Wales politics

Wales parliamentary boundary change doubt after Lords reform row

Benches in the House of Commons
Image caption Plans for parliamentary boundary changes could see see more than half the current MPs in Wales lose their seats

Plans for major parliamentary seat changes in Wales are under question after the UK coalition government failed to agree on Lords reform.

Labour is asking Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan for clarity over plans to cut Welsh MPs from 40 to 30 and the impact on Welsh assembly boundaries.

Lib Dems said they would not support changes backed by their Tory coalition partners for parliamentary changes.

But a Wales Office source said the Labour call was "extremely premature".

Welsh Labour claimed the Lib Dems and Conservatives were in "disarray".

MPs from all parties in Wales have been at risk from the proposals.

Any changes in Wales would be part of an agreement for Lords reform between the coalition partners that would reduce the size of the Commons from 650 to 600 MPs and redraw parliamentary boundaries.

The proposal to cut the number of parliamentary constituencies in Wales could see more than half the current MPs lose their seats.

Some have been under threat from their constituency disappearing entirely, meaning they may have to compete with neighbouring colleagues for selection.

Others could see changes to their existing seat's boundaries alter the likely political make-up of voters.

The Lords reform plans would have seen 80% of peers elected and the total number of members halved to 450.

But Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the proposals were being abandoned after Conservatives "broke the coalition contract".

As news of the disagreement emerged, a Welsh government spokesman said given there was "now every likelihood" that the UK Government would drop its plans to cut the number of Welsh MPs, First Minister Carwyn Jones would write to the Welsh secretary "asking where this now leaves her Green Paper".

'Rig the map'

Mrs Gillan has unveiled a green paper which proposes either having 30 AMs occupying the same constituencies as Wales' new parliamentary seats, or redrawing the boundaries of the 40 existing constituencies so they are of equal size.

In either system the rest of the 60 seats would be filled by regional AMs, maintaining the assembly's partly proportional elections.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith, said the proposals were a "cynical attempt from the Tories to gerrymander the results of the next election".

He said: "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."

A Wales Office source called Carwyn Jones' decision to write to Mrs Gillan regarding changes to assembly boundaries "extremely premature".

The source said that the consultation was due to end on Monday and it would continue until then, adding that Nick Clegg's statement did not mean that the legislation on changing Parliamentary boundaries would automatically fail.

Any decision about the future of the proposals would only be made if they did not pass, not at this stage, added the source.

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