Thursday 17 February 2011

Constituencies and the Assembly

It was always inevitable that the UK Coalition would get their new legislation on the numbers of MPs and the AV referendum through Parliament in the end.  For all the talk about the ‘higher level of scrutiny’ in London, the simple reality is that governments can and will use their majority to push their programme through, no matter how rushed or badly thought-through that programme is.
The immediate impact for Wales is clear – there will be 10 fewer MPs elected at the next UK General Election in 2015.  What is less clear is what the impact will be on the National Assembly elections, currently due to be held on the same day in 2015.
Clause 11 of the new Act specifically decouples Assembly constituencies from Parliamentary ones, decreeing that the existing boundaries simply remain in force until such time as Parliament decides otherwise.  That suggests that the UK Coalition is planning further primary legislation sometime between now and 2015, because only primary legislation will enable them to change what is in the new Act.
They’ll certainly need to do something if they intend to press ahead with their less than fully baked proposals to hold the UK and Welsh General Elections on the same day.  Holding them on two different sets of constituency boundaries would be a nightmare for the returning officers – and a recipe for near total chaos.
But what exactly will they change?  They’ve been less than forthcoming to date, and there’s something a little ominous in the statement that they want to see the result of the referendum on 3rd March before thinking about what to do next.  Another hint, perhaps, that the way they decide to deal with Wales depends more than a little on how confidently we ourselves respond to the referendum.


Welsh Agenda said...

I suspect that they are also awaiting the result of the other referendum in May. If it is a Yes to AV for the House of Commons then they will use it as an excuse to abolish PR for Assembly elections and introduce AV here.

The net result is that the make up of the Assembly will become less representative.

In the short to medium term this will give us a permanant Labour majority, but presumably the Tories believe that the change will wipe out Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems and so help them in the longer term.

Anonymous said...

The fact that the numbers of Welsh MP's is being reduced is to our benefit
As we can claim that with a larger constituency base and fewer overall numbers they will be out of touch and irrelevant to our needs here in Wales
What is the point in having MP,s that have no real role to play in an essentially English Parliament

Clearly now we most ensure that the Assembly has total credibility in terms of size of constituencies, geographical relevance of constituencies and quality of members

glynbeddau said...

Yes John but would you not agree that if the referendum om AV fails then the coalition will simply introduce a new bill to reduce the number of consistencies Particularly in Wales)without a public vote.

On a further note it seems Nick Clegg is proposing the Assembly can shorten or extend its life if 2/3rds of AMs vote for to do so.
Seems a bit high to me. But I suppose only the Tories would prefer the same day.

John Dixon said...

Welsh Agenda,

You could be right on that. Personally, I expect a 'no' on AV rather than a 'yes', so that scenario would not arise. I'm a little ambivalent on AV myself - it's probably better than FPTP, but it's not proportional, and haas been over-sold.


"The fact that the numbers of Welsh MP's is being reduced is to our benefit"

I'm not convinced. The difference between 30 and 40 isn't large, and the 40 have not, on the whole, shown themselves as hugely influential, but I don't understand why any self-respecting nation would actually want to reduce its representation in the place where a lot of the key decisions are made (and will continue to be made after 3rd March).


If the referendum fails, it's only AV that isn't introduced; the reduction in the number of MPs is not contingent on the referendum and will happen anyway.