Ministers' seats threatened in British election shake-up

13th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Top British ministers will be left fighting for their seats in a major reorganisation of parliamentary constituencies unveiled Tuesday, part of a wider programme to slash the number of lawmakers.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and finance minister George Osborne are among those affected by the boundary changes, which will see the number of members of the House of Commons cut from 650 to 600 by the 2015 election.

The Boundary Commission for England set out the first phase on Tuesday with plans to slash the number of English constituencies from 533 to 502, and to even out the size of seats so they all contain approximately 76,600 voters.

"The government believes that it will result in a more equal and more fair system," Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said.

But opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband said he had "serious concerns" that the exercise was a political move by Cameron's Conservative party.

"We have serious concerns about the government's decision to change the boundaries, which we believe was an act of gerrymandering by the Conservative Party," he said.

"However, the Labour Party now intends to take time to examine the initial proposals before making our formal response."

The changes are now open to consultation and will not be finalised until 2013, but it looks likely that Clegg will see his constituency of Sheffield Hallam in northern England disappear.

But this could be replaced by two seats for Clegg's Liberal Democrats in the city, a net gain for the party.

Osborne, the finance minister and a close aide of Cameron, may also see his seat of Tatton in Cheshire, northwest England, disappear, although much of it will go into the new constituency of Northwich.

Ministers hope that cutting 50 MPs will save £12 million (14 million euros, $19 million) a year in pay.

It is part of a wider programme of parliamentary reform which includes plans to replace the upper House of Lords with an elected second chamber, and cut its numbers back significantly from more than 830 to 300.

© 2011 AFP

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