PLANS to merge the parliamentary constituencies of Aberavon and Ogmore, as part of the most far-reaching changes to the political map of Wales for almost 70 years, have drawn a cool response from local MPs.
“These proposals by the Boundary Commission will reduce the number of Welsh MPs by a quarter, and for this reason alone they must be opposed,” said Aberavon MP Hywel Francis.
The Boundary Commission is calling for the number of MPs representing Wales at Westminster to be cut from 40 to 30, with changes made to every constituency. It is now engaged in a 12-week consultation process on the proposed changes. It is inviting people to suggest alternative proposals for boundary changes, as well as for proposed new constituency names.
Neath MP Peter Hain, the Shadow Wales Secretary, described the proposal as “diabolical”.
Dr Francis added: “I support Welsh Labour in its opposition to the proposed reduction.
“But the proposals have now been announced, so I would encourage all my constituents to participate in the consultation process so as to ensure we get the best possible democratic representation locally and throughout Wales within the UK Parliament.
“Beyond that, there is no purpose at the moment in speculating as what might or might not happen because the process will take a year to complete,” added Dr Francis.
Ogmore MP Huw Irranca-Davies, a Labour member like Dr Francis, said: “It is important to remember that these are initial proposals which could change during the consultation, so the final boundaries could be different.
“To draw early conclusions would be wrong,” he added. “The over-riding priority is to consult with the communities we represent to make sure their voice is heard in deciding the final outcome.
“The focus has to be on what is best for our communities, and best for Wales.”
The changes are part of plans to reduce the number of MPs across the UK from 650 to 600 by December 2013. Under a law brought in last year, every constituency must have an electorate between 72,810 and 80,473 – and only one Welsh seat, Cardiff South and Penarth, currently meets that requirement.