Government abandons boundary shakeup to cut number of MPs to 600

The boundary review is no more. After a decade of to-ing and fro-ing, the government has now formally abandoned David Cameron’s plans to cut the number of MPs to 600 from 650. It looks like a boost for Labour — which would have been hit proportionally hardest — but also means the government now doesn’t have to have all those tricky conversations with Tory MPs who were poised to see their seats disappear-Owl.

Lizzy Buchan Political Correspondent @LizzyBuchan 

The government will abandon coalition-era plans to radically redraw parliamentary boundaries to cut the number of MPs in the House of Commons from 650 to 600.

Cabinet office minister Chloe Smith revealed that minister were planning to ditch the shake-up of UK constituencies as the UK parliament faces a “greater workload” after Brexit.

Parliament approved plans to slash the number of constituencies to 600 in 2011 but moves to implement the changes has been repeatedly delayed.

Proposals published in 2018 by the independent Boundary Commission recommended scrapping 32 seats in England, six in Scotland, 11 in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.

Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency could have been axed and Boris Johnson would have faced challenge to hold onto his seat under the changes.

Setting out the plans in a written statement, Ms Smith said: “Legislation currently provides that, on implementation of the 2018 Boundary Review recommendations, the number of constituencies in the UK shall be 600.

“The government is minded to instead make provision for the number of parliamentary constituencies to remain at 650.

“In doing so, we would also remove the statutory obligation to implement the 2018 Boundary Review recommendations and the statutory obligation on the government to make arrangements to review the reduction in constituencies to 600 by 30 November 2020.”

She added: “The UK parliament will have a greater workload now we are taking back control and regaining our political and economic independence.

“It is therefore sensible for the number of parliamentary constituencies to remain at 650.”

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The move was welcomed by electoral reform campaigners, who described the original plans as an “executive power grab” rather than a bid to improve the function of the Commons.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society said: “Without shrinking the size of the government, cutting MPs would have done little more than enhance the already disproportionate power of ministers.

“Now that the government have accepted the need for proper representation in the Commons, they must focus on reducing the number of unelected peers in the bloated House of Lords.

“At 800 members, it’s the biggest second chamber in the world and needs a genuine overhaul.”

Joe Sousek, co-chief executive of Make Votes Matter, said overhauling the UK’s first past the post voting system was a more important issue than constituency boundaries.

He said: “It doesn’t matter how many MPs there are in the House of Commons, they simply cannot reflect the British voters while we use FPTP to elect our representatives.

“Regardless of which party you might support, a voting system which delivered a government with a huge majority on less than 44 per cent of the vote share at the last general election is just wrong.

“Until we join the vast majority of developed democracies using some form of proportional representation, parliament will remain unrepresentative of how people voted.”