Friday, November 18, 2016

Is it wise to cut MPs to 600?

Not in Westminster today. Pleased about that. I would have been seriously torn when the division bell rang. Don't want to excite the whips, so I cannot write that I'd have voted with Labour. PPSs can't do that sort of thing. Labour were supporting a Private Members Bill at Second Reading which would scrap the impending cut in numbers of MPs from 650 to 600. However I do think it's ok to ask readers of my 'thinking aloud' blog to make their own judgement.

First the case for the reduction. It was a manifesto commitment in 2010 (both Conservative and Lib Dems, who wanted to cut much further - to 500). It was approved in an Act of Parliament in 2011, taken through the House by the then Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. And it may be that the public would quite like to reduce the number of MPs, who are not the most popular creatures on our planet.

Now for the other side. The disruption it will cause will be huge, especially when implemented alongside equalisation of constituency populations. It will save some money, but nothing like as much as the extra than is being spent on appointed new peers to the unelected house. There will also be a big reduction (and saving) by the abolition of UK MEPs. The cost of democracy is already coming down. It will lead to even greater domination of the House of Commons by the 'Government' in that since the number of ministers is not being cut, the significance of backbenchers will be greatly reduced. After today's debate and big support for the Labour supported Private Members Bill, they may be some questioning about whether the hassle is worth it.

Now equalising the size of constituency populations is much more justified. As it currently stands, the boundaries are very unfair to the Conservative Party. Over the last 20 yrs. huge numbers of people have moved out of inner city seats (which tend to vote Labour) into leafy suburbs (which tend to vote Conservative. There is no credible case to resist 'equalisation'. But I do want to throw in two further points of relevance here.

Firstly, the tolerance allowed to Boundary Commissioners to allow for factors like history, geography, culture etc.. At present the 'tolerance' is just 5%, which gives Commissioners almost no leeway at all. If it were to be 10%, the degree of disruption would be much reduced. The Commissioners would have a proper job to do. And secondly Wales. For many years Wales has been over-represented - by quite a lot. Historically, this imbalance was considered necessary as a measure of 'fairness' to a small nation. But with a Welsh Parliament, this simply can no longer be justified. Anyway, enough from me. Hopefully left you a few bones to chew on.

3 comments:

Bril said...

Glyn, could you clarify what you mean by 'unfair to the Conservatives?' Do you mean they are advantaged or disadvantaged? On another matter, I haven't got a problem with the number of MPs or their role - I think they generally do a great job. I agree that the Commission's mandate needs updating.

Glyn Davies said...

Bril - at present, as a result of population movement over time, constituencies that are inclined to (and actually do) vote Conservative and larger than those inclined to vote Labour. And it's grown to be a big difference. It's not possible to work out exact figures, but the current benefit to Labour is thought to be over 20 seats.

Anonymous said...

How about a private members bill ensuring there can never be more members of the Lords than the Commons?