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Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000

Section 16 : Transfer of functions of Boundary Commissions

58.Section 16 provides for the transfer of the functions of the four existing Parliamentary Boundary Commissions to the Electoral Commission. Although originally established by the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1949, the Parliamentary Boundary Commissions are currently established under section 2(1) of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986. Section 3 of that Act requires each of the Boundary Commissions for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to “keep under review the representation in the House of Commons of the part of the United Kingdom with which they are concerned”. In addition to their functions under the Parliamentary Constituencies Act, the Boundary Commissions are also responsible under the devolution legislation for the review of regional boundaries for elections to the devolved legislatures in Scotland and Wales.

59.Subsections (1) and (2) of section 16 give effect to Schedule 3. Part I of Schedule 3 amends the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 so as to set out the respective roles and functions of the Electoral Commission and the Boundary Committees in relation to the review of parliamentary constituency boundaries. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 3 amends section 3 of the 1986 Act so as to vest the function of keeping parliamentary constituencies under review and submitting reports to the Secretary of State in the Electoral Commission itself. Paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 inserts a new section 3A into the 1986 Act which specifies that, where the Commission intends to prepare and submit a report, the Boundary Committees will carry out a review of their respective areas and submit proposals for recommendations for inclusion in the report. New section 3A(4) requires the Boundary Committees to comply with any directions given to them by the Commission, although any such directions would need to be consistent with the rules for the redistribution of seats in Schedule 2 to the 1986 Act.

60.On receipt of a Committee’s report new section 3A(3) of the 1986 Act sets out five possible courses of action open to the Electoral Commission. It could:

  • accept the proposed recommendations;

  • accept the proposed recommendations subject to modifications agreed with the Committee;

  • reject the proposed recommendations and require the Committee to reconsider its proposals;

  • reject the proposed recommendations and require the Committee to undertake another complete or part review; or

  • in the case of a review into part only of the area for which the Committee is responsible, take no further action.

61.Paragraph 4 of Schedule 3 amends section 4 of the 1986 Act so as to remove the power of the Secretary of State to modify the recommendations of the Electoral Commission proposing changes to parliamentary constituency boundaries. However, it would remain open to the Secretary of State to modify the Commission’s recommendations if the initial order seeking to give effect to them was rejected by either House of Parliament.

62.Paragraphs 5 to 7 of Schedule 3 make consequential changes to sections 5 and 6 of and Schedule 2 to the 1986 Act. It will be for the Electoral Commission itself to give notice of the start of a review but for the relevant Boundary Committee to publicise the effects of the proposed recommendations. Where the Commission intends to modify or reject a Boundary Committee’s recommendations it will be under a duty to have regard to any representations which follow publication of a Committee’s recommendations.

63.Part II of Schedule 3 make equivalent amendments to Schedule 1 to the Government of Wales Act 1998 and Schedule 1 to the Scotland Act 1998 (which make provision in respect of the review of boundaries in relation to elections to the National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Parliament).

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