Plan to cut the number of MPs axed over 'Brexit workload'

The Palace of WestminsterImage source, Getty Images

Plans to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 have been dropped by the government, citing "a greater workload" following Brexit.

David Cameron had proposed the idea in 2012, when he was prime minister, in a bid to reduce the cost of politics.

Under the changes, 50 constituencies would have been wiped from the electoral map including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's Islington North seat.

But the government has now said it is "sensible" to maintain current numbers.

Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith said in a written statement that following the UK's departure from the EU Parliament will be taking on more work and, therefore, a reduction in the number of MPs was no longer needed.

She said the government would still go ahead with proposals to create constituencies containing near-equal numbers of voters, which will lead to a significant redrawing of the electoral map and see some safe seats transformed into marginals, and vice versa.

The government will also call for constituency boundary reviews to take place every eight years instead of every five.

'Screeching U-turn'

Four constituencies - Orkney and Shetland, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, and two seats for the Isle of Wight - will continue to have special status and therefore be protected from any re-organisation plans.

The move was welcomed by Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society who said: "Plans to cut voters' representation in the Commons would have undermined the voices of ordinary people in Parliament and hurt democratic scrutiny.

"The proposals always seemed more like an executive power grab than a genuine move to improve the function of the Commons, so this is a small but welcome victory for backbenchers and voters."

The SNP's spokesman for local government, David Linden, has said he welcomes the government's "screeching U-turn" to retain the current number of MPs.

But he asked Scotland Office minister, Douglas Ross, if he could "guarantee" Scotland would continue to have 59 seats.

Mr Ross responded: "(Mr Linden) will be aware that the statement that was made by (constitution minister Chloe Smith) yesterday guarantees the seats across the United Kingdom will remain at 650.