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Boundary changes

Boundary changes

Details of our latest projections of the party political consequences of boundary changes under the new rules have been published on the Guardian's website on Monday 6 June 2011. Additional detail is available on The UK’s new political map? section of this site.

Boundary changes: our concerns about 'reduce and equalise’.

Although it received relatively limited public or media attention as it progressed through Parliament, the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act has proved to be one of the most controversial piece of legislation to be put before Parliament since the coalition took office in May 2010.

Aside from making provisions for the referendum on the Alternative Vote in May 2011, the Act made provisions to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. Furthermore, the Act established a requirement on the UK's four Boundary Commissions to equalise constituency electorates so that all fall within five per cent of a UK average of around 76,000 voters – although a very small number of exceptions were granted.

Despite, or perhaps rather because of, the profound nature of the reforms it proposed, the legislation was rushed through Parliament. It was first presented to the Commons days just before the summer recess in 2010, with the Bill’s second reading taking place on the day the Commons reconvened in September that year. Speaking at the second reading debate, the Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, suggested that 'it is inappropriate for a Bill of such magnitude to receive such cursory attention from the House before its Second Reading’. 

The House of Lords Constitution Committee raised similar concerns. In its report on the Bill published on 12 November 2010, the committee stated that 'we regard it as a matter of principle that proposals for major constitutional reform should be subject to prior public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny’. The report also raised particular concerns about the proposals to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600:

We conclude that the Government have not made a proper assessment of the impact which the reduction in the size of the House of Commons may have on the relationship between the executive and Parliament. This is an unsatisfactory basis on which to embark on fundamental reform of the legislature. We are concerned that the Bill could possibly result in the Executive's dominance over Parliament being increased.

Democratic Audit closely monitored the 'reduce and equalise’ proposals contained in the legislation from the moment it was first announced to the House of Commons in July 2010. From the outset, we expressed significant concerns about the rationale for, and implications of, reducing the number of MPs. We have also questioned the grounds for seeking to equalise constituency electorates on the basis of a +/- 5% variation from the mean and highlighted a number of democratic concerns which arise from the radical re-drawing of boundaries it will require. Our concerns are backed up by comparative international evidence which suggests that UK electors are by no means over-represented and that UK constituency electorates are already reasonably 'equal' by international standards.

The links below provide access to the materials we published on the legislation and its likely impact between July 2010 and January 2011.

Briefings/Research Notes

Lewis Baston,  January 2011

The ten per cent solution: amending the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill to make 'equalisation' more workable

Lewis Baston, January 2011

All are equal, but some are more equal than others. Is 'equalisation' of constituency size really an international norm from which the UK departs? 

Lewis Baston,  January 2011

The new constituency map of Britain?

Lewis Baston December, 2010

How pressing in the need for further equalisation of constituency electorates?

Lewis Baston and Stuart Wilks-Heeg, November  2010

 How strong is the case for having fewer MPs?

Stuart Wilks-Heeg and Stephen Crone August 2010

Projecting the impact of reduce and equalise

Written evidence submitted to select committees   

Lewis Baston, August 2010

Written evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee

Lewis Baston , August 2010

Written evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee

Stuart Wilks-Heeg , September 2010

Written evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee 

Stuart Wilks-Heeg, September 2010

Memorandum to the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee on the duties and powers of Electoral Registration Officers (requested directly by the Committee)

Other Publications 

Stuart Wilks-Heeg, 9 July 2010

Reduce and Equalise? Why Electoral Geography Matters,  British Politics and Policy at LSE, and also on OurKingdom

Stuart Wilks-Heeg, 4 October 2010

Is reduce and equalise a solution in search of a problem?’, OurKingdom

Stuart Wilks-Heeg, October 2010

A 'bonfire of MPs' won't make the House more trustworthy, Parliamentary Brief,

Lewis Baston, 9 December 2010  

Do Turkeys vote for Christmas? Yes, when it comes to Liberal Democrat MPs and the boundary review for Westminster constituencies. Nick Clegg’s party will lose a fifth of all its MPs. British Politics and Policy at LSE.

Lewis Baston, 7 January 2011

Britain's unequally sized constituencies are a non-existent problem, to which the coalition government has adopted an extreme and unworkable solution, British Politics and Policy at LSE.