UK Politics

Boundary changes: Revised proposals for English constituencies

MPs in the House of Commons
Image caption Under the plans there will be 600 MPs in the Commons - down from 650

Revised proposals have been published for the shape of future parliamentary boundaries in England.

The Boundary Commission has updated its proposals for how existing seats will be redrawn after a public consultation.

Among those whose constituencies would be affected are Chancellor George Osborne and his Labour shadow Ed Balls.

But uncertainty remains about when the changes will come into force. The Lib Dems want them delayed until after the election and Labour want them scrapped.

The boundary review has been controversial since its outset, with the Commons set to be reduced in size from 650 to 600 MPs and constituency sizes made more uniform.

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

Lords row

However, the Lib Dems have said the changes cannot happen before the next election - scheduled for 2015.

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

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has promised to oppose the final proposals when they are voted on in 2013 and, with Labour backing, could delay them until after 2015 - meaning the election may be fought on existing boundaries.

The Lib Dems have also rejected recent reports of a potential compromise deal with their coalition partners, in which they approve the changes in return for new legislation on state funding of political parties.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Clegg said such a deal "was not going to happen", describing it as a "get-rich quick scheme" for the Conservatives.

He added that his party was justified in blocking the changes before 2015 since the Conservatives had "failed to deliver the wider package of reforms" on the House of Lords.

Despite the political row, the Boundary Commission for England is proceeding with its review and has published details of amendments to its original proposals following a lengthy consultation.

Public hearings have been held across the UK to debate the changes, with some MPs unhappy that the proposals would abolish historic seats and create new ones crossing council and county boundaries.

The amendments announced on Tuesday would reinstate Mr Osborne's Tatton constituency in Cheshire, which had been due to disappear from the constituency map.

Further consultation

It would also create two potentially safe Labour seats in west Yorkshire - Leeds South East and Castleford and Leeds Metropolitan and Ossett.

This could solve a headache for Mr Balls, whose existing marginal Morley and Outwood seat is being broken up and potentially faced a selection battle with fellow frontbencher Hilary Benn for another seat in the area.

Planned changes to shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna's Streatham constituency in south London have also been revised, meaning the boundaries of the proposed Clapham and Streatham seat would be closer to the one he won in 2010.

However, the review has confirmed that Conservative cabinet minister Ken Clarke's Rushcliffe seat in Nottinghamshire would effectively be split four ways and absorbed into other constituencies.

There will be another two-month consultation on the revised proposals before the final recommendations are presented to Parliament in a year's time.

Boundary authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have published separate proposals.

However, Labour have called on the entire review to be scrapped. Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said the exercise was "futile" and a waste of taxpayers' money if the plans would not be implemented.

The opposition have accused the Conservatives of seeking to "gerrymander" the electoral map in their favour, but the Tories maintain the review will cut the cost of politics, make boundaries much fairer and help address a longstanding bias in the existing set-up favouring their opponents.

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