TODAY the County Press launches the OneWight campaign to keep the Island as a single parliamentary constituency, with the warning the battle will be one of the toughest we have faced.
The Prime Minister himself told County Press editor Alan Marriott he is in favour of dividing us up, and linking part of the Island in with a mainland seat.
At a reception for regional media at 10 Downing Street last Thursday, David Cameron told Mr Marriott he couldn’t see why the Island objected to the change from one MP to effectively one-and-a-half.
He said most MPs told him they could not cope with 70,000 constituents, let alone the 110,000 the Island MP has on his watch, Islanders should welcome effectively having two MPs.
Mr Cameron felt the Isle of Wight was different to Scottish islands, which have already been granted exemptions under the proposed boundary changes, because it was geographically closer to the mainland.
But he said he would speak to Andrew Turner about visiting the Island to hear the concerns of voters.
The OneWight campaign already has the backing of the three major political parties locally as well as the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce.
The first hurdle in the campaign is getting government to acknowledge the Isle of Wight’s special geographical nature and grant it an exemption, such as that given to some Scottish islands.
Islanders can support the campaign by signing the petition, either on paper or online at www.onewight.org.uk. This can be backed up with letters written to deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, making the Island’s case.
Campaign co-ordinator Bob Seely is currently enlisting petition co-ordinators for each of the Island’s electoral wards and Richard Priest, manager of the Riverside Centre and community volunteer, has been appointed as campaign spokesman.
This is the timeline for the progress of the Parliamentary Reform Bill — the dates are subject to change.
Stage 1 (End of July)
First Reading, likely to be before the summer recess (next Tuesday). This is a formality and it will be passed.
Stage 2 (September)
Second Reading. If Andrew Turner is called by the Speaker he will be able to put his points across during the debate, but detailed amendments are not taken at this stage.
Stage 3 (September/early October)
Committee stage, where it is examined line by line. Mr Turner has been told it will be a committee of the whole house, so all MPs will effectively be members of the committee (most bills are dealt with at this stage by a small number of MPs). That is when Mr Turner will try to get his amendment called and passed. It is possible the bill will then go into report stage.
Third Reading, and the house will be invited to pass the bill. Any debate is now limited to what is actually in the bill rather than what could have been included.
The bill passes to the House of Lords and goes through the same processes. If it gets to this stage without Mr Turner’s amendment being adopted, a peer can represent the Island’s case.
If the Lords come up with a different bill than the one sent from the Commons, for example if they adopt Mr Turner’s amendment and/or others, then it goes back to the Commons. It then goes back and forth until they match.
Final Stage (probably January, 2011)
Royal Assent. The Boundary Commission will only then get to work on putting forward detailed proposals which would be subject to consultation. However, if the legislation is passed without an exception for the Island they will be required by law to divide the Island up and any consultation will be limited to which parts of the Island will be merged with the mainland.