Making the headlines in the last couple of weeks have been the Boundary Commission’s proposals for the reduction of Parliamentary seats and Members of Parliament.
This has caused particular controversy in Cornwall because the proposals include the creation of a ‘cross-border’ Parliamentary constituency between Devon and Cornwall.
These initial proposals have been published by the Boundary Commission and have been carried out as a legal requirement under the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011. This was passed before I was elected, by the previous Lib Dem / Conservative Coalition Government. The Boundary Commission is an independent body that decides on the Parliamentary and local government seats. As such their proposals are made based on certain criteria as set up in the legislation.
The reason that a cross border seat is necessary under this legislation is because the Act stipulates that the number of constituencies must decrease from 650 to 600, with every constituency having an electorate of within 5 percent of the national average, which in England must be around 74,000 people.
The country is split into regions in order to allocate the correct number of seats. When this rule is applied to Cornwall, with our current population, we are too big for 5 seats but do not have a large enough population to have the six seats we currently have on our own. Therefore under the current legislation there is a legal requirement for a shared seat with Devon.
There is now a lengthy process, which includes a number of rounds of public consultation, which the people of Cornwall can take part in, before a final decision is reached.
I am disappointed with the new seats as proposed, especially the cross border seat.
There are many reasons for my disappointment, not least that I believe with the current population growth forecasts, the figures this review is based on, will be inaccurate. This review is based on the electoral roll at it stood in December 2015. Since then we have seen over 2 million new people added to the register across the country before the referendum in June. My concern is that by the time the boundary changes are implemented the actual numbers of people living across Cornwall could be much closer to those that would allow us to have six seats within Cornwall alone. However more importantly to me would be the crossing of a historical line, in more ways than one in the proposals for a cross-border seat. The proposals have met with a good deal of criticism from across the political and public spectrum in Cornwall for precisely this reason.
Whilst I fully support the principle of the equal representation of voters through Parliamentary seats all being of a similar size, I also understand and share the very strong feelings the people of Cornwall have about this issue. I am aware that there are challenges to these plans being discussed. I will continue to monitor developments closely and concern what might be realistically achieved to change these plans.
Details of the initial proposals and the consultation process can be found via the Commission's website here:
I would certainly encourage anyone who is interested in the future of Cornwall’s Parliamentary representation to make their views known.