THERE is no guarantee that the Boundary Commission’s review into Parliamentary boundaries will be enacted before the next election.
The reason is that the final decision rests with MPs who effectively have the right to veto. It’s one of the unsatisfactory aspects of a convoluted process that began almost a decade ago when David Cameron, the then Opposition leader, proposed reducing the number of MPs from 650 to 600 in direct response to the expenses scandal, because he wanted to cut the cost of politics.
Blocked by the Lib Dems when they were in coalition with the Tories, Theresa May now faces a similar battle – there are sufficient Tory MPs who currently represent seats that could be abolished, or amalgamated with neighbouring constituencies, to vote with Labour to scupper proposals which are supposed to reflect shifts in population so most MPs represent a similar number of voters.
Given this, it makes sense for the Boundary Commission to be given full powers to implement changes after every Census free from political interference. This would be far more transparent than either of the main parties trying to exert undue influence in order to achieve a slight electoral advantage.
Yet, with Yorkshire set to lose four MPs, a more fundamental question is whether there should be fewer elected representatives in the House of Commons at a time when the population is growing and when Brexit is due to see legislative powers return from Brussels to Westminster. Today’s political challenges are very different to those of 2009 when Mr Cameron tried to neutralise the fallout from the revelations into the more egregious expenses claimed by some MPs. Before this process is next embarked upon, the role and remit of the Boundary Commission should be the first to be reviewed.