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Annual Report 2019-20

Annual Report of the Boundary Commission for England, for the financial year 2019-20

Information about the Boundary Commission for England

The sponsor

1. The Boundary Commission for England is an advisory Non-Departmental
Public Body (NDPB), which is sponsored by the Cabinet Office. The Secretariat staff and corporate functions such as Finance, IT and HR support are all provided by the Cabinet Office, which also oversees the corporate governance arrangements for the Commission.

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The Commission

2. The Commission is constituted under Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary
Constituencies Act 1986 (as amended). The Commission is an independent, nonpolitical and impartial body and it takes every opportunity to emphasise that the results and voting patterns of previous elections do not, and should not, enter into its considerations. Nor does it consider the possible effects of its
recommendations on future voting patterns.

3. The Commission is required to submit periodical reports in respect of the
parliamentary constituencies in England to the Government. It is the Government’s statutory duty to lay the reports before Parliament together with the draft of an Order in Council giving effect to the Commission’s recommendations.

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Membership of the Commission

4. The Speaker of the House of Commons is the ex-officio Chairman of all four
Boundary Commissions in the United Kingdom. The appointment of the Speaker emphasises the independent, impartial, and non-political nature of the Commission. The Speaker plays no part in the actual conduct of reviews.

5. The Deputy Chair of the Boundary Commission for England, who presides
over meetings, is a High Court judge appointed by the Lord Chancellor. The Deputy Chair until 26 March 2020 was the Honourable Mr Justice Andrew Nicol. The Honourable Mr Justice Peter Lane was appointed to be the new Deputy Chair shortly after the end of the period covered by this report, on 23 June 2020, for a term of three years.

6. Neil Pringle’s term of office as a Commissioner came to an end on 30 June
2019, immediately following which two new Commissioners were appointed, Colin Byrne and Sarah Hamilton, both for a term of five years.

7. The Commissioners are part-time appointees who meet whenever the work
programme requires it. The Commissioners (not including the Deputy Chair) are paid a daily fee set by the Treasury and, together with the Deputy Chair, are entitled to recover any expenses incurred on Commission work.

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Code of Practice

8. The Commission adheres to the Cabinet Office’s code of conduct for board
members of public bodies. It also maintains a Register of Members’ Interests,
which is updated at least annually and can be accessed on the Commission’s

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9. There are two statutory assessors – i.e. technical advisers – to the Commission. They are the Director General of Ordnance Survey, and the Statistics Authority. Both are represented at Commission meetings by officials whenever the Commission has a need to consult them on their areas of expertise. The Commission did not require the presence of the Assessors at its meetings during 2019-20.

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Assistant Commissioners

10. The Commission may arrange for Assistant Commissioners to be appointed by the Secretary of State to assist it with its work. The Commission did not require Assistant Commissioners during the 2019-20 year

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The Secretariat

11. The Acting Secretary to the Commission was Tony Bellringer throughout
the 2019-20 year. The Secretary heads the Secretariat, the role of which is to
service and assist the Commission in its conduct of reviews and executing the
decisions it takes, and generally to facilitate the smooth and efficient administration of the Commission’s business. The Secretariat may be contacted
at the address at the front of this report.

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Statutory duties

12. The Commission’s statutory function is to keep under review the distribution
of constituencies in England and to make periodical reports (currently every five
years) with recommendations to the Secretary of State in accordance with the
provisions of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 (as amended).

13. The process of an active review takes broadly three years from preparation
to winding down after submitting a final report and recommendations. With a
statutory five year cycle of reporting, this leaves around two ‘fallow’ years in between active reviews, of which 2019-20 has been one.

14. During these periods in between active reviews, the Commission’s role to
‘keep under review’ constituencies in England is restricted to collecting parliamentary electorate data annually from local electoral registration officers, collating and then publishing that statistical data for England as a whole, demonstrating how parliamentary electorate figures change in existing constituencies from year to year.

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