Constituencies

2.3The Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, s 11 provides that for parliamentary elections, there shall be the county and borough constituencies, each returning a single Member, which are described in Orders in Council made under that Act.

The same Act provides for four permanent Boundary Commissions, one each for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; each Boundary Commission is to keep under review the representation in the House of Commons of the part of the United Kingdom with which it is concerned. The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 amended the 1986 Act, so that boundary reviews take place on a five-yearly basis from 2013. It also amended the second schedule to the 1986 Act to give primacy to equalising the size of constituencies and set the number of constituencies at 600. Section 14 of the 2011 Act also provided for a review of the effects of the reduction in the number of constituencies, to be established in 2015, with a majority of the members of the review committee to be Members.

The boundary review due in 2013 was postponed by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013, s 6. The Boundary Commissions were required to report before 1 October 2018 but not before 1 September 2018, and at five-yearly intervals thereafter. The 2013 Act also provided that the review of the effects of the reduction in the number of constituencies should be established in 2020.

The Speaker is nominated Chair of each Commission but all other Members of the House of Commons are excluded from membership of a Commission.

As soon as may be after the submission of a report from any of the four Boundary Commissions recommending changes in the boundaries of constituencies, a Secretary of State must lay the reports before Parliament.2 As soon as may be after the submission of all four reports, the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a draft of an Order in Council for giving effect to the recommendations within them; modifications may be made only on the recommendation of the relevant Boundary Commission. If modifications are made, a statement of the reasons for the modification must be laid at the same time.3

The draft of an Order in Council for giving effect to recommended boundary changes has to be approved by both Houses before it can be made by Her Majesty in Council. If the motion to approve the draft is negatived or withdrawn in either House, the Secretary of State may lay an amended draft before Parliament. The Order in Council has no effect until after the dissolution of the Parliament which approved the draft.4

The Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 provides that the validity of any Order in Council purporting to be made under the Act shall not be called in question in any legal proceedings whatsoever.5

Provisions in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, s 16 (to transfer the functions of the Boundary Commissions to the Electoral Commission appointed under that Act (see para 2.26 )) were repealed by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 (c 20), s 61, without having been brought into force.

Footnotes

  1. 1. That Act consolidated the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Acts 1949 to 1979. The 1949 Act substantially re-enacted the provisions of the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1944 so far as concerned the creation of Commissions for the regular re-examination of constituency boundaries. Previously, such Commissions had been set up ad hoc, consequential on a change in the franchise.
  2. 2. Under the Transfer of Functions (Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986) Order 2018 (SI 2018/780) the functions of the Secretary of State are exercisable concurrently with the Minister for the Civil Service.
  3. 3. The Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, as amended by s 10(6) of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011.
  4. 4. Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, s 4. For details of earlier provisions for Boundary Commission reviews see Erskine May (24th edn, 2011), p 21, fn 10.
  5. 5. Section 4(7). For actions under superseded legislation, see Erskine May (24th edn, 2011), p 21, fn 11.