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Parliamentary boundary reviews: public consultations

Published Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The four boundary commissions in the UK have to allow for various stages of public consultation during their general reviews of Parliamentary constituencies. These are summarised in this paper.

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The four boundary commission of the UK, one for each nation, are independent and impartial public bodies that are required to periodically review Parliamentary constituency boundaries.

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 altered the way the commissions are required to consult on their proposals.

Previously the public consultation process was based on an inquiry system. When initial proposals were published, the boundary commissions invited written submissions. If enough written submissions were received, an assistant commissioner would conduct a quasi-judicial inquiry. There was no statutory procedure for local inquiries and their operation was left to the discretion of the assistant commissioner.

The 2011 Act revised the statutory provisions for public consultations and inquiries. There are set periods for written submissions depending on the stage of the consultation process. Although the time periods for each stage of the consultation are laid out in legislation, the dates on which they commence is a matter for the individual boundary commissions. The period between the publication of the commissions' initial proposals, in the autumn of 2016, to the pubication of the final report, which must be by 1 October 2018, is approximately two years.

Public inquiries have been replaced by public hearings which are designed to allow people to make representations and suggest counter-proposals. They are not designed to be a forum for cross-examination of 'witnesses' in the way public inquiries used to be. Public hearings only occur in the first phase of the public consultation process. The stages are summarised below.

 

                    Summary of consultation stages 
 
                        Publication of initial proposals
                                          ⇓

                     12 week initial consultation period

                         which includes public hearings

                                          ⇓

          Publication of initial consultation period submissions

                   including transcripts of public hearings

                                          ⇓

     4 week secondary consultation period - allows people to

comment on submissions from the initial 12 week consultation.

                           There are no public hearings

                                          ⇓
                         Revised proposals published
                                          ⇓

            8 week consultation period on revised proposals

                         There are no public hearings

 

The boundary commissions will place equal weight on any submission regardless of how they were submitted.

Once the final consultation period has been completed the commissions will consider all submissions and make their final recommendations. The final reports and recommendations must be issued and handed to the Government before 1 October 2018. Once this has been done the commissions' role in the review has finished.

Parliamentary approval

Once the Government receives the reports and recommendations of the commissions it must lay them before Parliament. The Government must also lay a draft Order in Council to give effect to the recommended changes before Parliament. At this stage, the Government cannot alter the recommendations unless requested to by a boundary commission.

The draft Order in Council must be approved by both Houses of Parliament before it can be made by Her Majesty in Council.

If Parliament does not approve the draft Order in Council the Government can then amend the recommendations and lay a new draft Order in Council. This will still require Parliamentary approval by both Houses.

 

 

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7696

Author: Neil Johnston

Topic: Elections

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