A review into parliamentary constituency boundaries in Wales is set to begin – with Wales already set to lose 20% of its MPs come the next UK General Election.
Currently, Wales is divided into 40 constituencies – each sending one MP to Westminster.
What is a parliamentary constituency?
A parliamentary constituency is a defined geographical area. The UK is divided into 650 parliamentary constituencies. Each area is represented by one Member of Parliament (MP), who are voted in by eligible voters living in the constituency.
However, this is set to be reduced to 32 for the next election, scheduled for 2024, after the Parliamentary Constituencies Bill 2019-21 received Royal Assent last month.
Across the UK, there are currently 650 constituencies. Plans to reduce this number to 600 – giving Wales just 29 MPs – were scrapped with the approval of the bill.
How many MPs will each country have?
Wales: 32 MPs (a reduction of eight MPs )
England: 543 MPs (an increase of ten MPs)
Scotland: 57 MPs (a reduction of two MPs)
Northern Ireland: 18 MPs (no increase or reduction on current numbers)
The Boundary Commission for Wales is now set to begin redrawing the political map of Wales – with its final proposals set to be released in 2023.
After the shake-up, each constituency will need to have an electorate within 5% of the UK average, which is 73,393 electors per constituency.
Each proposed constituency must therefore have an electorate that is between 69,724 and 77,062.
Which constituency do I live in currently?
Caerphilly County Borough is divided into two and a half parliamentary constituencies. These are: Caerphilly, Iswlyn, and Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.
The Caerphilly and Iswlyn constituencies fall completely within Caerphilly County Borough, while the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency covers the entirety of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough, as well as the Upper Rhymney Valley.
Caerphilly constituency: Abertridwr, Bargoed, Bedwas, Caerphilly, Cefn Hengoed, Draethen, Gelligaer, Gilfach, Glan y Nant, Graig y Rhacca, Hengoed, Llanbradach, Machen, Nelson, Penallta, Penpedairheol, Penybryn, Rudry, Senghenydd, Tir y Berth, Trethomas and Ystrad Mynach.
Islwyn: Aberbargoed, Abercarn, Argoed, Bedwellty, Blackwood, Cefn Fforest, Croespenmaen, Crosskeys, Crumlin, Cwmcarn, Cwmfelinfach, Fleur de Lis, Maesycwmmer, Markham, Newbridge, Oakdale, Pengam, Pontllanfraith, Pontymister, Pontywaun, Risca, Trinant, Wattsville, Wyllie and Ynysddu.
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney: Abertysswg, Brithdir, Deri, Elliot’s Town, Fochriw, Llechryd, New Tredegar, Phillip’s Town, Pontlottyn, Princetown, Rhymney and Tirphil, as well as the entirety of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough.
As of 2019, the Caerphilly constituency has an electorate of 64,555 voters. The Islwyn constituency has 50,907.
Meanwhile, the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency, which covers the Upper Rhymney Valley and the Merthyr Tydfil County Borough area, has an electorate of 55,106.
What is the Boundary Commission for Wales and how will it decide the new boundaries?
The Boundary Commission for Wales is an independent body which oversees political boundaries in Wales. These include parliamentary constituency boundaries, Senedd constituency boundaries and council ward boundaries.
Shereen Williams, Secretary to the Boundary Commission for Wales said: “The Commission, in developing its initial proposals, will consider special geographical considerations, including the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency, local government boundaries, boundaries of existing constituencies, and any local ties that would be broken by changes in constituencies as well as any inconveniences which could be caused by such changes.
“The Commission is an independent body, and as such will not consider voting patterns while developing its initial proposals.
“The initial proposals will be published this summer, and we’re looking forward to hearing from the public in the consultation period that will follow.”
How could the constituency boundaries change?
The final proposals will not be released until 2023, so we can’t say for sure what changes will be made, other than the number of parliamentary constituencies in Wales will decrease from 40 to 32.
But, if previous proposals are anything to go by, there could be drastic changes to the parliamentary boundaries within Caerphilly County Borough.
Previous plans drawn up by the Boundary Commission for Wales, which were based on the number of MPs being reduced to 29 in Wales, included the Islwyn constituency being scrapped all together.
These plans, which were scrapped in 2018, would have seen communities in Iswlyn such as Pontllanfraith, Ynysddu, Cwmfelinfach, Abercarn, Cwmcarn, Crosskeys, Risca and Maesycwmmer, become part of the Caerphilly constituency, alongside Caerphilly town, Bedwas, Trethomas, Machen, the Aber Valley and Llanbradach.
Rogerstone, Rhiwderin and Bassaleg, which are part of Newport City Council, would also have been included in the Caerphilly constituency.
Ystrad Mynach, Hengoed, Cefn Hengoed, Nelson, Gelligaer, Penpedairheol, Bargoed and Gilfach, which are all currently part of the Caerphilly constituency, would have been ‘moved’ into the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency, with communities such as Rhymney, Deri, Pontlottyn, Abertysswg, Fochiriw and New Tredegar also forming part of that constituency.
Meanwhile, Blackwood, Newbridge, Oakdale, Crumlin, Trinant, Argoed and Markham would have formed part of the Blaenau Gwent constituency.
These proposals drew criticism from Islwyn MP Chris Evans in 2017. He said the plans “will break strong local ties and make no geographical sense whatsoever”.
Will Senedd constituencies be affected?
Currently, Wales is divided into 40 constituencies for Senedd elections. Geographically, these are the same as the parliamentary constituencies.
So for example, Crosskeys is in the Islwyn constituency for both parliamentary elections and Senedd elections, while Ystrad Mynach is part of the Caerphilly constituency for both Westminster and Senedd elections.
The constituency boundaries will remain as they are for Senedd elections.
While the number of Welsh constituencies will drop from 40 to 32 for UK Parliamentary elections, they will remain at 40 for Senedd elections.
The next Senedd Election is scheduled for May this year, while the next UK parliamentary election is scheduled for 2024.
However, if the proposed parliamentary boundaries changes for 2018 (which have since been scrapped) went ahead, someone living in Ynysddu for example would find themselves in the Islwyn constituency for Senedd Elections, and the Caerphilly constituency for Parliamentary elections.
What do local MPs think?
Labour MP Gerald Jones, who represents the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency, said: “While a review of parliamentary boundaries is welcome, with our current boundaries now more than two decades old, the Conservatives’ one-size-fits-all approach to the sizes of constituencies is completely inappropriate for Wales, and could have a huge impact on communities in our area and across Wales if they do not reconsider.
“With new boundaries in our area and across the country set to cut directly across valleys, mountains and rivers, the Government must now think again with its changes in Wales or risk cutting straight through important and historic local ties and dividing communities.”
He also warned that reducing the number of MPs in Wales “puts further pressure on the Senedd to represent residents” and said the UK Government “must take this into account and think again”.
Caerphilly’s Labour MP, Wayne David, said the reduction of Welsh MPs would make it “more difficult to elect a Labour Government.”
He said: “Locally, I hope the Boundary Commission will take into account fully community interest. Boundaries of constituencies should follow the natural topography of the valleys and not go across the mountains which separate the valleys.
“In a democracy, people must be able to relate to their representatives.”
The office of Islwyn’s Labour MP Chris Evans did not respond to a request for his thoughts.
How have political parties in Wales responded?
A spokesman for the Welsh Conservatives, said: “Boundaries need to be updated to make sure every part of the United Kingdom has equal representation in the UK Parliament – including Wales. Making sure constituencies are equal means that everyone’s vote carries the same weight, and that every person has the same call on their local MP.”
However, Liz Saville Roberts MP, the leader of the Plaid Cymru group in Westminster, said the UK Government “has a long-running record of centralising and hollowing out Welsh powers and democracy”.
She said: “Following on from the power grabbing Internal Market Bill, it is now cutting Wales’ voice in Westminster through these damaging boundary changes.
“Even under current boundary arrangements, Wales’ voice in London is crowded out. These changes mean that Welsh representation in Parliament will drop even further.
“We need more democracy, not less – it is essential therefore that we enhance and strengthen our Senedd’s powers and size so that the people of Wales have proper democratic representation.”
Jess Blair, director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru (ERSC), described the reduction of the number of MPs representing Wales as a “huge step backwards”.
Ms Blair said: “Wales already has a democratic deficit and cutting the number of Welsh MPs will further undermine our voice in Westminster. At the same time these proposals will add more seats in London and the south [of England], further centralising power around the capital at the expense of the nations and regions beyond it.
“At a critical time for the country, reducing the ability of our lawmakers to represent Welsh voices in Westminster is huge step backwards.”
Ms Blair added: “These proposals for fewer MPs in Westminster only enhance the need for a larger Senedd here in Wales. In the two decades since devolution the powers and responsibilities in Cardiff Bay have grown, yet the size of the Senedd has not. Our parliament must expand if it is to deliver for the people of Wales. At a time where our voice in Westminster is decreasing, reform of the Senedd is more important than ever.”
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