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House of Commons numbers: changes alarming

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boundary changes, cutting number of MPs, Electoral Reform Society, bankbenchers, elected second chamber The proportion of MPs in the pocket of the Prime Minister would be at record levels.

Slashing the number of MPs could result in an ’unprecedented power-grab’ by the government, and would lead to ‘most overbearing executive in living history’ campaigners have warned.

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) has found that if the number of Members of the House of Commons (MPs) is reduced from the current 650 to 600 as confirmed by the Prime Minister reently, a record-high 23 per cent of MPs – 139 out of that 600 – would be on the government payroll – unless there is a guaranteed cap on the size of the executive.

Taking into account cabinet members, junior ministers, Parliamentary Private Secretaries and Conservative whips, the change would mean nearly one in four MPs would be compelled to vote with the government or face losing their job.

The number of governing-party backbenchers – Members of Parliament who do not hold office in the government – would be reduced to the lowest levels on record and nearly half (45 per cent) of Conservative MPs would be bound to vote with the government.

The cut in the number of MPs has therefore been deemed a cut in the power of backbenchers – limiting the ability of MPs to hold the government to account and freely scrutinise legislation.

These concerns – alongside broader flaws in the boundary review – have led the Electoral Reform Society to call for the current plan to be dropped.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “This analysis shows that cutting the number of MPs poses significant dangers to our democracy – namely the ability of backbenchers to hold the government to account.

“Without effective limits and changes to the plans, these proposals represent an unprecedented power-grab by the executive.

“There must be guaranteed checks and balances on the power of the government. That role is best fulfilled by backbench MPs – both from the government’s own benches and from those opposite.

“If we are left with the most powerful executive in living history, we could end up with a crisis of scrutiny – and all of us will lose out as a result.

“We need MPs to be free to prioritise the interests of their constituents ahead of toeing the party line.

“But cutting MPs without capping the size of the executive means the proportion in the pocket of the Prime Minister will be at record levels.

“To sustain an effective democracy, the government must cancel this needless attack on our elected chamber and focus on reforming the bloated, unelected House of Lords instead,” he continued.

“It’s time for fair boundaries based on a properly resourced Commons – and for a much smaller, elected second chamber.”

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