I have no private knowledge about Conservative intentions regarding the number of MPs who should be representing Welsh constituencies in the House of Commons. This post is merely a personal observation on an issue receiving a fair bit of coverage at present. The latest contribution has come from the Institute of Welsh Affairs, here, where its Director, John Osmond writes about a speech delivered by Professor Robert Hazell, Director of the Constitutional Unit at University College London. The title sounds awfully impressive, which is probably why he's usually wheeled out whenever there's discussion about this sort of issue in Wales.
There are three strands to this debate. Lets consider them in turn. Firstly we have a proposal from David Cameron that there should be a 10% reduction in the total number of MPs. This suggests a reduction of 4 from the current total of 40 Welsh MPs. Its a proposal that seems to have been well received, and I'm content to support it.
Secondly, we have another Cameron suggestion - that the ratio of electorate to member should be equalised. Personally, I reckon there should be some recognition of population sparsity, and some allowance for anticipated population growth. Whatever, this proposal would mean that because of the current comparatively small electorates in Wales, there would inevitably be a further reduction in the number of Welsh MPs. This extrapolation seems to have been missed by Professor Hazell (or by John Osmond). Notwithstanding the two above considerations, I cannot see this is anything but reasonable. But I'm not able to calculate precisely how many Welsh MPs we're now down to.
And thirdly, there's what Professor Hazell refers to as a "devolution discount" - a reduction in the number of Welsh MPs to reflect the lesser workload of an MP, where there's a devolved Parliament or Assembly. However, I've not seen this proposal emanate from a Conservative source, so don't know how much credence to give it. Something similar did feature in the last Conservative manifesto, but I've heard nothing of it since. Personally, I would not support this, even if it is logical. It could easily be interpreted as a 'threat' or 'punishment' in the run up to a 'powers' referendum, and that will never do. Its a case of pragmatism before logic.
I've tried to avoid self interest in this post, presenting the issue on the basis of facts as I see them. Now here's the question - 'How many MPs would be able to do that if all this became a reality?'