We all see plenty of the Rt. Hon. member for Sheffield Hallam on News 24, but what of Sheffield’s other MPs? Here in a taster of what will (hopefully) be a regular feature after the summer recess, we’ll take a look at what your elected representatives are getting up to in the big smoke, as well as the less well covered items from Mr Clegg’s agenda.
Tuesday saw an exchange between David Blunkett and Nick Clegg over voter registration during Deputy Prime Ministers’ Questions.
Following a question from Southend Conservative MP David Amess on the effectiveness of voter registration, Mr Blunkett suggested that the proposed changes to constituency boundaries are not as fair as they are seem to be. The equalisation of constituency sizes in based on the electoral register. This raises concerns because high numbers of 16-19 year olds, private tenants, and black and ethnic minority people, and inner city residents are not registered to vote.
Mr Blunkett said,
“Perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister would turn his mind to the reality of what is about to happen with the boundary changes that we have been discussing. Is it not a fact that this is a straight gerrymander, and that if he meant what he said, he would delay the boundary changes until there was a full 100% compulsory register based on the reality of where people actually live so that we do not end up with the distortion of taking away seats in inner-city areas?”
To which Mr Clegg replied,
“The right hon. Gentleman talks about straight facts; here are some straight facts. Last December, Islington North’s electorate was 66,472. Just 10 miles away, East Ham’s electorate was 87,809. It cannot be right to have constituencies in which the worth of people’s votes is so very different from place to place. Fairness is a simple principle that should operate in our democracy.”
Earlier in the debate, Mr Clegg was questioned by Blackpool Labour MP Gordon Marsden on his commitment to localism, following the coalition’s abolition of regional development agencies, such as Yorkshire Forward, which employs 450 staff.
Mr Clegg said,
“I am interested that the hon. Gentleman should think that the abolition of the regional development agencies and Government offices is somehow a blow against localism. Our view is that the Government offices had become a representation of Whitehall in the regions, rather than a voice for the regions in Whitehall. Equally, some RDAs do a good job, but he knows as well as I do that many local communities do not identify with regional development agencies. That is why we were right to say that it was up to local communities to come together with the private sector and others to create local enterprise partnerships, which are genuinely representative of what local communities want.”
With Parliament having risen on Tuesday for the summer recess, it’s been a short week. If, however, you fancy some additional reading, crossbench peer Nicholas Le Poer Trench, 9th Earl of Clancarty, 8th Marquess of Heusden, spoke about the time he spent on income support in Sheffield in the 1980s, during a Lords debate on poverty last Thursday. Worth a glance.