This House of Commons Library paper describes the devolution of electoral arrangements to Wales. The draft Wales Bill published on 20 October 2015 is the latest development in this process. The paper looks at developments since 2012 and discusses debates about the number of constituencies in Wales.Jump to full report >>
The draft Wales Bill would create a ‘reserved powers’ model of devolution for Wales (similar to the one operative in Scotland) and would devolve power in relation to Welsh Assembly elections and local elections in Wales. Among other things, the Assembly would have the power to change its name, and to determine its own size. The Assembly would be able to choose to have constituencies with boundaries that are not coterminous with those of the UK parliamentary constituencies in Wales; the 2018 review of constituency boundaries will reduce the number of Westminster constituencies in Wales because the House of Commons will be reduced to 600 MPs representing evenly sized constituencies.
The draft Wales Bill took forward proposals outlined in the St David’s Day Agreement (published in the command paper Powers for a purpose: towards a lasting devolution settlement for Wales). The agreement was based on recommendations set out in the Commission on Devolution in Wales (the Silk Commission)’s second report, published in March 2014.
The recommendations contained in the Silk Commission’s first report, published in November 2012, had formed the basis of the Wales Act 2014. In respect of the National Assembly for Wales, this Act changed the term of the Assembly to five years; allowed candidates at Assembly elections to stand in both a constituency and a region at the same time and prohibited Assembly Members from sitting simultaneously as MPs. Library Research Paper 14/19, Wales Bill 2013-14 published before the second reading debate gives further information about the Bill’s other provisions relating to the devolution of tax-raising powers to the Assembly.
The provisions on electoral arrangements in the Wales Act 2014 had been included in the draft Wales Bill published for pre-legislative scrutiny in December 2013. These provisions were based on a consultation on the Green Paper on the future electoral arrangements for the Assembly published in 2012. The consultation had also concerned the number of constituencies in Wales. This issue was not taken forward as the 2013 review of constituency boundaries that had been expected to reduce the number of UK parliamentary constituencies in Wales was halted.
Commons Briefing papers SN06641
Authors: Isobel White; Elise Uberoi