Friday, January 06, 2017

New Parliamentary Boundaries.

Held a meeting in Welshpool Town Hall last night to which I invited Montgomeryshire's Town and Community Councils plus organisations which had raised with me concerns about the new Parliamentary constituency boundaries that are proposed to be in place by the 2020 General Election. It was a good engaged meeting but only about 20 people came. I held a similar meeting before Christmas, with a similar response. My aim was to explain what the position on this issue is. It's clear to me from the letters I've received about it that very few of my constituents are aware of the background.  So here goes with roughly what I said.

It all began with the 'Expenses Scandal' in 2008/09. I'm glad I wasn't an MP at the time, because their reputations and respect amongst the public fell to an all-time low level. Political leaders at the time entered into what can only be described as an MP bashing competition. David Cameron, then Conservative opposition leader made a manifesto promise to cut number of MPs by 10% - from 650 to 585. Lib Dem Leader, Nick Clegg made a manifesto promise to cut from 650 to 500. Then the  2010 General Election produced a Conservative/Lib Dem Govt on the back of these promises. The quickly agreed 'Programme for Govt' of the new Coalition included a promise to cut number of MPs from 650 to 600. And they got on with it.

After much debate, the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act received Royal Assent on my birthday, Feb 16th 2011, perhaps the least welcome 'present' I've ever received. This Act cut number of MPs to 600, and legislated that the population of every constituency must be within 5% of the average. Because of historic 'over representation' Wales was affected much more than anywhere else, the number of MPs falling from the current 40 to just 29. The only further step needed to bring the Act into force was a review by the four national boundary commissions to establish the precise boundaries. The reality is that the Boundary Commission for Wales has very little discretion to make allowance for history, culture or common sense. The inevitable consequence were draft proposals that consigned the historic constituency of Montgomeryshire to the dustbin of history, and will end Parliamentary democracy in Mid Wales as we've known it. For me, and most citizens of  Montgomeryshire, this is sacrilege and a catastrophe. If these proposals are approved, a dark cloud will descend over mid Wales. Owain Glyndwr's home is in Montgomeryshire. Where is he when we need him! 

But it's not over. She hasn't sung yet. The Act was supposed to be in place for the  2015 General Election. But in 2013 the House of Lords stepped in and behaved in a constitutionally questionable way. The ermine clad legislators are a law unto themselves - literally. In 2013, their beloved Lordships added an amendment to an unrelated act, the Registration and Administration Act to delay the boundary changes for 5 yrs, commuting the 'death sentence' on Montgomeryshire until after Oct 2018. That's where we are now. On death row. But who knows. If their beloved Lordships can behave outrageously once, they may find a way of doing it again. Or the Govt might change its mind about bringing forward a vote in Oct 2018 because of other issues on its mind. When I was asked last night what I thought would happen, I said my guess was 51%-49% that the 2020 election will be fought on existing boundaries. Don't ask me to say why, because I don't know. Just instinct. We will see.

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