Towards the final recommendations
It’s hard to believe that nearly two and a half years have passed since the Commission began the 2018 Review of Parliamentary Constituencies and here we are, only a few months before we finish the job.
For the past few weeks, along with my colleagues David Elvin and Neil Pringle, I have been immersing myself in all the valuable community evidence and views that have been submitted during the three consultation stages we’ve run. Over 35,000 public comments is testament to the interest that people have in their local communities, and given we have already changed over half of our first proposals based on local views it really shows the value of public consultation to the process of setting new boundaries. Our team of staff have been busy analysing all the material submitted and we have been working hard to consider what our final recommendations for new boundaries will be. It’s been a huge amount of work, but I am delighted that we are getting close to having an agreed report to submit to the Government this year.
The law we work to dictates that we must submit our final report, containing our recommendations for new boundaries, to the Government during September 2018. This report must then be ‘laid’ in Parliament by the Government at some point after we have submitted it to them. ‘Laying’ a report is effectively submitting the report to Parliament for all MPs to see. Unlike our previous consultation documents – which we were free to publish at the time and in the manner of our choosing – the final legal report must be seen by Parliament before we can make it public; this is a well-established convention that applies to all such legal reports. We’ll therefore be reliant on the Government to lay our report in Parliament before we can publish our final recommendations and maps on our website for everyone to see.
In order to ensure that there is maximum time for the Government to lay the report in Parliament, we have told them that we intend to submit our report as early as possible in September, probably on or around 5 September 2018. We’ll let everyone know when we do so, but after that it will be up to the Government as to how quickly they lay that report in Parliament, and therefore how quickly we can make public our final recommendations. Given the interest, and engagement, that the public have had in our review so far, I imagine there will be a keen audience awaiting the publication of our final recommendations!
Once the Government have laid the report (and those of our counterpart Commissions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales), they must then turn our recommendations into a piece of law (called a ‘Statutory Instrument’) that must be voted on by both the House of Commons and House of Lords. The Commission has no role in any of this procedure – once we submit our report to Government our job on the 2018 Boundary Review is done. There has, of course, been plenty of speculation about the ‘politics’ surrounding the boundary review – speculation that we, as an independent Commission working within the parameters of our legal framework, steer clearly away from. What I am sure of is that we have done the best job we can and will come up with a set of final boundaries that meet the tight legal rules to which we work, while reflecting as many local community views as we can.