Speech by Mike Gapes MP to Boundary Commission Hearing East Ham Town Hall Friday 28 October 2011
I recognise that the Boundary Commission for England have been given a very difficult task by the legislation which forces them to reduce England from 530 to 502 constituencies and as a result cuts the number of constituencies in London from 73 to 68. The task is made even more difficult by the narrow numerical margin of flexibility and their own decision to use local government wards rather than polling districts as the building block jigsaw pieces of this new construction.
I speak with the experience of nearly 20 years as Member of Parliament for Ilford South. During that time my constituency has grown significantly in population and electorate so that it is now with 87000 voters one of the five largest in the country . I therefore accept that there will need to be change and even on a minimalist basis I would face loss of at least one ward.
I have had to deal with the consequences of boundary changes before in 1994 to 1997 when I lost part of the Becontree Estate in Goodmayes Ward to Barking and Dagenham and gained Seven Kings and Chadwell wards from Ilford North. As a result my electorate was increased significantly from the original 56000. I also represented parts of two London Boroughs and had to deal with two Local authorities for three years.
These proposed changes are however far more brutal in their impact. The relationship I have worked to build with the community over 20 years will be cast asunder with the stroke of a pen.
Ilford town centre and historic Ilford has had its own Member of Parliament since 1918. Before then it was part of the Southern division of Essex. Due to extensive building in the northern parts including Clayhall, Gants Hill, Newbury Park and later Hainault, in 1945 Ilford was split into two constituencies North and South. Later Ilford North was expanded into what had been part of Chigwell with the establishment of Greater London and the London Borough of Redbridge in 1964.
Ilford South has had its own Member of Parliament since 1945 a period of 66 years being represented by just five MPs in that time Jim Ranger,1945 to 1950; Albert Cooper 1950 to 1966,and 1970 to 1974; Arnold Shaw,1966to 1970 and 1974 to 1979; Sir Neil Thorne 1979 to 1992; and myself Mike Gapes 1992 onwards. I do not want to be the last MP for Ilford South !
The draft proposals of the Boundary Commission will abolish the Ilford South constituency in its entirety cutting it into four parts and linking it with three London boroughs.
Although I am extremely disappointed at the destruction of the historic Ilford South as a result of the coalition legislation I recognise that some change is inevitable.
Ideally I would have preferred minimal change with the retention of most of the existing Ilford South and the loss of only two wards Goodmayes and Mayfield to Barking. However I recognise that there is logic to the Commission proposals to reunite Seven Kings, Newbury and Chadwell into a new Ilford North constituency along with the five existing Ilford North wards of Hainault, Fairlop, Fullwell, Aldborough and Barkingside.
This proposal returns Seven Kings and Chadwell wards to the Ilford North constituency they were associated with before 1997. When I was elected as MP for Ilford South in 1992 my constituency did not include Chadwell and Seven Kings. Indeed when I fought Ilford North in 1983 as well as Seven Kings and Chadwell it also included part of the existing Newbury Ward. Newbury should not be separated from Seven Kings as some are suggesting. It has no association with Woodford. It is logical that it is put together with the Seven Kings and Chadwell wards into the new Ilford North constituency.
Although I would prefer to keep all or at least the vast majority of the existing Ilford South together I recognise that this is not possible and I am therefore reluctantly accepting the logic of the Boundary Commission proposal for the new Ilford North constituency.
Although there will be a continuing if amended Ilford North under the draft proposals, the proposal by the Boundary Commission for the total abolition of the historic Ilford South constituency is illogical and unacceptable. I cannot accept or see any merit in the Boundary Commission proposal to split Ilford Town Centre into two separate constituencies. The Ilford town centre wards have always been in the same constituency both in the period before 1945 when there was only one Ilford constituency and in the period since 1945 when Valentines Park, Cranbrook and the Ilford shopping centre, High Road, Ilford Lane, Ilford Broadway and Ilford Hill and council administrative offices were all in the Ilford South constituency. The Boundary Commission has come up with a strange proposal to put part of historic Ilford, the wards of Loxford and Clementswood, into East Ham and part of historic Ilford, the wards of Valentines and Cranbrook, into a new Wanstead and Woodford constituency.The Boundary Commission has not taken any account of the community interest or historic community relationship of the four town centre wards. As a result Ilford Railway station and Ilford Bus garage and Valentines Park and Valentines Mansion will be in Wanstead and Woodford, but Ilford Police station, Ilford High Road, Ilford Hospital Chapel. Redbridge Borough Town hall and Ilford Lane will be in East Ham ! This proposal also splits the Exchange Shopping Centre into different constituencies with different MPs. It means that if you stand outside the Ilford station at the junction of Ilford Hill and Cranbrook Road your right foot will be in East Ham and your left foot in Woodford. The essence of these proposals is to destroy community relationships with a crude mathematical formula.
There is a much better alternative proposal which I support which takes the four town centre historic Ilford Wards and keeps them together in a new Ilford South constituency. The new constituency is composed of four wards of existing Ilford South Cranbrook, Clementswood, Loxford and Valentines. To this are added the neighbouring Redbridge wards of Clayhall and Wanstead and the Newham wards of Little Ilford and Manor Park .
There has over the centuries been an historic association dating back to a reference in the Domesday Book, between Great Ilford and Little Ilford linked as they have been by the Romford Road , which is the old Roman Road, crossing of the River Roding. Today many residents of Little Ilford and Manor Park shop and work or go to school in Ilford. Indeed the Boundary Commission in its draft proposal recognises that relationship by joining the Newham wards of Manor Park and Little Ilford with the Great Ilford wards of Loxford and Clementswood. This proposal would also keep that link but on a wider basis.
There is another benefit to this proposal because it would restore the link between both sides of Wanstead flats and put both parts of Aldersbrook in the same constituency by joining Wanstead Ward and Manor Park and Little Ilford Wards together. This returns to the position as it was before the separation of these areas into different boroughs and constituencies in 1964.
It would also link Wanstead Park with Wanstead Park Road which had been separated after the building on the A406 North Circular Road. Both sides of Wanstead Park would be in the same constituency by the joining of Wanstead with Cranbrook and Valentines.
There is also a close community cultural and religious association between many residents of Clayhall and Cranbrook wards which are linked at Gants Hill. There are strong relationships between members of the Jewish and Muslim communities on both sides of Eastern Avenue. Many Jewish people living in Clayhall have connections to synagogues in Cranbrook and Valentines wards and many Muslims living in Cranbrook and Valentines attend the Mosque in Clayhall on the north side of Eastern Avenue.
The new proposed Ilford South would ensure that all Ilford Town centre wards are all in the same constituency. It also ensures limited change to the existing Ilford North and that Ilford South continues to exist as a parliamentary constituency. As a result the proposed new East Ham constituency would no longer have to cover two Boroughs and would be entirely in Newham Borough. Consequent changes would result in continuation of Chingford and Woodford Green constituency substantially on existing boundaries and a new Leyton and Stratford constituency.
Most importantly Ilford retains two constituencies North and South as it has had since 1945, and I will not be the last Member of Parliament for Ilford South.