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'Boundary shake-up will go on' – Cameron

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: August 08, 2012

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David Cameron has promised to press ahead with a Commons vote on redrawing the parliamentary boundaries, despite the Liberal Democrats saying they will oppose the plan.

Opposition from the junior coalition Government party, in revenge for Tories blocking House of Lords reform, appeared to scupper plans for a cross-border Devon and Cornwall – or "Devonwall" – constituency.

But the Prime Minister told reporters yesterday: "We want the boundary change vote to go ahead."

Proposals to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600, while realigning the boundaries to ensure they have roughly equal numbers of voters, would improve Conservative chances of outright victory at the next election, it is claimed.

The Lib Dems withdrew their support for the plan on Monday after Mr Cameron failed to persuade Conservative rebels to back legislation for a partially elected House of Lords.

The Prime Minister said it was clear that Lords reform was not going to succeed. "It became quite clear to me that the Labour Party and others in Parliament were not going to allow Lords reform through," he said.

He added: "I was not going to have months and months of wrangling."

Earlier, however, Westcountry MP and Lib Dem Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne insisted Lords reform and boundary changes were part of the same "constitutional package" and should both be abandoned.

The Taunton Deane MP said he would vote against the boundary changes, becoming the first Lib Dem minister to confirm he will break collective responsibility, which in normal circumstances would mean being sacked or having to resign from his ministerial post.

A day earlier, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg accused Tory backbenchers of failing to "honour" the Coalition Agreement which brought the two parties together after the general election.

Mr Browne said: "They're clearly part of the same constitutional package – one of them is about reforming one end of the Houses of Parliament and the other one is about reforming the other end of the Houses of Parliament."

If there is a Commons vote on boundary changes MPs in Cornwall – notably the three Conservatives – will have to choose whether to vote against the plans or for their party.

The Conservatives are highly unlikely to win the vote given Lib Dem and Labour opposition.

Mr Clegg had suggested that, rather than a vote, the legislation is delayed until after the next election in 2015. A full statement by the Prime Minister to the Commons will be expected when Parliament returns next month.

Cornish nationalists have said abandoning the "Devonwall" constituency will safeguard the region's historic boundary, and had called for the boundary review to be "curtailed with immediate effect". The seat would have included Bude in Cornwall and Bideford in Devon.

Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, said: "The Conservatives were wrong to insist that the Cornish border could not be protected in its pursuit for uniform Parliamentary constituencies.

"I hope all Cornish MPs will vote against the Parliamentary Order when it comes to the Commons next year."

In a statement, the Keep Cornwall Whole campaign group said: "Maintaining Cornwall's territorial integrity and our ancient border is of key importance to Cornwall. Keep Cornwall Whole welcomes and supports the decision taken by the Leader of the Lib Dems and his party to oppose boundary changes. This is a big step forward in removing the threat of Devonwall.

"However, we wait to see how this develops and whether the legislation will be dropped or if it will be deferred until after the election.

"If it is revived during the next Government, Cornwall will meet that challenge again. There is no doubt that delaying legislation often weakens it and this decision by the Deputy Prime Minister means that Cornwall will retain its traditional boundaries for the foreseeable future."

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  • AdelaideAlbi  |  August 08 2012, 4:28PM

    Devon should not have to share a constituency with Cornwall. I am more concerned with the integrity of Devon's borders, than I am with Cornwall. However there is a simple solution. Reduce the number of Cornish seats by one, and redistribute within Cornwall. The number of Devon's constituencies remains unaltered. Problem solved! The Cornish would be happy(?) and so would we (!) Seriously, a parliamentary leader who is unable to convince his own party on the benefits of democracy (ie the House of Lords) has bigger credibility issues!!!

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  • Taxman100  |  August 08 2012, 12:32PM

    I am with Lafrowda on this one. Equal sized constituencies are ******ble and desirable. Although we often commented we didn't like the composition of old House of Lords (unelected hereditary Peers); they did not in general follow the party political line and often delayed, or prevented, the implementation of political changes which were not in the interest of the Country as a whole. Clegg, is behaving like a petulant child who has been deprived of his rattle! And, has proven, yet again, he is not interested in doing what is best for the Country at a time of considerable austerity. You cannot help but notice the last LibDem Manifesto did include 'the required changes to constituency boundaries'!

  • Lafrowda  |  August 08 2012, 11:02AM

    How can equal sized constituencies be cheating ?

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  • WilliamRees  |  August 08 2012, 10:55AM

    NO DEVONWALL. Camerons grabbing at straws on this one.

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  • trelawneyone  |  August 08 2012, 9:46AM

    the tory despots will not cease their onslaught, cameron is as bad as assad without a gun but with all the power.cannot these silly lib-dems see that they are being humiliated and will be pushed into oblivion as the tories surge ahead with their policies and abandon everything else, i actually cannot see that the libs have made any progress at all other than to keep the tories in power. as far as the boundary changes are concerned it is yet another tory way of cheating but that is the rich public schoolboys way of doing things.where in the hell is this country heading?

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  • Lafrowda  |  August 08 2012, 9:09AM

    I think the arguement for equal sized constituencies is irrefutable, but I am against the Devon/Cornwall boundary being ignored as significant. As for the House of Lords, in its current format it is the only semi independent impediment to power politics left. Do not change it to an imitation Commons toeing party lines.

    |   -3
  • josdave  |  August 08 2012, 8:28AM

    I find myself agreeing with both of them. We need less MPs and fairer boundaries and that very undemocratic institution the House of Lords should be reformed. I would go further than Clegg and say they should all be elected.

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  • BudePeeps  |  August 08 2012, 7:41AM

    Once again, Cameron and Clegg seem less and less like a coalition and more like a squabbling, separating couple.....