name but some). Nor will it resolve the issue of MPs representing in urban areas ‘villages’ that do not see themselves as part of the constituency they are thrown into. My part of Acton does not, to me, feel anything in common with Ealing Common, and closer to Shepherd’s Bush in many ways, and on the old rules was part of one constituency straddling 2 boroughs. So the issue of local authority boundaries may not be the paramount one (a lot has been made of county boundaries, but there is sometimes more grief about more local ones). It is about communities. There was a time (read, for example, the Redcliffe Maud report on local government reorganisation in 1970) when choice of local newspapers could be an indicator, but now with big chains of papers there is little choice to use as a guide.

    So the question is, is it better for the Boundary Commission to propose – under some general power specifying the hopefully definable circumstances in which they can do so – variations from the 10% or 5% rule (whichever gets enacted, I hope the former), and for Parliament to have a power to override, or for Parliament to enact the exceptions it wants to see in place?

    I hope all the peers are getting recovery sleep.

    • Dave H
      20/01/2011 at 7:40 pm

      The way to do the Isle of Wight is to offer them the choice between a single seat and being less represented, or to split it into a representative lump and add the rest to a mainland constituency. Or to split it into two equal halves, each of which has numbers made up from the mainland.

      • Carl.H
        21/01/2011 at 2:18 pm

        As long as that choice is also offered elsewhere to other communities.

  4. Dan Filson
    21/01/2011 at 9:38 pm

    The signs are they might prefer the single seat option, an indication that the 5%/10% variance ceiling is an irrelevance to some, but is it appropriate to hand these decisions to the people affected?

  5. Senex
    23/01/2011 at 3:00 pm

    If we look at general elections [1] since 1918 only once does the share of the vote rise above 50% and that is for the coalition government [3] of 1931. All elections since that time have lacked legitimacy and the public has not been minded to change this. One must conclude that neither the public nor politicians are really interested in explicit coalition or AV.

    Given this, the government conducts its own wrecking manoeuvre by combining referendum and boundary change in the same bill. The official opposition does its bit to wreck the bill. The whole thing is dressed up to look like sincere politics when it is not; it is a stage play being acted out by an unwilling cast.

    The LDP are driving this. If the political process was genuinely sincere, government would conduct the referendum first without changing boundaries. If the outcome was a rejection of AV then the existing boundaries would remain.

    If the outcome was an acceptance of AV then the issue of boundaries would be of lesser importance as secondary preference votes rolled up (implicit coalition) would act to virtually enlarge a constituency making the real boundary of lesser importance.

    The blog’s prospectus for an elected house allows the HoL to receive extended powers once turnout [2] drops below 50%, just as a safeguard. In my view the use of AV will produce legitimate governments with 50% or more of the vote but only if turnout actually exceeds 50%.

    Ref: [1] House of Commons Research Paper 08/12 Feb 1, 2008.
    Election Statistics: UK 1918 – 2007:
    Section II, Summary: General Elections since 1918; Table 1a
    [2] House of Commons Research Paper 99/111 Feb 1, 1999
    A Century of Change: Trends in UK statistics since 1900
    X. Elections: Women MPs and Turnout
    [3] First National (Coalition) Government 1931

    • Dan Filson
      25/01/2011 at 8:27 pm

      I agree that AV alone will not make much a difference to the overall election outcomes, nor significantly increase voter turnout nor greatly improve the electoral legitimacy of the resulting government. I suspect the referendum turnout could be quite low in those parts of the country not having elections for some other reason on the same date – certainly I cannot see them queueing at the polling stations at 9.55 p.m. to cast their votes. As you say the Tories don’t want AV (who want to retain FPTP), nor the LibDems (who want STV), and nor really does Labour (who want …?).

  6. Dan Filson
    23/01/2011 at 10:52 pm

    It may make sense ‘to offer them the choice between a single seat and being less represented, or to split it into a representative lump and add the rest to a mainland constituency’ but I am not wholly comfortable that the decision should rest with them, as that implies that other decisions should rest thus. But if the people are comfortable – established by goodness knows what means – with being under-represented, then that may be the IoW solution.

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