Wed, 27 October 2021

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Boundary changes are yet another power grab by this Government

Boundary changes are yet another power grab by this Government
3 min read

The Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs notes the Boundary Commissions today submit their final recommendations for new constituency boundaries to the Government. She calls for "a new review that benefits our democracy, not just the Conservative Party".

Today the Boundary Commissions have submitted their final reports and recommendations for new Parliamentary constituency boundaries to the Government. 

The publication of these recommendations will not happen until the Government lays the reports before Parliament who will then make then final decision on whether these should go ahead by the end of October. But for the sake of transparency, the Government must publish the final report without further delay.

Yet, it is already clear that these boundary changes will not deliver what is best for this country. To lose 50 MPs as we prepare to leave the European Union has to be one of the most irresponsible decisions this Government has ever taken.

Even those on the Conservative benches who previously supported the changes back in 2011 cannot deny that the political context has changed significantly since this was agreed under David Cameron.  We will soon be departing from the European Union - one of the greatest constitutional changes our country has ever faced. This has major implications for boundary changes, which we cannot ignore.

The proposed reduction in the size of the House of Commons is yet another power grab by this Government. It would weaken the role of Parliament exactly at a time when Parliament was meant to be taking back control. 

The workload of MPs is also set to rise significantly as we take on additional responsibilities currently exercised by MEPs after Brexit. With thousands of pieces of important legislation expected to come through parliament, it is vital that parliament is prepared to deal with the enormity of the task at hand.

Let’s not ignore the fact that the size of the Civil Service is increasing in preparation for Brexit. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that there are 14,000 more civil servants since the end of 2016, with Brexit the primary driver behind this rise according to the Institute for Government. With many legislative challenges lying ahead, it is vital that both the civil service and parliament are properly resourced. 

More revealingly, there are no plans to reduce the number of Ministers which means that the proportion of members holding government posts will increase. This only strengthens the power of the executive, making it more difficult for backbenchers to challenge the government. And that in turn reduces Parliament’s ability to hold the Government to account. 

Labour has repeatedly said that a boundary review is needed ahead of the next General Election. We stand ready to work with all political parties to agree an accelerated timetable for a new review that benefits our democracy, not just the Conservative Party.

There were no logical grounds for cutting 50 MPs when this was first introduced. It was an arbitrary figure, plucked out of thin air, with no evidence showing how this would benefit our democracy. And now as we prepare to leave the European Union, there is even more reason why Theresa May should think again.
Cat Smith is the Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs & the Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood

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