Ynys Môn constituency to be given protected status by UK Government to prevent boundary changes
The UK Government will add Ynys Môn to its list of protected constituencies, shielding the 500 year old Westminster seat from planned boundary changes.
While several island constituencies, such as the Isle of Wight, Orkney and Shetland and Na h-Eileanan an Iar (the Western Isles of Scotland) already enjoy special protected status, that was not the case with Ynys Môn.
Despite its history dating back to the 1530s, and unique geography in being separated from mainland Wales by the Menai Strait, there had been fears that the seat would be “tacked on” to parts of Gwynedd as part of a planned boundary shake-up to level up the size of UK parliamentary constituencies.
As part of the plans, Wales is expected to see its number of MPs reduce from 40 to around 32.
Having dropped previous plans to cut the overall number of sitting members to 600, Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith said the Government remained committed to creating constituencies with near-equal numbers of voters, but that it was “sensible” for there to continue to be 650 MPs.
But this morning, after amendments were tabled by Conservative, Plaid Cymru and SNP members, the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution confirmed that she would include such protection as part of the new Parliamentary Constituencies Bill.
Addressing the Bill Committee on Tuesday morning, Chloe Smith thanked Maria Miller and the island’s MP, Virginia Crosbie, for their efforts in securing the amendment as well as Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, Ben Lake, who also spoke in favour of such protected status for the island seat.
She added: “I am able to confirm to the committee that the Government will be accepting my right honourable friend’s amendment to add a protected constituency for Ynys Môn.
“Covering 715 square kilometres, Ynys Môn is the fourth largest island in Great Britain and with an electorate of approximately 50,000, Ynys Môn is comparable to other islands which already enjoy such status.
“I am mindful that with each additional protection, any such exception chips at the underlying principle of equal sized constituencies and is a consideration we have to make.
“But I am persuaded that with the creation of Ynys Môn as a protected constituency would address an anomaly and is the only island in the UK whose electorate and geographical area falls within the range of the currently protected constituencies.”
This was despite some members questioning such status, with John Spellar raising the fact that Anglesey has been connected to the mainland thanks to two bridges for two centuries.
But Maria Miller said there were “countless arguments” for Anglesey’s unique identity, which was environmentally and economically distinct to the mainland and the mountains of Snowdonia.
The island’s previous MP, Albert Owen, who fought to retain the seat during his time in parliament, welcomed the move but pointed out that the Conservative Government had blocked a similar bill in the last Parliament.
His successor, Virginia Crosbie, said today: “I am delighted that this amendment has been accepted and that Ynys Môn is one step closer to becoming a protected constituency.
“I know just how important this is to the people of Ynys Môn and I have actively supported the amendment on their behalf.”
The Senedd Member, Rhun ap Iorwerth, who publicly backed a similar amendment by Ceredigion MP Ben Lake, added: “This is excellent news for the identity and democratic independence of Ynys Mon.
“To ‘bolt-on’ a part of the mainland to the island just to make up the population would have done a great a disservice to all those represented – on both sides of the bridges.
“While Westminster still has power over so many areas of policy in Wales it is only right that our nation is properly represented.”
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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