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Cut in MPs abandoned: Democracy campaigners respond

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The Government has abandoned proposals to cut the number of MPs in the House of Commons from 650 to 600.

Cabinet office minister Chloe Smith said ministers will scrap the previously-planned shake-up of UK constituencies, due to Parliament facing a ‘greater workload’ after Brexit.

Campaigners had long warned that a cut in MPs without a cap on the number of ministers would amount to an ‘executive power grab’, disproportionately reducing the number of backbenchers.

The Electoral Reform Society have welcomed the Government’s decision to cancel the cut – which would have reduced backbench scrutiny at a time of increased pressure. The Society argued cutting elected MPs while continuing to ‘pack the unelected House of Lords’ would have been a ‘stark hypocrisy’.

ERS analysis in 2018 showed that if the House of Commons reduced in size to 600 MPs and the ‘payroll vote’ remained the same size as now, 23% of MPs and 45% of Conservative MPs would have been duty-bound to vote with the Government. The 23% figure would be the highest figure on record.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, 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.

“Once the pandemic is over, we need a root and branch reform of how our democracy works in the UK. We need proper principles to underpin how many MPs we have, how boundaries are drawn and how the franchise works. Time to move away from ad hoc partisanship to real democracy.

“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.

“When it comes to reducing the size of the chamber it is the unelected Lords that is crying out for reform. After this quiet announcement on maintaining voters’ representation in the Commons, we urge the Government to get to work on overhauling the private member’s club of the Lords.”


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