Ministers will be urged to confirm today that they won't push ahead with changes to the way Assembly Members are elected. Labour's Geraint Davies will use a debate in the Commons to say that a recent defeat of plans for parliamentary boundaries should spell the end of similar plans for the Assembly.
The proposals are set out in a Wales Office Green Paper which would also introduce other changes such as fixing Assembly terms and overturning a ban on candidates standing both as constituency and regional AMs. Geraint Davies says the parliamentary boundaries failure undermines the proposals.
UK Government sources acknowledge that the plans to alter Assembly boundaries will have to be looked at again now that the parliamentary constituencies won't be changing but say that the Green Paper was 'about a lot more than boundaries' and insist that ministers will push ahead with it.
The Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith says the defeat of plans to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 30 means the Wales Office should abandon its consultation on cutting the number of Assembly constituencies and increasing the number of AMs elected from regional lists.
Today’s vote is a victory for Wales and a defeat for the Tory party that sought to sacrifice Wales’ voice at Westminster in the narrow interests of their party. Had these boundary changes gone through Wales would have seen a 25% reduction in the number of Welsh MPs, resulting in a certain reduction of Wales’ influence in our British parliament. The Welsh Secretary of State, David Jones, trooped through the lobby to diminish Wales’ voice, though a number of his Conservative colleagues had the courage to defy their government whip and vote to retain a powerful Welsh contingent in the Commons.
– Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith MP
David Jones will now need to explain whether he will drop his own gerrymandering plans to alter the boundaries of the National Assembly for Wales. Those plans, which are clearly designed to benefit the Conservatives and the other minor parties in Wales, were clearly predicated on the changes to the Westminster constituencies and, as such, should also now fall. I have written to David Jones asking that he concede that the Green Paper is now defunct and I hope he will do so at the earliest possible opportunity.
MPs have just voted to halt plans to cut the number of Welsh constituencies by 25%, from 40 to 30. The proposal will now not be implemented before the next General Election. The Prime Minister wanted to reduce the size of the House of Commons from 650 to 600 members.
Wales would have seen a disproportionate cut in its MPs because Welsh constituencies have traditionally had fewer voters than in England. The defeat by 334 votes to 292 followed the Liberal Democrats decision to end their support for the proposal.
Plans which would have seen the number of MPs from Wales cut from 40 to 30 look all but dead following an extraordinary debate taking place right now in the Commons. Liberal Democrat MPs, including cabinet ministers, are set to defy government efforts to introduce the planned boundary changes.
One Welsh Conservative, Glyn Davies, has already said that he'll defy party leaders to abstain in the vote. At least one other has yet to make up his mind. Labour, Lib Dem and Plaid MPs will back a Lords amendment which effectively kills off the plans by delaying them until after the 2015 election.
Plaid's Dafydd Wigley, who was one of the Peers behind the amendment, said today's vote means Wales avoids 'madcap boundary changes.' He added:
*Scrapping the proposals for the 2015 elections also gives an opportunity to think again on the unacceptable proposals put forward for Wales, which stood to lose 25% of its seats, compared to a 6% drop in England. Constituencies running from Denbigh to Welshpool totally fail to create a community of interest on which MPs can focus their work. *
– Lord Dafydd Wigley, Plaid Cymru
The delay should also allow Parliament to think again, in the wake of the Scottish Referendum result, whether there should be more fundamental changes to the constitution, including dealing with the West Lothian Question and the role – if any – of a reformed Upper Chamber.**