Lords boundary vote delayed 'indefinitely'

MPs in the House of Commons Under the plans there would be 600 MPs in the Commons - down from 650

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A Lords vote to delay the review of constituency boundaries until 2018 has been postponed "indefinitely".

The vote on an amendment to delay the changes, tabled by Labour and signed by Lib Dem and other peers, was originally expected on Wednesday and postponed until Monday.

But government sources say it has now been delayed to an unspecified date.

It follows reports that Downing St was unaware Lib Dems supported the motion and ordered the vote to be pulled.

The boundary review has been controversial since its outset, with the Commons set to be reduced in size from 650 to 600 MPs and the population size of constituencies made roughly equal.

However, the Lib Dems have said the changes cannot happen before the next election - scheduled for 2015 - and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has promised to oppose the final proposals.

They argue the changes were linked to proposals to elect members of the House of Lords, abandoned by the government over the summer, although the Conservatives dispute this.

David Cameron has said he will still push ahead with the plans, which would see the new boundaries implemented from 2015.

THE PROPOSED CHANGES

  • The number of seats will fall from 650 to 600
  • Almost all constituencies will have between 72,810 and 80,473 registered voters
  • Three constituencies - Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney and Isle of Wight - will be excluded from this quota due to their distinctive geography
  • Final proposals to be submitted to Parliament for approval by October 2013
  • Lib Dems say proposed changes cannot come into force until after next election in return for Lords reform plans being dropped

The Lords was expected to debate an amendment to the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill - tabled by Labour and Liberal Democrat peers - which could have delayed the redrawing of parliamentary seats until 2018.

Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde told peers on Wednesday he had been advised the motion was "inadmissible" and should be withdrawn, but Labour disputed the advice.

Lord Strathclyde delayed the debate until Monday to allow an "opportunity for reflection", but it has now been moved to an unspecified date according to government sources.

Reports suggest that David Cameron had been unaware of Liberal Democrat support for the amendment and asked for the debate to be delayed.

A Lib Dem source refused to confirm to the BBC that the prime minister and deputy prime minister had argued over the issue, but said it was better to postpone the boundary review now so that money was not spent preparing for something that would not happen.

The boundary changes, approved in principle by Parliament last year, will see England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland lose 31, 7, 10 and 2 seats respectively.

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