Commentary on provisions of Bill
Clause 1: Reports of the Boundary Commissions
26 Clause 1 makes amendments to section 3 of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 (‘the 1986 Act’) to make changes to the timing and frequency of reviews of parliamentary constituencies and the arrangements for the submission of boundary reports.
27 Subsection (2) amends section 3(1) of the 1986 Act to require the Boundary Commissions to submit boundary reports to the Speaker of the House of Commons, instead of the Secretary of State or Minister for the Cabinet Office.
28 Subsection (3) amends section 3(2) of the 1986 Act and requires the Boundary Commissions to carry out a review of parliamentary constituencies and submit reports to the Speaker as follows:
(a) before 1 July 2023,
(b) before 1 October 2031, and
(c) before 1 October of every eighth year after that.
29 This replaces the current requirement for the Boundary Commissions to report every 5 years.
30 Subsection (4) inserts the following subsections into section 3 of the PCA 1986:
· subsection (2ZA) requires a Boundary Commission to send a copy of its report to the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office at the same time as it is submitted to the Speaker;
· subsection (2ZB) provides that once the Speaker has received the report, the Speaker must lay the report before Parliament;
· subsection (2ZC) requires the Boundary Commission to publish the report as soon as reasonably practicable after it has been laid before Parliament.
31 Subsection (5) amends section 3(2 B)( a) of the 1986 Act which changes the timing for which progress reports are submitted to the Speaker to the "relevant January". Subsection (6) inserts new subsection (2BA) which defines "relevant January" as meaning January 2022 for progress reports relating to the review reports due to be submitted before 1 July 2023, and in the case of all subsequent review reports the January that begins one year and nine months before the date a report is due to be submitted.
32 Subsection (7) removes section 3(5) to (5C) of the 1986 Act as a consequence of other changes made by the Bill. Section 3(5) of the 1986 Act concerns the laying of boundary reports before Parliament and is no longer required as a result of new section 3(2ZB). The matters currently provided for in section 3(5A) to (5C) of the 1986 Act have been replaced by provisions made by clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill concerning Orders in Council giving effect to boundary reports.
Clause 2: Orders in Council giving effect to reports
33 Clause 2 makes amendments to section 4 of the 1986 Act and concerns Orders in Council giving effect to recommendations in boundary reports.
34 Subsection (2) of clause 2 substitutes existing subsections (1) to (4) of section 4 of the 1986 Act with new subsections (1) to (2).
35 New section 4(1) of the 1986 Act requires the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office to submit to Her Majesty in Council a draft Order in Council for giving effect to the recommendations of each of the four Boundary Commissions following a boundary review. The draft Order must be submitted as soon as reasonably practicable after all four Boundary Commission review reports have been laid before Parliament by the Speaker under section 3(2ZB). A draft Order in Council is not required to be submitted if each of the four Boundary Commission review reports states that no alteration is required to be made to existing parliamentary constituencies.
36 New section 4(2)(a) provides that a draft Order in Council submitted under new section 4(1) may only give effect to the recommendations of the review reports with modifications where those modifications are required in accordance with new section 4A (introduced by clause 3 of the Bill). New section 4(2)(b) provides that a draft Order in Council may make provision for any matters which appears to the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office to be incidental to, or consequential on the recommendations in the reports or those recommendations with the modifications required in accordance with new section 4A.
37 Subsection (3) of clause 2 amends section 4(7) of the 1986 Act to remove reference to the need for the approval of each House of Parliament of draft Orders in Council under section 4 prior to making, as such approval will no longer be required as a result of the changes made by the Bill. Section 4(7) of the 1986 Act provides that the validity of any Order in Council purporting to be made under the 1986 Act shall not be called in question in any legal proceedings.
Clause 3: Modifications of recommendations in reports
38 Clause 3 inserts new section 4A into the 1986 Act. New section 4A makes provision in relation to modifications to recommendations in the report of a Boundary Commission resulting from a boundary review in accordance with section 3(1) of the 1986 Act. Where following a boundary review a report of a Boundary Commission has been submitted to the Speaker of the House of Commons, but a draft Order in Council has not yet been submitted to Her Majesty in Council, new section 4A(2) provides that a Boundary Commission may submit to the Speaker "a statement of modifications" specifying the modifications which they consider should be made to the report’s recommendations in order to correct any error in those recommendations, and their reasons for those modifications.
39 New section 4A(3) requires that a Boundary Commission on submitting a statement of modifications to the Speaker, must send a copy of it to the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office.
40 New section 4A(4) requires the Speaker to lay the statement of modifications before Parliament.
41 New section 4A(5) requires the Boundary Commission to publish a statement of modifications as soon as reasonably practicable after the statement has been laid before Parliament.
42 New section 4A(6) provides that where a statement of modifications has been laid before Parliament, the subsequent draft of the Order in Council must give effect to the recommendations of the report of the Boundary Commission with those modifications.
Clause 4: Publicity and consultation
43 Clause 4 makes amendments to section 5 of the 1986 Act concerning publicity and consultation as part of the boundary reviews under section 3 of the 1986 Act.
44 Subsection (2) amends section 5(1)(a)(iii) of the 1986 Act to provide that the length of the initial consultation period (the first of three consultation periods undertaken in a boundary review) is reduced from 12 weeks to eight weeks.
45 The amendments made by subsections (3), (4), (6) and (7) require the Boundary Commissions to hold public hearings during the secondary consultation period instead of during the initial consultation period. New section 5(4B) (which is inserted by subsection (7) of clause 4) requires the Boundary Commissions, after the end of the secondary consultation period, to-
(a) publish records of the public hearings that have been held, and
(b) take steps to inform people in the proposed constituencies that written representations regarding the public hearing records may be made to the Commission during a further specified period of eight weeks ("the third consultation period").
46 Subsection (5) amends section 5(4)(b) of the 1986 Act to increase the length of the secondary consultation period from four weeks to eight weeks.
47 Subsection (8) amends section 5(5) of the 1986 Act to provide that if a Boundary Commission produces revised proposals following the secondary consultation period, written representations may also be made on the revised proposals during the third consultation period.
48 Subsection (12) modifies section 5 of the 1986 Act for the next boundary review (in respect of which the Boundary Commissions are required to submit their reports before 1 July 2023) so that the secondary consultation period will be six weeks (instead of eight weeks) and the third consultation period will be four weeks (instead of eight weeks). These provisions allow the 2023 review to take place within a slightly shortened time frame of 2 years and 7 months (rather than the current 2 years and 10 months) and to report before 1 July 2023.
Clause 5: Number of parliamentary constituencies
49 Clause 5 amends rule 1 of Schedule 2 of the 1986 Act to provide that the number of constituencies in the UK will be 650 instead of 600.
Clause 6: Taking account of local government boundaries
50 Clause 6 amends rules 5 and 9 of Schedule 2 to the 1986 Act.
51 Rule 5(1) lists a number of factors which a Boundary Commission may take into account in making recommendations as part of a boundary review. Currently, rule 5(1)(b) allows a Boundary Commission to take into account local government boundaries as they exist on the most recent ordinary council-election day before the review date (the review date being the 1 December date provided for in rule 9(5) of Schedule 2 to the 1986 Act). Clause 6(2) replaces rule 5(1)(b), and new rule 5(1)(b) provides that a Boundary Commission may take into account local government boundaries which exist or are prospective on the review date.
52 Clause 6(3) inserts new rule 5(1A) which provides that in the case of a local government boundary which is prospective on the review date, it is that boundary rather than any existing boundary which it replaces, which may be taken into account by a Boundary Commission under rule 5(1)(b).
53 Subsection (4) of clause 6 inserts new paragraphs (3A) and (3B) into rule 9 of Schedule 2 to the 1986 Act. New paragraph (3A) provides that a local government boundary is "prospective" on the review date if on that date the boundary is specified in a provision of primary or secondary legislation but that provision is not yet in force. New paragraph (3B) defines "primary legislation" and "secondary legislation" for those purposes.
Clause 7: Alteration of the "review date" in relation to the 2023 reports
54 Clause 7 amends the definition of "review date" in rule 9(5) of Schedule 2 to the 1986 Act. In relation to the report that each Boundary Commission is required to submit before 1 July 2023 (as provided for by clause 1 of the Bill), the review date is 1 December 2020. This reflects the slightly shorter time frame of 2 years and 7 months for the completion of the next boundary review in 2023.
55 For all subsequent boundary reviews, the review date continues to be 2 years and 10 months before the date the boundary review report is due to be submitted.
Clause 8: Removal of duty to implement etc. in relation to current reports
56 Subsection (1) of clause 8 provides that any duty of the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office under section 3(5A) of the 1986 Act to lay before Parliament the draft of an Order in Council giving effect to the recommendations in current Boundary Commission reports is treated as having ceased to have effect on 24 March 2020.
57 Subsection (2) provides that any other duties or powers under the 1986 Act relating to a current report are also treated as having ceased to have effect or to be exercisable from the same date.
58 Subsection (3) explains that a report of a Boundary Commission is "current" if, immediately before 24 March 2020, the report has been submitted to the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office under section 3(1) of the 1986 Act but no Order in Council has been made for giving effect to it.
59 The effect of the clause is to remove the requirement for the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office to implement the reports that the Boundary Commissions submitted in September 2018, as the recommendations of these reports are based on 600 parliamentary constituencies.
Clause 9: Removal of duty to review reduction in number of constituencies
60 Clause 9(1) omits section 14 of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 (‘the PVSC Act 2011’).
61 Section 14(1) of the PVSC Act 2011 requires the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office to make arrangements for a Committee to carry out a review of the effects of a reduction in the number of constituencies to 600 (the reduction resulting from an amendment made to the 1986 Act by section 11 of the PVSC Act 2011). Section 14(3) of the PVSC Act 2011 requires the arrangements to be made no earlier than 1 June 2020 and no later than 30 November 2020.
62 As the reduction in the number of constituencies to 600 has not taken effect, and as clause 5 of the Bill provides for the number of parliamentary constituencies to remain at 650, the duty to review the reduction in the number of constituencies is accordingly redundant.
63 Clause 9(2) treats the repeal of section 14 of the PVSC Act 2011 as having come into force on 31 May 2020.
Clause 10: Effect of Orders in Council under the 1986 Act on NI Assembly constituencies
64 Clause 10 amends section 33(3)(a) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Section 33 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 provides that five members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are returned for each of the parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland. Section 33(3) provides that where an Order in Council resulting from a boundary review under the 1986 Act changes one or more of the parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland, the constituency changes take effect for the purposes of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly from the first ordinary or extraordinary Assembly election which takes place after the Order in Council comes into force.
65 Clause 10 amends section 33(3)(a) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 so that the automatic changes to the constituencies of the Northern Ireland Assembly (as a result of UK Parliamentary constituency changes) will only take place from the first Assembly election, whose notice of election is published at least six months after the parliamentary constituency changes comes into force (i.e. the first Assembly election to take place after 6 months and 25 days from the date the constituencies com into force). There would be an exception to this if, during the 6 month and 25 day period, the UK Parliament was dissolved prior to a parliamentary general election to which the new constituencies apply. In this event, the new constituencies would be applied to the Northern Ireland Assembly from the date of the UK general election.
Clause 11: Minor and consequential amendments and savings
66 Clause 11 explains that the Schedule to the Bill contains minor and consequential amendments. These amendments made by the Bill do not affect the validity of any Order in Council made under the 1986 Act before the Bill comes into force.
Clause 12: Extent, commencement and short title
67 Subsection (1) of the clause provides that the Bill extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
68 Subsection (2) provides that the Bill comes into force on the day on which it is passed, but the amendment made by paragraph 4(3) of the Schedule may come into force on a later date in accordance with paragraph 4(4) of the Schedule.
69 Subsection (3) cites the short title of the Bill - the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020.
Schedule: Minor and consequential amendments
70 Paragraphs 1 to 5 of the Schedule to the Bill make minor and consequential amendments to the 1986 Act.
71 Paragraph 2 omits section 6C. Section 6C provides that in the 1986 Act references to the "Secretary of State" mean the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office. This general provision is no longer needed as the Bill amends each reference in the 1986 Act to "Secretary of State" by adding reference to the Minister for the Cabinet Office. Paragraph 3 amends such references in Schedule 1 to the 1986 Act.
72 Paragraph 4(2) amends rule 2(3) of Schedule 2, and the calculation of the United Kingdom electoral quota, as a consequence of the number of seats remaining at 650.
73 Paragraph 4(3) amends rule 5(2A) of Schedule 2 to insert "County of Blackpool" into the description of the North West region in the table of English regions which is inserted by paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 2 to the European Parliamentary Elections Etc (Repeal, Revocation, Amendment and Saving Provisions) (United Kingdom and Gibraltar) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 (S.I. 2018/1310), to correct a mistake made in those Regulations.
74 Paragraph 4(4) provides that if this Bill is passed on a day which is before paragraph 1(3) of Schedule 2 to those Regulations comes into force, paragraph 4(3) comes into force immediately after that provision of those Regulations comes into force (instead of on the day on which this Bill is passed).
75 Paragraph 5 makes consequential changes to Schedule 2A of the 1986 Act which concerns public hearings about Boundary Commission proposals, as a result of the other changes made by the Bill in relation to the consultation process for boundary reviews and written representations that may be made on proposals.
76 Paragraphs 6 and 7 omits provisions of the Boundary Commission Act 1992 that are spent.
77 Paragraphs 8 and 9 omit provisions of the PVSC Act 2011 which are superseded by the changes made by this Bill or are spent.
78 Paragraphs 10 and 11 omit section 6 of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 which is superseded by provisions made by this Bill.