Parties demand rethink on changes to MP boundaries

PLANS to change all but five of Yorkshire’s parliamentary seats should be torn up and redrawn, according to the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Both parties have asked for an overhaul of the proposals – which will see three constituencies spanning the border between North and West Yorkshire – at the start of an inquiry into the plans.

Labour has also warned there are “clear shortcomings” in the initial map drawn up by the Boundary Commission, which is redrawing constituencies as part of Government plans to cut MPs

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Two Labour MPs – Leeds Central’s Hilary Benn and Batley and Spen’s Mike Wood – are expected to speak at the inquiry today to make appeal for changes to the plan. Liberal Democrat Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West, and Selby’s Tory MP Nigel Adams are also expected to make their own objections amid widespread anger at the new proposals.

Under the plans – designed to axe 50 of the 650 MPs and make sure constitutencies have similar numbers of voters – the number of seats in Yorkshire and the Humber will fall from 54 to 50.

A public hearing in Leeds started yesterday to listen to complaints about the Boundary Commission’s first attempt to draw up new constituencies which would see only five seats in the region stay unchanged – three in Doncaster along with Rother Valley and Scarborough and Whitby.

One of the most contentious features is three seats spanning the border between North and West Yorkshire.

Although cutting the numbers of seats is a Tory plan, the party has been critical of its proposals, with Cabinet Ministers Eric Pickles and Sayeeda Warsi among those branding them crazy.

Now the party has offered an alternative plan, which would keep 15 existing seats – including all eight in North Yorkshire, Beverley and Holderness, East Yorkshire, Calder Valley, Rother Valley – and the three Doncaster seats. One seat would span the border between South and West Yorkshire.

Rob Hayward, a Tory adviser on boundaries, said: “Where we have proposed changes to the Boundary Commission’s proposals we reunite the centres of Dewsbury, Batley and Wakefield which we believe is important in terms of retaining local ties.”

The Liberal Democrats yesterday tabled their alternative, which include several seats crossing county boundaries. The party’s two West Yorkshire MPs – Mr Mulholland and Bradford East’s David Ward – have both been critical of the initial plans.

At yesterday’s hearing – the first of four to be held around the region – Labour said it would reserve its position. The party opposes the entire plan to cut MP numbers, branding it a Tory “gerrymandering” exercise, but is not objecting to the draft plans “at this stage”.

It is understood the party is most anxious about changes to seats in Hull and North Lincolnshire, for which it could submit an alternative proposal at a future date.