Parliamentary Boundary Reviews: What Next?: Government Response to the Committee’s Second Report

Fifth Special Report

1.The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee published its Second Report of Session 2017–19, Parliamentary Boundary Reviews: What Next?, as HC 559 on 19 February 2018. The Government’s response was received on 11 May 2018 and is appended to this report.

Appendix: Government Response

The Government is grateful to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee for its report on UK Parliamentary constituency boundaries. I am able to reassure the Committee that the Government takes these matters seriously. The Government’s manifesto at the General Election re-affirms the commitment to deliver more equal and updated boundaries.

The report refers to the current boundary review that is due to report in September 2018, and speculates how the current review’s recommendations may be received by Parliament. The Committee’s report concludes with the following recommendation for the Government:

We therefore recommend that the House of Commons should be given an early opportunity to debate the options for reform and to decide whether or not to continue the current boundary review. In doing so the House would need to consider the potential risks of legislating, and establish if consensus can be reached in time for legislation to be passed before the summer. The Government should consider if the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill could provide such an opportunity.

As I have indicated, the Government is committed to delivering more equal and updated boundaries. The boundary review is essential to ensure there are equally sized constituencies which are based on up-to-date demographic data. The independent and impartial Boundary Commissions are currently undertaking this review, in accordance with primary legislation previously passed by Parliament.

The current boundary review started in February 2016 and is far advanced. The four Boundary Commissions published initial proposals in autumn 2016, followed by the initial consultation period of 12 weeks. Following the initial consultation stage, all four Boundary Commissions have completed the secondary consultation period, which sought comments on the representations they received on their initial proposals.

The Boundary Commissions for England, Wales and Scotland published their revised constituencies on 17 October 2017 and consulted on them for eight weeks. The Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland published its revised proposals in January 2018 and the eight- week written consultation on them closed on 26 March 2018.

As the Committee recognises, without any boundary reforms, constituencies would be based on data that is over 20 years’ old. This would disregard significant changes in demographics, house building and migration.

The Government considers that our democracy and parliamentary system should represent everyone equally. Parliament previously agreed the boundary reforms that guarantee fair and equal representation for voters. Updating the historical constituency boundaries so that they are of more equal size will make sure that everyone’s vote carries more equal weight.

It is therefore right that the Boundary Commissions should continue the process to bring forward proposals for a fairer House of Commons based on 600 constituencies, as agreed by the 2010–15 Parliament.

The Boundary Commissions are due to report in September 2018 with their final proposals for revised constituencies, in line with the legislation previously agreed by Parliament.

1 Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill Committee, 9 May 2018, Col 5

Published: 25 May 2018