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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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Cumbrian MPs welcome boundary change delay

Cumbrian politicians have reacted to a defeat by the House of Lords of a Government proposal to review Parliamentary boundaries and the number of MPs by the next general election.

The constituency shake-up – thought by experts to be worth up to 20 extra seats for the Tories – is due to return to the House of Commons for further debate next week.

The planned changes would have seen the number of MPs cut from 650 to 600. However, Liberal Democrat peers sided with Labour to secure an amendment delaying implementation until after the 2015 general election.

Downing Street said Prime Minister David Cameron would seek to overturn the amendment in the Commons, but without an overall Tory majority the parliamentary arithmetic is against him.

Rory Stewart, the Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border, said he was pleased with the move because it would keep his constituency intact.

He added: “I feel a very strong connection to the parliamentary constituency that I have and I’d feel sad to lose that.”

Mr Stewart said that he felt ‘very lucky’ to represent the constituency and added: “The proposal meant that I’d lose 45 per cent of my constituents.

“It would mean that the relationships that I’ve developed, and the communities I’ve worked with, I would lose and I’d have to start again.”

Tony Cunningham, the MP for Workington, said that the bill still had to face a vote in the Commons – probably as soon as next Monday or Tuesday.

He said: “Cameron is desperate to get it through because there are 20 more seats for them. The Lib Dems blocked it because the Conservatives blocked Lords reform.”

Mr Cunningham said that the reforms could still get through if the Conservatives managed to strike a deal with some of the minority parties.

He added that he would support the ‘status quo’ and said: “I am pleased that the Lords have done what they have done.

“We have an opportunity to make sure the boundaries are right – because they were botched this time. What they didn’t take into consideration was local opinion. It was all done on numbers.”

John Stevenson, the MP for Carlisle, said it was not a defeat for boundary review but a delay if it was accepted next week.

He added that it had been a commitment by both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems to reduce the number of MPs and the size of the constituencies. “It looks like they are reneging on a fundamental part of the Coalition Agreement,” he said.

Mr Stevenson said that his political party had honoured its part of the agreement by holding votes on both the House of Lords reform and the Alternative Vote (AV).

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