Despite insisting Brexit was ‘done’ and now being able to get on with other things, the government now admits the workload will prevent them pressing ahead with boundary reforms.
The idea to cut MPs by 50 was first proposed by David Cameron when he was prime minister but now is set to be dropped by Boris Johnson’s goernment.
Constitution minister Chloe Smith confirmed there had been a ‘change in policy’, which would have resulted in a number of high-profile MPs losing their seats as part of the Boundary Commission’s shake-up, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and ex-Brexit secretary David Davis.
Some pollsters predicted that the radical reshaping of the electoral map could have even put the prime minister’s own seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip at risk at the next election.
Cabinet Office minister Smith said the government remained committed to creating constituencies with near-equal numbers of voters but that it was ‘sensible’ for there to continue to be 650 MPs.
In a written statement, the Conservative MP wrote: ‘The government is minded to instead make provision for the number of parliamentary constituencies to remain at 650.
‘This is a change in policy from the position previously legislated for under the coalition government.
‘Since that policy was established in the coalition agreement, the United Kingdom has now left the European Union.
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‘The UK parliament will have a greater workload now we are taking back control and regaining our political and economic independence.
‘It is therefore sensible for the number of parliamentary constituencies to remain at 650.’
She revealed that the government, as well as bringing forward legislation to block the implementation of the 2018 overhaul, would call for boundary reviews to take place every eight years rather than every five.
It would mean boundaries would be in place for at least two general elections before being reconsidered.
The four constituencies which were protected from plans to re-organise electorate numbers – Orkney and Shetland, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, and two seats for the Isle of Wight – will continue to have special status, Ms Smith said.
The Electoral Reform Society said cutting the number of MPs would have shifted the power balance in ministers’ favour.
Chief executive Darren Hughes said: ‘Plans to cut voters’ representation in the Commons would have undermined the voices of ordinary people in Parliament and hurt democratic scrutiny.
‘The proposals always seemed more like an executive power grab than a genuine move to improve the function of the Commons, so this is a small but welcome victory for backbenchers and voters.
‘Without shrinking the size of the government, cutting MPs would have done little more than enhance the already disproportionate power of ministers.’
The campaign group urged the government to turn its attention to ‘reducing the number of unelected peers in the bloated House of Lords’ once the coronavirus pandemic is over.