Stark warning over government scrutiny after boundary review

Posted On: 
15th November 2016

Too many MPs could end up “in the pocket” of the Prime Minister after constituency numbers are cut - putting parliamentary democracy at risk, campaigners have warned.

The Electoral Reform Society has warned parliament faces a "crisis of scrutiny" after boundary changes
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The Electoral Reform Society said nearly one in four - 23% - of MPs could take ministerial jobs following the boundary changes - the highest number on record - unless a cap is imposed.

It argued the record low proportion of backbenchers could let the Government off the hook in what it branded a “crisis of scrutiny”.

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Planned boundary changes ahead of the 2020 general election are set to see the number of MPs cut from 650 to 600.

The ERS said an increase in the number of MPs on the Government payroll - up from the current 21% - would shrink the talent pool for select committee and other scrutiny roles.

“We risk a crisis of scrutiny if the cut in MPs goes ahead without a corresponding cap on the number of payroll MPs,” Katie Ghose, chief executive of the ERS said.

“Having nearly a quarter of all MPs in the pocket of the PM is not a healthy situation for our democracy.”

She added: “Being on the Prime Minister’s payroll ties MPs’ hands – they’re locked into collective responsibility, meaning they can’t speak publicly about policy failures or air important differences of opinion in parliamentary debates…

“The Government now needs to be taking steps to ensure that the power of MPs to effectively scrutinise the government won’t be put at risk.

“It’s time for a cap on the number of MPs on the payroll to stop this situation spiralling out of control after the cut in MPs goes ahead.”

The ERS noted that if the current party makeup remained the same, 43% of Conservative MPs would end up on the government paryroll after the boundary changes.

The figure would be the third highest ratio of frontbenchers to backbenchers in recorded peacetime history, with the figure reaching 45% under Labour in 2005.