1. (1) The number of constituencies in Great Britain shall not be substantially greater or
less than 613.
499 Parties, groups and the people
(3) The number of constituencies in Wales shall not be less than 35.
(4) The number of constituencies in Northern Ireland shall not be greater than 18 or
less than 16, and shall be 17 unless it appears to the Electoral Commission or (as
the case may be) the Boundary Committee for Northern Ireland that Northern
Ireland should for the time being be divided into 16 or (as the case may be) into
2. Every constituency shall return a single member.
3. There shall continue to be a constituency which shall include the whole of the City of
London and the name of which shall refer to the City of London.
3A. A constituency which includes the Orkney Islands or the Shetland Islands shall not
include the whole or any part of a local government area other than the Orkney Islands and
the Shetland Islands.
4. (1) So far as is practicable having regard to rules 1 to 3A ÔÇ“
(a) in England and Wales, ÔÇ“
(i) no county or any part of a county shall be included in a constituency which
includes the whole or part of any other county or the whole or part of a London
(ii) no London borough or any part of a London borough shall be included in a con-
stituency which includes the whole or part of any other London borough,
(b) in Scotland, regard shall be had to the boundaries of local authority areas,
(c) in Northern Ireland, no ward shall be included partly in one constituency and partly
(1A) . . .
(2) . . .
5. The electorate of any constituency shall be as near the electoral quota as is practicable
having regard to rules 1 to 4; and the Electoral Commission or (as the case may be)
a Boundary Committee may depart from the strict application of rule 4 if it appears to them
that a departure is desirable to avoid an excessive disparity between the electorate of any
constituency and the electoral quota, or between the electorate of any constituency and that
of neighbouring constituencies in the part of the United Kingdom with which they are
6. The Electoral Commission or (as the case may be) a Boundary Committee may depart
from the strict application of rules 4 and 5 if special geographical considerations, including
in particular the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency, appear to them to render
a departure desirable.
General and supplementary
7. It shall not be the duty of the Electoral Commission or (as the case may be) a Boundary
Committee to aim at giving full e´¬Çect in all circumstances to the above rules (except rule
3A), but they shall take account, so far as they reasonably can ÔÇ“
(a) of the inconveniences attendant on alterations of constituencies, other than alter-
ations made for the purposes of rule 4, and
(b) of any local ties which would be broken by such alterations.
500 British Government and the Constitution
8. In the application of rule 5 to each part of the United Kingdom ÔÇ“
(a) the expression ÔÇ˜electoral quotaÔÇ™ means a number obtained by dividing the elec-
torate for that part of the United Kingdom by the number of constituencies in it
existing on the enumeration date,
(b) the expression ÔÇ˜electorateÔÇ™ means ÔÇ“
(i) in relation to a constituency, the number of persons whose names appear on
the register of parliamentary electors in force on the enumeration date under
the Representation of the People Acts for the constituency,
(ii) in relation to the part of the United Kingdom, the aggregate electorate as
defined in sub-paragraph (i) above of all the constituencies in that part,
(c) the expression ÔÇ˜enumeration dateÔÇ™ means, in relation to any report of the Electoral
Commission (or one made by a Boundary Committee for the purposes of it) under
this Act, the date on which the notice with respect to that report is published in
accordance with section 5(1) of this Act.
9. . . .
The operation of these rules brought about a cumulative increase in the
number of constituencies in the United Kingdom (from 625 in 1950 to 659 in
1997) but with the reduction of the number of Scottish constituencies in
accordance with section 86 of the Scotland Act 1998 (see chapter 4), the number
of UK constituencies for the 2005 general election was 646. The rising trend
is, however, likely to continue unless some adjustment is made to the rules.
(See Home A´¬Çairs Committee, Second Report, HC 97-I of 1986ÔÇ“87; the
GovernmentÔÇ™s Reply, Cm 308/1988 and D Rossiter, R Johnston and C Pattie, The
Boundary Commissions (1999), p 183 et seq).
The statutory criteria for the review of parliamentary constituencies and the
practice followed in applying them are summarised by the Boundary Commi-
ssion for England in their booklet, The Review of Parliamentary Constituencies,
ch 4, as follows. (It can be expected that the Electoral Commission and the
Boundary Committee for England will carry out their responsibilities in a similar
C R I T E R I A F O R R E V I E W I N G PA R L I A M E N TA R Y CO N S T I T U E N C I E S
Application of Statutory Provisions
1. The criteria described [below] . . . apply equally to both general and interim reviews
of parliamentary constituencies. However, there are differences between the two types of
2. General reviews are mandatory. The Commission are required to submit a periodical
report on a general review of all the constituencies in England not less than eight or more
than twelve years from the date of submission of their last periodical report. . . . General
501 Parties, groups and the people
reviews normally involve some large-scale changes, including changes to the number of
constituencies in an area. They take several years to complete and they may, in part, be
3. Interim reviews are discretionary. In between the times when general reviews are
being held, the Commission have the discretion to hold interim reviews of one or more
constituencies. Interim reviews normally involve small changes to small numbers of con-
stituencies, usually as a result of local government boundary changes. They take less than
a year to complete and they are generally less contentious, although a local inquiry may be
required on occasion.
Rules for Redistribution of Seats
4. In reviewing constituencies and making their recommendations, the Commission are
required to give e´¬Çect to the Rules for Redistribution of Seats which form Schedule 2 to the
Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 . . . In broad outline, these rules have the following
(a) a limit on the total number of constituencies;
(b) every constituency to return a single member;
(c) the City of London to be wholly within one constituency the name of which refers
to the City;
(d) constituencies not to cross county or London borough boundaries; and
(e) constituency electorates to be as close as practicable to the electoral quota.
5. Departures from the rules are authorised in various respects, notably to:
(a) avoid excessive disparities in the electorates;
(b) take account of special geographical considerations; or
(c) take account of inconveniences which would be caused and local ties which would
be broken by changes to constituencies.
6. The electoral quota is the average number of electors in a constituency and is found
by dividing the total number of parliamentary electors in England by the existing number
of constituencies in England. The electoral quota for the general review which formally com-
menced in February 2000 is 69,934.
7. The phrase ÔÇ˜special geographical considerationsÔÇ™ is de´¬üned in rule 6 of Schedule 2 to
the 1986 Act as ÔÇ˜including in particular the size, shape and accessibility of a constituencyÔÇ™.
Rule 6 of Schedule 2 permits the Commission to depart from the strict application of rules 4
and 5 if special geographical considerations, including in particular the size, shape and acces-
sibility of a constituency, appear to them to render a departure desirable (Rules 4 and 5 are
directed at avoiding constituencies which cross county or London borough boundaries, and
to creating constituencies with electorates as near the electoral quota as is practicable). The
Commission consider that special geographical considerations which may have an impact on
the ability to form a constituency which does not cross a county or London borough bound-
ary, or with an electorate as near the electoral quota as is practicable, will primarily relate
502 British Government and the Constitution
to physical geography such as mountains, hills, lakes, rivers, estuaries, islands etc rather than
to human or social geography. Matters of culture, history, socio-economics, and other possi-
ble aspects of non-physical geography are unlikely to have any impact on the desirability of
crossing county and London borough boundaries, or the desirability of departing from the
electoral quota. Some of those matters may, however, arise as issues when considering local
ties under the second limb of rule 7.
8. In practice, this means that rule 6 is usually invoked in order to avoid large, inaccessi-
ble constituencies where the area is mountainous or has a sparse or unevenly distributed
electorate. A situation which justifies departure from rules 4 and 5 for special geographical
considerations will seldom occur in England. One example from the fourth general review of
such a departure is the Copeland constituency in Cumbria, where the physical constraints of
the Cumbrian Mountains, the Duddon estuary and the Irish Sea were considered to be com-
pelling reasons for not altering the composition of the constituency which had only 55,548
electors (the electoral quota was 69,281).
Paragraphs 9 to 11 concern the CommissionÔÇ™s recommendations of a name and
designation (county or borough) for each constituency. The designation a´¬Çects
the level of a candidateÔÇ™s allowable expenses at elections (see below).
12. In considering their procedures for a general review, the Commission consult the
major political parties on broad issues of policy ahead of the review. In formulating their pro-
visional recommendations for particular areas, the Commission do not consult the major
political parties, local authorities or other locally interested groups. The Commission consider
that they should take the initiative in preparing provisional recommendations from all the
information available to them. The proposals are therefore formed by the Commission from
a position of independence and impartiality and are not in´¬‚uenced by any particular view-
point or opinion. Once the proposals are published, the statutory procedures allow for a full
public debate and interested parties can then make their views known to the Commission.
13. The Commission use district wards . . . as the smallest unit for designing constituen-
cies and do not divide wards between constituencies. Wards are generally indicative of areas
which have a community of interest and the local political party organisations are almost
always based on them, or groups of them. Any splitting of these units between constituen-
cies is therefore very likely to break local ties, disrupt political party organisation, cause
di´¬âculties for Electoral Registration and Returning O´¬âcers and confuse the electorate.
14. The Commission do not base their recommendations on forecast or projected elec-
torates or on populations, actual or projected. The Commission are required to base their rec-
ommendations on the numbers of electors on the electoral registers at the start of a review
and they are unable to take account of any under-registration or over-registration of electors
which is sometimes claimed in some districts.
15. There may be several ways in which to distribute constituencies within an area under
review which are of equal merit so far as the rules are concerned. The Commission take the
503 Parties, groups and the people
view that they have a general discretion in choosing between the different ways in which,
say, a county could be divided into constituencies consistently with the rules referred to
above. The question of what is and is not practicable may be influenced by many consider-
ations including ones which are not specifically mentioned in any of the rules. For example,
the Commission frequently take into account geographical features, not as authorising a
departure from either rule 4 or rule 5, as rule 6 specifically authorises them to do, but as
justifying one particular scheme for dividing a county into constituencies rather than another.
Rivers, main roads, particularly motorways and even railway lines, can have such an effect.
Similarly, other factors which are not strictly geographical, such as school catchment areas
and travel to work areas, may influence choices between various possible schemes which
comply with the rules.
In paragraphs 16 to 18 the Commission note that in choosing between per-
missible options they may take account of substantial growth or decline in the
electorate which has occurred since the enumeration date for the review or
which they are satis´¬üed will occur in the very near future.
19. [Reference is made to considerations affecting a particular area which fall outside the
rules and are not taken into account.]
Other Relevant Factors
20. The Commission are not required by rule 4 of the Rules for Redistribution of Seats to
have regard to district boundaries in England, but districts are readily identi´¬üable, important
local units and it would obviously be unwise to ignore their boundaries. However, many dis-
tricts have electorates that are either much too big or too small to form constituencies with
electorates close to the electoral quota. Whilst the Commission propose constituencies which
use the district boundaries as much as practicable, it is nevertheless often necessary to cross
district boundaries in order to avoid excessive disparities in the electorates of neighbouring
21. Other information which is routinely taken into account by the Commission, as a result
of making considerable use of maps during their discussions on alternative redistributions,
include, for example, major roads, railways, and other lines of communication; the juxtapo-
sition of rural and urban areas; focal points and catchment areas ie small towns in rural areas
and central points in large towns and urban areas.
22. [Use of maps in the review.]
The procedure for carrying out a review for any part of the United Kingdom
will begin when the Electoral Commission gives notice to the Secretary of
State of its intention to prepare a report. The relevant Boundary Committee,
after arriving at provisional recommendations for any constituency which it
has in mind to propose to the Electoral Commission, must publish the e´¬Çect
of these and invite representations, which it must take into account. If the
Committee then revises the proposed recommendations it must publish
504 British Government and the Constitution
a notice of the revisions and invite further representations. The Committee is
bound to arrange for a local inquiry if representations objecting to the proposed
recommendations are received from an interested local authority or from a
body of at least 100 electors. The ´¬ündings of the inquiry must be taken into
account by the Committee. These arrangements are meant to ensure fairness
and due consideration of local opinions and criticisms in the ´¬üxing of con-
Before completing its report for the Secretary of State the Electoral Commi-
ssion must, if it intends to modify or reject the proposed recommendations of
a Boundary Committee, take into consideration any representations made to
the Committee as well as the ´¬ündings of any local inquiry. As soon as practica-
ble after the Electoral Commission has delivered its report, the Secretary of State
must lay it before Parliament, together with a draft Order in Council for giving
e´¬Çect to the recommendations contained in the report. Formerly the Secretary
of State was empowered to modify the recommendations to be included in the
draft Order, although required in that event to lay before Parliament a statement
of his or her reasons for doing so. The exercise of this power to change the
recommendations could excite accusations of political bias, and the power
was removed by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000,
Schedule 3, paragraphs 2(7), 4.
The legislation does not confer an express right on any person to challenge,