Shropshire's Tories split on House of Commons seats shake-up

Shropshire's Tory MPs were today divided on news that plans to reduce the number of seats in Parliament are likely to be scrapped.

Theresa May in the Commons
Theresa May in the Commons

They thought their seats might be in danger – but now it appears MPs will continue to sit tight in the House of Commons.

While some have said they feel it is unlikely the plans would be passed, others say they feel the changes need to be made.

It comes as it has been reported that the party's low majority means that manifesto pledge could be shelved.

The reform was intended to save £50 million over five years and equalise the number of voters in each constituency, reducing the total number of MPs to 600 - a drop of 50.

But concern about getting a Commons majority for the move, which would mean a wide-ranging redrawing of constituency boundaries, has led to the change of direction, according to the report.

Prime Minister, Theresa May has already dropped plans to push through social care funding changes dubbed the "dementia tax", and an expansion of grammar schools, since the general election.

Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said the proposals must go through to make the number of voters in each constituency more equal. Under the proposals the Shrewsbury & Atcham constituency would be renamed as just plain Shrewsbury and the constituency would be enlarged slightly to take in the wards of Chirbury and Worthen, which at the moment fall under Ludlow.

He said he would be "disappointed" if the changes did not go through, adding: "These changes need to go through because we need to ensure that all seats have an equal number of voters. There is a huge difference in some seats and I have pressed the Government to continue with the changes."

Under the plans, the existing Telford constituency would be extended to include Donnington, Hadley and Leegomery, which at the moment come under the Wrekin constituency.

Telford MP, Lucy Allan, said she agreed the changes would be difficult to pass. She said she was in favour of equalising constituencies, but felt the proposals were not suitable for her area in particular.

She said: "Given the current make up of Parliament it is most unlikely that boundary changes could make it through this Parliament. The Labour Party is opposed to boundary changes, as is the DUP so the arithmetic suggest that this proposal will be shelved.

"I am all in favour of equalising the size of constituencies in principle, but for a rapidly growing new town such as Telford, the proposed changes would have meant we would have become one of the largest constituencies - a supersized constituency.

"I did not support this as it would make it more difficult for my constituents to have one to one contact with their MP. We already have a very high volume of complex case work and increasing the number of constituents by some 20,000 voters would have made it very difficult to give a prompt personalised service."

The Ludlow seat, which has been held by Conservative Philip Dunne since 2010, would merge with the northern part of the North Herefordshire constituency, held by fellow Tory Bill Wiggin, to create a new Ludlow & Leominster seat.

And Bridgnorth, formerly part of Ludlow. would have been added to The Wrekin constituency, forming the new constituency of Bridgnorth, Wellington and the Wrekin, also taking in Much Wenlock and Broseley.

People raised concerns about the proposals, saying the new Ludlow and Leominster constituency would straddle two local authority areas, while Bridgnorth would have little in common with its new area.

Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard said: "Let us wait and see. It might still go ahead. Either way, my focus is on serving Wrekin constituents under the existing boundaries."

Most affected by the changes was the Mid Wales constituency of Montgomeryshire. The constituency would be split in two, with the northern half of the constituency, including Welshpool, being merged with Clwyd South to form a new South Clwyd and North Montgomeryshire constituency. The south of the constituency, including Newtown, will become part of the Brecon and Radnor seat, would be renamed Brecon, Radnor and Montgomery.

Glyn Davies, the Montgomeryshire MP, said: "I have made my views clear since the very beginning that the intentions to reduce the number of MPs was unwise. Although nothing is confirmed, it is just media reports, if it was to be the case, I would welcome it."

The North Shropshire constituency, held by Owen Paterson, is the only seat in the constituency which would be unchanged.

The Boundary Commissions for England and Wales opened a second public consultation earlier this year to let people to have their say on the plans to reduce the total number of Parliamentary constituencies from 650 to 600.

Following the second consultation, assistant commissioners were looking through all comments received during both consultations, considering all the evidence submitted.

They were then to advise the Boundary Commissions on where they think the proposals should be revised, with revised proposals to be published as part of a final consultation at the end of 2017 and start of 2018 - but this could now be on hold.

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