Earlier this week the Boundary Commission revealed its proposals to change the configuration of some of the seats in Parliament. It was a strange experience, rather like waiting for some exam results, as MPs queued up to be given a brown envelope containing details of what may happen to their constituencies. I was delighted to see that under the current proposals the Yeovil constituency is to remain unchanged.
The reasons for the changes are twofold. Firstly the number of voters in constituencies had grown to vary too much and the proposals will even things up. It’s important to our democracy that MPs represent roughly the same number of people. Currently the range is from 54,000 to 105,000. Pub quiz fans will be disappointed to hear that the Isle of Wight may be split in two so no longer be the largest constituency.
The other reason for the changes is to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600. The South West will have 53 MPs, a reduction of 2. This is a very significant move; generally speaking Government seems to expand if left unchecked. At a time when the country is working in lots of ways to tackle our spending and debts it is absolutely appropriate that the House of Commons plays its part. I would also say that I have seen no evidence to suggest that people are crying out for more elected officials. That is why the proposals for regional mayors have not been well received in our part of the world. We need to keep refining and improving the systems we have rather than adding more layers of bureaucracy.
However it seems nonsensical at a time when we are streamlining the elected House of Commons not to take a look at the House of Lords. There are currently around 800 Lords. Peers cost the taxpayer roughly £120,000 a year each. All major political parties have been guilty of rushing to appoint some loyal supporters and I think it’s fair to say that the Lords’ reputation as a well of experience and knowledge has been dramatically diminished. The upper chamber is in danger of becoming rather ridiculous and action needs to be taken.
Having said that, there are some excellent members of the House of Lords and I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne back to the Conservative Party. Baroness Nicholson had been a Liberal Democrat for a number of years but has rejoined the Conservatives praising Theresa May for showing a, “real commitment to delivering for the next generation and building a country that works for everyone”. I am fortunate enough to have a number of Lib Dem peers amongst my constituents and should any of them wish to follow Baroness Nicholson I can assure them of a very warm welcome.