The UK Government has dropped plans that would have slashed the number of Welsh MPs by more than a quarter.
Unveiled in 2016, the proposals included cutting Wales’ representation in Westminster from 40 to 29 to allow a smaller House of Commons of 600 rather than 650 members.
But facing several hurdles – including some resistance from its own MP’s – the Government has now announced that it will not proceed with the plans, citing the extra workload that MPs now face due to Brexit.
If implemented, the plans would have seen the political map of north Wales change dramatically, which currently returns 11 MPs to London.
But proposing to reduce this to 7, they included:
– Anglesey and Arfon largely merging into a single seat.
– A new constituency of North Clwyd and Gwynedd stretching from Tywyn in the southwest up to St Asaph in the northeast
– South Clwyd and North Montgomeryshire running from Ruthin all the way down to Machynlleth
– Proposed seat of Colwyn and Conwy taking in the resorts of Abergele, Colwyn Bay, Conwy, Llandudno, Penrhyn Bay and Rhos on Sea
– Flint and Rhuddlan also running along the coast, taking in electoral wards from the existing Delyn and Vale of Clwyd constituencies
– A new seat of Wrexham Maelor would incorporate wards in Clwyd South
Despite this Chloe Smith, a Minister of State for the Cabinet Office, told the Commons on Tuesday that future boundary changes were still proposed on the basis of retaining 650 MPs.
Ynys Mon AM, Rhun ap Iorwerth, was among those who campaigned against the boundary changes which would have seen Anglesey merged with another constituency across the Menai Strait.
This, he said, ignored its status as an island and cited the protection given to other islands such as the Isle of Wight and the Western Isles.
But welcoming the latest developments, he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I argued strongly – including giving personal evidence to the Boundary Commission consultation – that Ynys Môn should remain a single electoral unit.
“Under the plans on the table, an exception was to be made in the case of the Isle of Wight, which wanted to be larger than its ideal size, and islands off the coast of Scotland, which wanted to be smaller than the average.
“Requests to treat Ynys Mon in a similar way had been ignored. ”
Also among those welcoming this new development is campaign group, the Electoral Reform Society.
Its chief executive, Darren Hughes, said that slashing the number of MP’s would have “undermined the voices of ordinary people in Parliament and hurt democratic scrutiny,” describing it as “an executive power grab.”
But he went on to say, “Once the pandemic is over, we need a root and branch reform of how our democracy works in the UK.
“Without shrinking the size of the Government, cutting MPs would have done little more than enhance the already disproportionate power of ministers.
“Now that the Government have accepted the need for proper representation in the Commons, they must focus on reducing the number of unelected peers in the bloated House of Lords.
“At 800 members, it’s the biggest second chamber in the world and needs a genuine overhaul.”
By Gareth Williams – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme)
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