UK Politics

MPs back bid to stop plans to cut constituency numbers

Polling station Image copyright Getty Images

A bid to stop plans that would cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 has cleared its first Commons hurdle.

Labour MP Pat Glass's bill, which aims to retain the current number of MPs at 650, was backed by 253 votes to 37.

But Tory David Nuttall accused some Labour MPs of opposing the plans because they feared being replaced by pro-Corbyn Momentum candidates.

New government-backed boundary proposals would see fewer MPs and create equal-sized seats.

Labour fears

Ms Glass's bid to retain the status quo of 650 MPs secured a second reading and will now proceed to committee stage. However, it is unlikely to become law without the support of the government.

The changes proposed by the Boundary Commissions for England and Wales would ensure each constituency - with the exception of a few island seats - has a broadly similar population, but the moves are opposed by some Conservative and Labour MPs.

Labour fears it will lose the most seats under the plans, intended to be introduced in time for a general election in 2020, which would ensure the number of people entitled to vote in each constituency is within 5% of 74,769.

Ms Glass's Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill aims to ensure constituencies are within 10% of the electoral quota, that the boundary commissions use more up-to-date data, and that reviews take place every 10 years, rather than five.

In the Commons, Ms Glass told MPs her bill was not motivated by self-interest as she intends to stand down from her North West Durham constituency at the next general election.

She argued that with the rise of anti-establishment politics and the emergence of far-right parties, MPs needed to reach out and engage with voters now more than ever.

'Bigger than ourselves'

By cutting the number of MPs and making their constituencies bigger and more remote, ministers endanger the current "MP-constituency link which is envied in democracies across the world", she said.

But Conservative MP Mr Nuttall stepped in to argue: "Isn't it the case the reason why this bill has been brought forward is that there are so many members on the benches opposite who are frightened of re-selection because of the threat of Momentum taking their seats?

"That's the real reason why this bill has been brought forward."

Labour's Jess Phillips could be heard saying: "Unlike you, we're not scared of democracy."

And Ms Glass told Mr Nuttall: "I think that the unfortunate intervention is not helpful and just exemplifies why people out there get so angry about people in here.

"This is about something bigger than ourselves."

'An opportunity?'

But Tory former chief whip Mark Harper was critical of colleagues who opposed the planned reduction in their numbers. "Listening to some MPs talk about the constituencies they currently represent, they do sound like they think they own them," he said.

Momentum is a grassroots organisation set up to provide support for Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, following his election in 2015.

His leadership was hit by a wave of resignations from his front bench in the aftermath of UK voting to leave the European Union in June, but he was re-elected party leader in September by an increased margin, with strong backing from party members.

In September, Darren Williams - a member of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee - suggested the overhaul of constituency boundaries may present "an opportunity" to force out MPs who have been "consistently" disloyal to leader Mr Corbyn.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites