Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The Boundary Commission view on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Act 2011

Cornwall Council received a letter from the Boundary Commission for England in July, which clearly sets out why the priority from the campaign against Devonwall must be representations to central government seeking modifications to the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Act 2011.

For everyone's information, the relevant section in the letter is as follows:

"The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) is an independent and impartial advisory non-departmental public body. It is bound by statute (the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, as amended (the Act)) to conduct a review of all Parliamentary boundaries in England every five years. The current review, which began in February 2016, will be reported to Parliament (through the Secretary of State) in September 2018 - it is therefore known as the 2018 Review of Parliamentary boundaries.

"In conducting the review and making recommendations to Parliament, the Commission is statutorily obliged to adhere to the rules set out in the Act. One of these rules - a non-discretionary one - states that the number of electors in every constituency we recommend (with two exceptions - see below) must be within 5% of the average number of electors across the UK (for the 2018 Review, this means every constituency must contain between 71,031 and 78,507 electors). As you acknowledge in your letter... one consequence of this statutory rule is that the electorate of the County of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is such that one cannot allocate a whole number of constituencies to it; you rightly state that it is therefore inevitable that at least one constituency will combine parts of Cornwall with parts of Devon.

"The decision on the rules under which the BCE operates is for the legislature to make. When passing the most recent legislation that amended the Act and its rules (in 2011), Parliament decided to exempt two English constituencies from the statutory rule relating to the number of electors in each constituency - those covering the Isle of Wight. The Commission is therefore not bound by this rule when making recommendations for the Isle of Wight. This is the only area in England where the Commission can legally make recommendations for constituencies that contain more or fewer electors than those figures set out above. We have no power, nor discretion, to act otherwise. The Commission is not an advocate or critic of the rules Parliament has set, nor a lobbying body that will take a view on those rules as they exist now. You will understand that the Commission has been tasked with a statutory role and it will complete that within the rules Parliament has set."

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