United Kingdom constituencies

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There are 650 constituencies for the British House of Commons. UK Constituencies 2017 (blank).svg
There are 650 constituencies for the British House of Commons.

In the United Kingdom (UK), each of the electoral areas or divisions called constituencies elects one member to the House of Commons.

Contents

Within the United Kingdom there are five bodies with members elected by electoral districts called "constituencies" as opposed to "wards":

Between 1921 and 1973 the following body also included members elected by constituencies:

Electoral areas called constituencies were previously used in elections to the European Parliament, prior to the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union. (See European Parliament constituency .)

In local government elections (other than for the London Assembly) electoral areas are called wards or electoral divisions.

County constituencies and borough constituencies

House of Commons, Scottish Parliament, Senedd and Northern Ireland Assembly constituencies are designated as either county or borough constituencies, except that in Scotland the term burgh is used instead of borough. Since the advent of universal suffrage, the differences between county and borough constituencies are slight. Formerly (see below) the franchise differed, and there were also county borough and university constituencies.

Borough constituencies are predominantly urban while county constituencies are predominantly rural. There is no definitive statutory criterion for the distinction; the Boundary Commission for England has stated that, "as a general principle, where constituencies contain more than a small rural element they should normally be designated as county constituencies. Otherwise they should be designated as borough constituencies." [1] In Scotland, all House of Commons constituencies are county constituencies except those in the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and three urban areas of Lanarkshire. [2]

In England and Wales, the position of returning officer in borough constituencies is held ex officio by the mayor or chairman of the borough or district council, and the high sheriff of the county in county constituencies. [3] The administration of elections is carried out by the acting returning officer, who will typically be a local council's chief executive [4] or Head of Legal Services. The role, however, is separate from these posts, and can be held by any person appointed by the council. The spending limits for election campaigns are different in the two, the reasoning being that candidates in county constituencies tend to need to travel farther.

Spending limits for election campaigns
Elected bodyConstituency type
borough/burghcounty
House of Commons [5] [6] £7,150 + 5p per elector£7,150 + 7p per elector
Northern Ireland Assembly£5,483 + 4.6p per elector£5,483 + 6.2p per elector
Scottish Parliament
Senedd
£5,761 + 4.8p per elector£5,761 + 6.5p per elector

For by-elections to any of these bodies, the limit in all constituencies is £100,000. [7] [8]

History

In the House of Commons of England, each English county elected two "knights of the shire" while each enfranchised borough elected "burgesses" (usually two, sometimes four, and in a few cases one). [9] From 1535 each Welsh county and borough was represented, by one knight or burgess. [10] The franchise was restricted differently in different types of constituency; in county constituencies forty shilling freeholders (i.e. landowners) could vote, while in boroughs the franchise varied from potwallopers, giving many residents votes, to rotten boroughs with hardly any voters. A county borough was the constituency of a county corporate, combining the franchises of both county and borough. Until 1950 there were also university constituencies, which gave graduates an additional representation.

Similar distinctions applied in the Irish House of Commons, while the non-university elected members of the Parliament of Scotland were called Shire Commissioners and Burgh Commissioners. After the Acts of Union 1707, Scottish burghs were grouped into districts of burghs in the Parliament of Great Britain, except that Edinburgh was a constituency in its own right. After the Acts of Union 1800, smaller Irish boroughs were disenfranchised, while most others returned only one MP to the United Kingdom Parliament.

The Reform Act 1832 reduced the number of parliamentary boroughs in England and Wales by eliminating the rotten boroughs. It also divided larger counties into two two-seat divisions, the boundaries of which were defined in the Parliamentary Boundaries Act 1832, and gave seven counties a third member. Similar reforms were also made for Scotland and for Ireland. The Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 equalised the population of constituencies; it split larger boroughs into multiple single-member constituencies, reduced smaller boroughs from two seats each to one, split each two-seat county and division into two single-member constituencies, and each three-seat county into single-member constituencies.

The House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1958, eliminated the previous common electoral quota for the whole United Kingdom and replaced it with four separate national minimal seat quotas for the respective Boundaries commissions to work to, as a result the separate national electoral quotas came into effect: England 69,534; Northern Ireland 67,145, Wales 58,383 and in Scotland only 54,741 electors.

Naming

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 gives the Boundary Commissions for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland the power to create names for constituencies, and does not provide a set of statutory guidelines for the Commissions to follow in doing so.

Constituency names are geographic, and "should normally reflect the main population centre(s) contained in the constituency". Compass points are used to distinguish constituencies from each other when a more suitable label cannot be found. Where used, "The compass point reference used will generally form a prefix in cases where the rest of the constituency name refers to the county area or a local council, but a suffix where the rest of the name refers to a population centre." This is the reason for the difference in naming between, for example, North Shropshire (a county constituency) and Reading West (a borough constituency). [11]

House of Commons constituencies

In the 2005 United Kingdom general election, the House of Commons had 646 constituencies covering the whole of the United Kingdom. This rose to 650 in the 2010 election following the Fifth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies. Each constituency elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the "first-past-the-post" system of election. [12]

The House of Commons is one of the two chambers of the bicameral Parliament of the United Kingdom, the other being the House of Lords. [13]

See also

London Assembly constituencies

There are fourteen London Assembly constituencies covering the Greater London area, and each constituency elects one member of the assembly by the first-past-the-post system. Eleven additional members are elected from Greater London as a whole to produce a form or degree of mixed-member proportional representation.

Constituency names and boundaries remain now as they were for the first general election of the assembly, in 2000.

The assembly is part of the Greater London Authority and general elections of the assembly are held at the same time as election of the mayor of London.

Northern Ireland Assembly constituencies

There are 18 Northern Ireland Assembly Constituencies: four borough (for Belfast) and 14 county constituencies elsewhere (see below).

Each elects five MLAs to the 90 member NI Assembly by means of the single transferable vote system. Assembly Constituency boundaries are identical to their House of Commons equivalents. [14]

The constituencies below are not used for the election of members to the 11 district councils. [15]

NameCurrent boundariesName
  1. Belfast East BC
  2. Belfast North BC
  3. Belfast South BC
  4. Belfast West BC
  5. East Antrim CC
  6. East Londonderry CC
  7. Fermanagh & South Tyrone CC
  8. Foyle CC
  9. Lagan Valley CC
Parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland NorthernIrelandParliamentaryConstituenciesNumbered.svg
Parliamentary constituencies in Northern Ireland
  1. Mid Ulster CC
  2. Newry & Armagh CC
  3. North Antrim CC
  4. North Down CC
  5. South Antrim CC
  6. South Down CC
  7. Strangford CC
  8. Upper Bann CC
  9. West Tyrone CC

Scottish Parliament constituencies

Scottish Parliament constituencies are sometimes called Holyrood constituencies, to distinguish them from Westminster (House of Commons) constituencies. [16] The Scottish Parliament Building is in the Holyrood area of Edinburgh, while the main meeting place of the Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Palace of Westminster, in the City of Westminster. [17]

There are 73 Holyrood constituencies covering Scotland, and each elects one Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) by the first-past-the-post system. Also, the constituencies are grouped into eight electoral regions, and each of these regions elects seven additional members, to produce a form or degree of mixed-member proportional representation. [18]

The existing constituencies were created, effectively, for the first general election of the Scottish Parliament, in 1999. When created, all but two had the names and boundaries of Westminster constituencies. The two exceptions were the Orkney Holyrood constituency, covering the Orkney Islands council area, and the Shetland Holyrood constituency, covering the Shetland Islands council area. For Westminster elections, these council areas were covered (and still are covered) by the Orkney and Shetland Westminster constituency.

In 1999, under the Scotland Act 1998, [19] the expectation was that there would be a permanent link between the boundaries of Holyrood constituencies and those of Westminster constituencies. This link was broken, however, by the Scottish Parliament (Constituencies) Act 2004, [20] which enabled the creation of a new set of Westminster constituencies without change to Holyrood constituencies. The new Westminster boundaries became effective for the 2005 United Kingdom general election.

Senedd constituencies

There are 40 Senedd constituencies covering Wales, and each elects one Member of the Senedd (MS) by the first-past-the-post system. Also, the constituencies are grouped into five electoral regions, and each of these regions elects four additional members, to produce a form or degree of mixed-member proportional representation.

The current set of Senedd constituencies is the second to be created. The first was created for the first general election of the National Assembly for Wales, in 1999.

European Parliament constituencies

Before its withdrawal from the European Union in 2020, the United Kingdom elected its Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) through twelve multimember European Parliament constituencies. One, Northern Ireland, used single transferable vote, while the eleven covering Great Britain used the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.

For its first European Parliamentary elections in 1979 Great Britain was divided into a number of single-member first-past-the Post constituencies, matching the way Westminster MPs are elected. Following the decision that all MEPs should be elected by some form of proportional representation, the Labour government passed the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1999, creating eleven constituencies on Great Britain, which were first used in 1999. [21]

The South West England constituency was expanded from the 2004 elections onward to include Gibraltar, the only British overseas territory that was part of the European Union, following a court case. [22]

Related Research Articles

Politics of the United Kingdom Political system of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The United Kingdom is a unitary state with devolution that is governed within the framework of a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of state while the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, currently Boris Johnson, is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the British government, on behalf of and by the consent of the monarch, and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as in the Scottish and Welsh parliaments and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The highest court is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

Legislatures of the United Kingdom

The Legislatures of the United Kingdom are derived from a number of different sources. The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the supreme legislative body for the United Kingdom and the British overseas territories with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each having their own devolved legislatures. Each of the three major jurisdictions of the United Kingdom has its own laws and legal system.

Law of the United Kingdom legal systems

The United Kingdom has four legal systems, each of which derives from a particular geographical area for a variety of historical reasons: English law, Scots law, Northern Ireland law, and, since 2007, purely Welsh law. However, unlike the other three, Welsh law is not a separate legal system per se, merely the primary and secondary legislation generated by the Welsh Parliament, interpreted in accordance with the doctrines of English law and not impacting upon English common law. There is a substantial overlap between these three legal systems and the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each legal system defaults to its jurisdiction, each of whose courts further that law through jurisprudence. Choice of which jurisdiction's law to use is possible in private law: for example a company in Edinburgh, Scotland and a company in Belfast, Northern Ireland are free to contract in English law. This is not so in public law, where there are set rules of procedure in each jurisdiction. Overarching these systems is the law of the United Kingdom, also known as United Kingdom law. UK law arises from laws applying to the United Kingdom and/or its citizens as a whole, most obviously constitutional law, but also other areas, for instance tax law.

Administrative geography of the United Kingdom Geographical subdivisions of local government in Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The administrative geography of the United Kingdom is complex, multi-layered and non-uniform. The United Kingdom, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe, consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For local government in the United Kingdom, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have their own system of administrative and geographic demarcation. Consequently, there is "no common stratum of administrative unit encompassing the United Kingdom".

Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament Devolved unicameral legislature of Wales

Senedd Cymru, or the Welsh Parliament in English, is the democratically elected, devolved, unicameral legislature of Wales. It represents the interests of the people of Wales, makes laws for Wales, agrees certain taxes and scrutinises the Welsh Government. As a bilingual institution, both Welsh and English are the official languages of its business. From its creation in 1999 until May 2020, the Senedd was known as the National Assembly for Wales.

The boundary commissions in the United Kingdom are non-departmental public bodies responsible for determining the boundaries of constituencies for elections to the House of Commons. There are four separate boundary commissions:

Over the history of the House of Commons, the number of Members of Parliament (MPs) has varied for assorted reasons, with increases in recent years due to increases in the population of the United Kingdom. There are currently 650 constituencies, each sending one MP to the House of Commons, corresponding to approximately one for every 92,000 people, or one for every 68,000 parliamentary electors.

The Scottish Parliament (Holyrood), created by the Scotland Act 1998, has used a system of constituencies and electoral regions since the first general election in 1999.

Representation of the People Act 1948 United Kingdom legislation

The Representation of the People Act 1948 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that altered the law relating to parliamentary and local elections. It is noteworthy for abolishing plural voting, including by the abolition of the twelve separate university constituencies; and for again increasing the number of members overall, in this case to 613.

Member of Parliament (United Kingdom) Representatives in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, a Member of Parliament (MP) is an individual elected to serve in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Politics of the Highland council area

The politics of the Highland council area in Scotland are evident in the deliberations and decisions of the Highland Council, in elections to the council, and in elections to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (Westminster) and the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood). In the European Parliament the area is within the Scotland constituency, which covers all of the 32 council areas of Scotland.

Senedd constituencies and electoral regions are electoral districts in use to date and which have been used in some form since the first Welsh Assembly election in 1999. New boundaries were introduced for the 2007 elections. The total numbers of constituencies and regions remained the same.

North Wales (Senedd Cymru electoral region)

North Wales is an electoral region of the Senedd, consisting of nine constituencies. The region elects thirteen members, nine directly elected constituency members and four additional members. The electoral region was first used in the 1999 Welsh Assembly election, when the National Assembly for Wales was created.

Mid and West Wales (Senedd Cymru electoral region)

Mid and West Wales is an electoral region of the Senedd, consisting of eight constituencies. The region elects twelve members, eight directly elected constituency members and four additional members. The electoral region was first used in the 1999 Welsh Assembly election, when the National Assembly for Wales was created.

South Wales Central (Senedd Cymru electoral region)

South Wales Central is an electoral region of the Senedd, consisting of eight constituencies. The region elects 12 members, eight directly elected constituency members and four additional members. The electoral region was first used in 1999, when the Assembly for Wales was created.

South Wales West (Senedd Cymru electoral region)

South Wales West is an electoral region of the Senedd, consisting of seven constituencies. The region elects 11 members, seven directly elected constituency members and four additional members. The electoral region was first used in 1999, when the Assembly for Wales was created.

House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1949 United Kingdom legislation

The House of Commons Act 1949 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that provided for the periodic review of the number and boundaries of parliamentary constituencies.

The Scottish Parliament (Holyrood) has 73 constituencies, each electing one Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) by the plurality system of election, and eight additional members regions, each electing seven additional MSPs.

Elections in the United Kingdom

There are five types of elections in the United Kingdom: elections to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, elections to devolved parliaments and assemblies, local elections, mayoral elections and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. Within each of those categories, there may also be by-elections. Elections are held on Election Day, which is conventionally a Thursday. Since the passing of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 for general elections, all five types of elections are held after fixed periods, though early elections to parliament and the devolved assemblies and parliaments can occur in certain situations. The five electoral systems used are: the single member plurality system (first-past-the-post), the multi-member plurality system, the single transferable vote, the additional member system and the supplementary vote.

Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 United Kingdom legislation

The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011(c. 1) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made provision for the holding of a referendum on whether to introduce the Alternative Vote system in all future general elections to the UK Parliament and also made provision on the number and size of Parliamentary Constituencies. The Bill for the Act was introduced to the House of Commons on 22 July 2010 and passed third reading on 2 November by 321 votes to 264. The House of Lords passed the Bill, with amendments, on 14 February 2011, and after some compromises between the two Houses on amendments, it received Royal Assent on 16 February.

References

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