Concern over plan to ‘bolt’ Ynys Môn constituency to the mainland

Photo by Nick Cozier on Unsplash

An MP has tabled a series of amendments to the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill in an attempt to ensure that the island constituency of Ynys Môn is not scrapped.

The UK Government wants to make constituency sizes more equal across Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland with legislation which is currently passing through Parliament.

As things stand however it is expected that Wales would lose eight seats in the House of Commons, more than any other nation, or region of England.

This is despite no increase in powers being devolved to Wales or further representation in any other form, Plaid Cymru say.

The party’s Ceredigion MP Ben Lake, who is on the House of Commons committee reviewing the Bill, has tabled a series of amendments seeking to ensure Wales retains its 40 MPs.

He has also included an amendment specifically to ensure that the constituency of Ynys Môn is not merged with another on the mainland.

Ynys Môn has existed as a constituency since the 16th century. Other island constituencies – such as the Isle of Wight – receive special status within the legislation as it is currently drafted.

However, it is expected that Ynys Môn might be merged with parts of the constituency of Arfon – currently held by Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams – if the boundary changes go ahead.

 

‘Voice’

“Wales will lose out more than any other nation of the UK or region of England as a result of the Bill,” Ben Lake said. “Wales’s voice will be reduced by this legislation.

“While Westminster still has power over so many areas of policy in Wales it is only right that our nation is properly represented.

“One unacceptable outcome of the proposed Bill is that Ynys Môn, a constituency which has existed as its own entity for almost five centuries, could be lost. This simply cannot happen.

“Westminster cannot press ahead with these changes if it hopes to reflect Wales’s communities, let alone give voice to their concerns.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, who represents the island in the Welsh Parliament argued during the last review of UK Parliamentary boundaries that Ynys Món should be given the same status as other UK islands.

“An island’s boundary is not arbitrary, and Ynys Mon has been a democratic unit at local government and parliamentary level for centuries,” he said.

“To ‘bolt-on’ a part of the mainland to the island just to make up the population does a disservice to all those represented.

“Other islands around the UK are rightly given dispensation to veer outside the otherwise narrow restrictions in terms of constituency size. Ynys Món should be treated the same.”

‘Concentrate power’

Labour has accused the government of attempting a power-grab for the executive by pushing through the boundary redrawing bill.

The initial plan had been for boundaries to be redrawn through reducing the size of the Commons from 650 seats to 600, but this element has been abandoned, in part due to unrest among Conservative MPs whose seats would have vanished.

The revised plan will keep the 650-seat total, but there still could be considerable changes, with the boundary commissions for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland making recommendations to even up the constituency populations, given demographic changes over time.

Under previous plans, the commissions’ plans would be scrutinised and voted on by the Commons and Lords. But in a government update in March, titled Strengthening Democracy, the Cabinet Office said this would no longer be the case.

Instead, the changes would automatically become law. This would, the Cabinet Office said, “provide certainty that the recommendations of the independent boundary commissions – developed through a robust and impartial process that is open to extensive consultation – would then be implemented without interference”.

The decision to base the new boundaries on the electoral register as it stands in December this year would also greatly skew the process, Labour is arguing, as the chaos caused by coronavirus will depress numbers on electoral rolls, and many students might not be registered.

Cat Smith, the shadow Cabinet Office minister whose brief covers voter engagement, said earlier this month: “The government’s decision to end parliamentary oversight by denying MPs the chance to vote on the boundary review process is yet another attempt to diminish scrutiny and concentrate power in the hands of the executive.

“The new boundaries will be dangerously unrepresentative of the current electorate. Choosing the electoral register of 1 December 2020 as the basis for drawing new boundaries is politically motivated. The December 2020 register will be heavily affected by Covid-19 as local councils will struggle to update electoral registers whilst dealing with this crisis.”

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