Andrew Turner is delighted to announce that the Isle of Wight is now set to have two MPs after the next election (due in 2015), following discussions last night with the Government about how the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill would affect the Isle of Wight.
The Bill is designed to cut the number of MPs and standardise the size of constituencies. It allowed for only two named exceptions – both in Scotland – the Western Isles and Orkney & Shetland. New constituencies will be an average size of around 76,000 voters which would have meant that part of the Island (which currently has 110,000 voters) would have been paired with the mainland, forming a cross-Solent constituency for the first time since the Great Reform Act of 1832.
The Island’s MP led a vigorous campaign against the Government’s proposals which was supported by the local political parties, independently owned local media and many Island organisations including the Chamber of Commerce. He also organised a parliamentary petition which he presented to the House of Commons and delivered to Downing Street together with Mark Chiverton and Jill Wareham, the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates who stood against him in the last General Election.
The House of Lords voted last month in favour of an amendment that would prevent any part of the Island being joined to the mainland to form a cross-Solent constituency. The amendment was first tabled by Mr Turner in the House of Commons, but due to a lack of time it was not voted on before the Bill moved to the House of Lords. The same amendment was then tabled in the House of Lords by Lord Fowler, a long-time Seaview resident.
The Lords passed it with a large majority of 74 (196 in favour – 122 against). The Isle of Wight amendment was supported on a cross-party basis in the Lords by 123 Labour, 28 Conservative, 25 Crossbench, 14 Liberal Democrat, 5 other peers, and 1 Bishop. It was the largest rebellion since the Coalition Government was formed.
After the Government’s defeat in the Lords, the same amendment was due to be debated and voted on in the Commons over the next few days, however hectic last minute negotiations brought about an acceptance from the Government that the Isle of Wight should be added to the list of exceptions – and should in future have two MPs. This morning the Government have tabled amendments to the Bill that are expected to be voted on today in the Commons.
Mr Turner said: “This is a stunning victory for the Island. When we first launched the ‘One Wight’ Campaign everybody discussed whether we should fight for two Island MPs – but we came to a collective decision that we should put forward the message that the Island’s unique circumstances should be recognised – and if that meant continuing with a single MP it was preferable to any part of the Island being hived off and joined with the mainland. We thought that approach would be more likely to succeed than if we were seen to be campaigning for advantageous treatment.
“I was initially disappointed that the House of Commons did not get to vote on my amendment, particularly as I already knew I had pledges of support from many MPs of all parties. However Lord Fowler did an amazing job in the House of Lords where the timetable rules are different – he was always confident that the Lords would never support such a daft proposal – but I must admit I was very pleased by how big the majority against it was. The Island was the only area to win special treatment – despite spirited campaigns by other areas to be added to the list of exceptions.
“The Government have listened to our arguments and now seeing the strength of feeling on this issue both on the Island, in the House of Commons and the House of Lords they have accepted them. The Government understand that we wish to be separate and even if that meant the Island being under-represented it would be preferable to having one and a half MPs. They have sensibly decided now that the Island should have two MPs – and will therefore in future be over-represented when compared to the rest of the country.
“I don’t think we would have got this outstanding result if we had simply campaigned for two MPs as some people suggested. It was the fact that the Island was prepared to be under-represented that added to the strength of our argument. I would like to thank everyone who helped to bring this about, including Richard Priest of the Riverside Centre who was a very effective non-political spokesman for the campaign. It certainly shows the wisdom of setting party politics aside and working with people of all political persuasions and of none, in order to achieve the right result.”