A BILL that seeks to block the government’s gerrymandering plans to slash the number of MPs was passed unopposed at its second reading yesterday.
Labour’s Afzal Khan said ministers’ plans to reduce the Commons’ membership from 650 to 600 would encourage the already widespread public belief that politicians are “self-interested and unaccountable.”
Mr Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton, proposed the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill, which will undergo further scrutiny at a later date but faces a battle to clear the necessary hurdles for it to become law.
A similar proposal was moved in the last parliament by then Labour MP Pat Glass, but its progress was frustrated by the government.
The final recommendations of the 2018 boundary review, which is currently under way, are due to be implemented at the next general election pending agreement by Commons and Lords.
Mr Khan said: “I have been in politics for decades. In this time, I have seen trust in our political system eroded. Today, only 20 per cent of the UK trusts politicians at least to some degree.
“The public already see politicians as remote, self-interested and unaccountable. The current boundary changes would make this worse.”
Labour MP Paul Flynn, whose Newport West constituency could disappear in the boundary changes, said that the only change to the “disfigured electoral system” that the Tories are pushing would give them an “advantage in numbers.”
MPs supported a closure motion to curtail the debate – moved by Labour – by 229 votes to 44.
The drive to slash the number of MPs was also derided by a senior Tory, who claimed it would cause disruption, increase workloads and boost government patronage.
Bernard Jenkin, who chairs the constitutional affairs committee, told MPs: “I do regret my party has become impaled on this commitment to reduce the number of MPs in the House of Commons because I do not see colleagues from any part of the house hanging around without enough to do.
“I also regret all the more that this reduction will result in a de facto increase in government patronage relative to the size of the house.
“If we could have a fresh boundary review and keep 650 MPs and get it done in good time for the 2022 general election, I would hazard a guess that the majority in this house would settle for that.”