House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1949
|Chapter||12, 13 & 14 Geo. 6 c. 66|
|Royal Assent||24 November 1949|
|Repealing legislation||Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986|
The House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) 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 Act amended the rules for the distribution of seats to be followed by the boundary commissions for each of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. The commissions had been created under the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1944, and their initial reviews of constituencies had been implemented by the Representation of the People Act 1948.
Under the 1949 Act, each commission was to make its first periodic report within seven years of the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1948. Subsequent reports were to be issued not less than three and not more than seven years after the first periodic report. Reports were to be made to the Home Secretary, and were to contain the proposed constituency boundaries. The Home Secretary could then issue a draft Order in Council, to be approved by both houses of parliament. Once approved, the draft order would be presented to the Privy Council, and enacted via a statutory instrument. Any changes in seats would not take place until the next dissolution of parliament and calling of a general election.
Rules for redistribution of seats
The Act contained a number of rules to guide the work of the commissions.
Number of constituencies
- Great Britain was to have "not substantially greater or less than" 613 constituencies.
- Northern Ireland was to have 12 constituencies.
- Every constituency was to return a single Member of Parliament.
Rules on dividing and combining counties and districts
"As far as practicable" in England and Wales:
- The City of London was not to be divided, and the name of the constituency in which it was included had to include the term "City of London".
- No constituency was to combine the whole or parts of different administrative counties and county boroughs or metropolitan boroughs were not be included with adjacent counties.
- No county borough (or any part thereof) was to be included in a constituency with any other county borough or part of a metropolitan borough.
- No metropolitan borough was to be included in a constituency which included the whole or part of any other metropolitan borough.
- No county district (municipal borough, urban district or rural district) was to be included partly in one constituency and partly in another.
In Northern Ireland:
- No county district was to be included partly in one constituency and partly in another.
The electorate of any constituency was to be as close as possible to an "electoral quota" ensuring even distribution of parliamentary representation within each of the commission areas. Where there was a large disparity between electorates, the commissions were empowered to override the rules on dividing and combining areas.
The electoral quota was obtained by dividing the total electorate for either Great Britain or Northern Ireland by the number of allocated seats.
Special geographical considerations
Each commission were allowed to depart from the rules on areas or electorate in special cases "including in particular the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency" in order to form constituencies.
Amendment and repeal
The 1949 Act was amended by the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1958. The 1958 legislation removed the Director General of the Ordnance Survey from each commission, and in each case appointed a judge to be deputy chairman. It also modified the definition of the term "electoral quota" so that in future the total electorate of each part of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) was to have a different quota, calculated by dividing by the number of constituencies then in existence. A new procedure was established, forcing a local inquiry to be held where there were large numbers of objections to changes.
The House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act 1979 amended the 1949 Act in respect to Northern Ireland, increasing the number of constituencies in the province to 17 in number. Northern Ireland had been under-represented in the Commons to compensate for the existence of a devolved parliament. However, this had been abolished in 1973. The number of seats could be decreased to 16 or increased to 18 in the future.
The 1949, 1958 and 1979 Acts were repealed by the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, which remains the current primary legislation governing allocation of constituencies.
- The Boundary Commissions: redrawing the UK's map of Parliamentary constituencies; D J Rossiter, R J Johnston, C J Pattie; Manchester University Press, 1999.