Sunday, October 24, 2004

Let's have Fewer MPs!

I understand the Conservatives will have a manifesto commitment to reduce the number of MPs in Britain from 659 to 550. I would fully support such a move. It'd mean each constituency would have 100,000 voters instead of the current 70,000 (although North Norfolk is currently 82,000) but Andrew Turner on the Isle of Wight already has 100,000 and is regarded as a good constituency MP. I would also like to see a cut in the number of government ministers from 100 to about 75. I doubt whether we would have any worse government! I'd be interested to hear what others think about this.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"menifesto"?

Typical tory sexism!

Iain Dale said...

oops... corrected now!

Liam said...

Maths, Iain! If each of 659 MPs currently have 70,000 constituents, how many constituents would each have if there were only 550 MPs? I'll give you a clue - it's nowhere near the figure you suggest.

Iain Dale said...

Doh, that'll teach me to rely on the Sunday Telegraph's figures...

Liam said...

There is some sense to the proposal, and I believe the Lib Dems proposed axing 200 MPs in their last manifesto (accepting the inevitable and fair counterpoint that they also proposed regional assemblies so it's swings and roundabouts).

I'm not sure about the logic of your Andrew Turner point though. Sure, a good MP is a good MP regardless of whether s/he represents 70,000 or 100,000 people. Equally a good teacher is a good teacher whether s/he has 25 pupils or 40 and a good doctor is a good doctor pretty much regardless of how many patients s/he has. That doesn't mean that the good MP with a lot of constituents can devote as much time as s/he would like to individual bits of casework or that MPs cumulatively can scrutinise new legislation sufficiently thoroughly. Equally, the good teacher cannot spend enough time with all 40 pupils and doctors cumulatively cannot treat enough people within reasonable time periods. Nevertheless, it's an interesting proposal.

On a related point, I was amused by the Labour MP who topped the expenses lists and claimed it proved she worked harder for constituents. Not because she can't keep her costs under control, then!

Iain Dale said...

Steady on, James, we seem to be agreeing a bit too much of late. I think the publication of MPs' expenses has raised some very valid points. I cannot see how it is possible to defend 57p a mile, for instance. But the trouble is that people seem to think the entire £120k goes straight into an MP's pocket. I'm sure in the odd case it may do, but either we have to enable MPs to do the job properly or stop complaining when letters go unanswered. I remember in the mid 1980s the total allowwance was £12,000 a year. I earned £6,000 a year and had to live in central London. At least staff get reasonable renumeration nowadays.