Plans to change Welsh parliamentary constituencies, cutting the number of MPs by a quarter, will be blocked by the Liberal Democrats. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says it's in response to the Conservative revolt against Lords' reform.
Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP has claimed that Nick Clegg's decision to oppose cutting the number of MPs has exposed the Coalition's divisions. He has called on Cheryl Gillan to drop her own plans for changing the way that the Assembly is elected.
This exposes what boundary changes were about all along – a cynical attempt from the Tories to gerrymander the results of the next election. In Wales, we were set to lose a quarter of our MPs, more so than anywhere else in the UK, and the Lib Dems were more than content to go along with this. But now the Tories have reneged on Lords reform, Nick Clegg has delivered the latest in a long line of government u-turns.
It’s almost beyond belief that the Coalition can treat such important constitutional issues with a complete absence of principle. They’re in total disarray and this open warfare between the two Coalition parties ill-serves our national interest. I trust that Cheryl Gillan – who has treated constitutional issues with similar disdain – will now also drop her own disgraceful attempt to rig the electoral map in Wales and I, along with the First Minister, am writing to her to demand that she do so.
The Welsh Government has responded swiftly to Nick Clegg's announcement, seeing an opportunity to halt any possible changes to how the Assembly is elected, even before consultation is complete on the proposals put forward in a Green Paper by the Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan.
Given there is now every likelihood that the UK Government will drop its plans to cut the number of Welsh MPs, the First Minister will be writing to the Secretary of State for Wales asking where this now leaves her Green Paper.
– Welsh Government Spokesman
Last week, the Welsh Government formally opposed changing from a system of 40 constituency AMs and 20 elected from regional lists to the Welsh Secretary's preferred option of 30 constituency and 30 regional AMs. It said any change should be a matter for the Assembly itself to decide.
Plans to get rid of a quarter of the Welsh seats at Westminster, cutting the number of MPs from 40 to 30, look unlikely to go ahead. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says his party will vote against reducing the membership of the House of Commons and making constituencies more equal in population.
Mr Clegg, who was in charge of the legislation to reduce and equalise parliamentary seats, says the Lib Dems will now block the change after rebel Conservative MPs sabotaged his plans to reform the House of Lords. He says they have 'broken the contract' between the coalition partners.
The Conservative party is not honouring the commitment to Lords reform and, as a result, part of our contract has now been broken. Clearly I cannot permit a situation where Conservative rebels can pick and choose the parts of the contract they like, while Liberal Democrat MPs are bound to the entire agreement. Coalition works on mutual respect; it is a reciprocal arrangement, a two-way street. So I have told the Prime Minister that when, in due course, parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election I will be instructing my party to oppose them.
– Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP
The Prime Minister had wanted the boundary changes to go ahead, partly because the current pattern of constituencies favours Labour. The Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, has proposed that there should be consequential changes to Assembly constituencies. Her consultation closes next Monday.