Boundary changes without mass disruption?

Media Release from Mark Harper MP, Graham Allen MP and Lord Tyler

  • Major academic report published by McDougall Trust on Wednesday
  • Multi-million pound boundary review starting in 2016 could cause mass disruption
  • Former Conservative Minister says Report ‘an important milestone on the road to equal votes’

MPs will debate proposals to avoid mass changes to parliamentary constituencies today (Wednesday), as a major academic report on future boundary changes is launched in the House of Commons.

In 2011 Parliament agreed new rules for creating parliamentary constituencies to meet the Conservative manifesto commitment to ‘ensure every vote will have equal value’.  In 2013, however, implementation of these new rules was delayed until after the General Election.  The Boundary Commissions are due to begin the multi-million pound project of radically redrawing constituency boundaries once again in 2016, unless Parliament amends the law next year.

Existing constituencies vary massively in size between different parts of the country, with some Welsh seats containing as few as 40,687 voters while the Isle of Wight constituency contains around 111,109.  Yet many MPs were concerned with the results when the Boundary Commissions drew up new constituencies in 2013, all with electorates between 72,810 and 80,473.  There was extensive disruption to the existing constituency map with local authority boundaries often breached, and some areas fragmented into five or six chunks as part of the redistribution.

Today’s report, published by the McDougall Trust, examines how to end existing inequalities in the system, without the significant disruption which is likely to result if existing rules are followed again.  The findings will be presented to MPs and Boundary Commission officials by authors Professor Ron Johnston, Professor Charles Pattie and Dr David Rossiter.  The academics also examine whether the House of Commons should number 650 or 600 MPs.

 Former Conservative Minister, Mark Harper MP and Political Reform Select Committee Chair, Graham Allen MP, are co-sponsoring the cross-party launch with Lib Dem Peer Paul Tyler today (Wednesday).

Former Political and Constitutional Reform Minister, Mark Harper MP (Conservative) said:

“It is essential we move to a system of more equal-sized constituencies for 2020.  The report will be a set-text for anyone who wants to do that and secure a majority for it in the House of Commons.  It is an important milestone on the road to equal votes with equal value.”

Political and Constitutional Reform Committee Chair, Graham Allen MP (Labour) said:

“The essential role of an MP is to represent his or her constituents, so the rules need to ensure constituencies comprise sensible groupings of communities within natural borders.  The 2013 review fell short of that test, dividing communities up far too often.”

Liberal Democrat Political and Constitutional Reform Spokesperson, Lord Tyler said:

“The risk is that without a change in the law after 2015, the Boundary Commissions could spend nearly £7m on another review with totally unsatisfactory results.  We must avoid a mass constituency carve-up.”

 

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors:

  • Mark Harper MP was Political and Constitutional Reform Minister in the Cabinet Office from 2010 to 2012.  He took the existing Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 through the House of Commons, setting up the architecture for fewer, more equal-sized constituencies.
  • Graham Allen MP is Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee.  His cross-party Committee concluded in 2010 that “It is essential that the Boundary Commissions should have sufficient freedom to design constituencies that have meaning for the people living in them and can be well represented by the Members elected to them.”
  • Lord Tyler is Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Committee on Constitutional and Political Reform.  He secured an amendment to the 2011 Act, ensuring the Boundary Commissions would take into account existing constituency boundaries when drawing up new ones.

 

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