Boris Johnson shelves plans to cut MPs to 600 because of additional workload created by Brexit

Ministers said it was 'sensible' to keep numbers at 650 due to UK 'regaining our political and economic independence'

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Boris Johnson has shelved plans to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600
Boris Johnson has shelved plans to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 Credit: PA

Proposals to slash the number of MPs from 650 to 600 have been shelved by Boris Johnson due to the "greater workload" that will be generated as a result of the UK leaving the European Union.

Chloe Smith, the constitution minister, confirmed that the plans have been dropped, citing the additional pressures that came with "taking back control" of the UK's "political and economic independence". 

However, she added that the Government will still press ahead with plans for a shakeup of constituencies to ensure that they contain near-equal numbers of voters. 

This is likely to lead to a significant redrawing of the electoral map, with several safe seats turned into marginals.

The decision not to press ahead with the downsizing of Parliament is likely to be welcomed by the Labour Party, which stood to be worst impacted by the reforms. 

Under the changes, the constituencies of a number of high-profile MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn's Islington North seat, would have been wiped from the electoral map. 

Jeremy Corbyn's Islington North seat would have been wiped from the electoral map Credit: Getty Images

The former Brexit Secretary David Davis was also due to lose out and there were even suggestions from pollsters that changes to Mr Johnson's seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip could have put him at risk at the next election. 

Plans to downsize the House of Commons were originally pushed by David Cameron in 2012 in a bid to reduce the number of MPs on the public payroll. 

However, the proposals have been repeatedly challenged by opposition parties, who have accused the Conservatives of gerrymandering. 

Prior to Mr Johnson's landslide victory in December's election, there was also concern that it would prove difficult to convince a number of Conservative MPs to vote to effectively lose their jobs. 

Despite these challenges, the Boundary Commission set out recommendations in 2018 which would have seen the removal of 32 seats in England, 11 in Wales, six in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland. 

But in a written ministerial statement published on Tuesday, Ms Smith revealed that the Government had now decided it was "sensible" to keep the number of seats unchanged due to the impact of Brexit. 

Chlose Smith said the Government had decided it was 'sensible' to keep the number of seats unchanged  Credit: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament

She added: "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.

"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."

The Government will bring forward legislation to block the implementation of the 2018 reforms as well as calling for boundary reviews to take place every eight years, rather than five as is currently the case. 

The proposals would mean boundaries would remain unchanged for two general elections before being revisited. 

Welcoming the decision, Darren Hughes, the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, 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."

However, the campaign group said the Government should now focus its attention on reducing the "bloated House of Lords", which at 800 members is believed to be the second biggest Parliamentary chamber in the world.