UK & World News
Boundary Vote: MPs Reject Planned Changes
Plans to change election boundaries which could have earned the Tories up to another 20 seats were dashed after the Lib Dems split the Coalition and inflicted a humiliating Commons defeat.
A Government move to overturn a vote in the House of Lords two weeks ago postponing boundary changes and cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600 until 2018 was defeated by 334 votes to 292, a majority of 42.
Reluctantly given the go-ahead by the Prime Minister to break ranks, Nick Clegg and his Lib Dem ministers and MPs voted with Labour, the Nationalists and the Northern Ireland parties to defeat the Government.
The Lib Dem move was in revenge for Tory MPs sabotaging House of the Lords reform late last year and means the 2015 election will now be fought under the old boundaries with no reduction in the number of MPs.
But the scale of the Government defeat was even bigger than ministers had feared, as up to a dozen Conservative MPs either voted against the Government or abstained.
Among those Tories known to have voted agaisnt the Government were David Davis, John Baron, Philip Davies and newly-knighted Sir Richard Shepherd.
Another half dozen or so are thought to have abstained.
After the vote, Labour's Sadiq Khan said: "The result of todays vote means that the selfish and partisan Tory changes to our parliamentary constituencies have been stopped in their tracks by peers and MPs from all sides.
"David Cameron should try to win elections fair and square and not by moving the goalposts.
"It would have been an insult to democracy to reduce the number of elected MPs by 50, while over 100 new unelected members of the House of Lords have been created since the last election with another 50 reportedly due very soon."
If the boundary changes had gone ahead, some estimates had put the number of net gains to the Tories as high as 20 seats, though this is discounted by the Tory high command, who put the figure at round about a dozen.
Speaking during a two-hour debate on the Government move to overturn the House of Lords vote to postpone the changes, Commons Leader Andrew Lansley bitterly attacked the Lords.
"The unelected House is seeking to frustrate the previously expressed will of this Parliament, not a previous parliament, to deny fairness and equality in the franchise and fundamentally to manipulate the basis on which this House is to be elected," he said.
Challenged by some Tory MPs on why Mr Clegg and Lib Dem ministers had been allowed to vote against the Government, Mr Lansley said the Prime Minister had decided to set aside ministerial responsibility on this occasion.
"There is not a settled Coalition view," said Mr Lansley.
"Accordingly, and as took place in the Lords, collective ministerial responsibility has been set aside for this debate."
Defending the Lib Dem U-turn on boundary changes, backed by Mr Clegg in 2010, Lib Dem MP John Thurso told MPs: "I made it clear to the leadership, when we discussed this arrangement, that for me agreement in total was what counted and for me, Lords reform as part of the constitutional arrangements were absolutely vital.
"After the vote on Lords reform, I made it abundantly clear to my leadership that this had changed and I could not in all conscience continue to support what we had done before."
But the Lib Dems were bitterly attacked by Tory MP Penny Morduant, who was a Lords reform rebel last year, who said they were motivated by "spite, pettiness and self-interest".
She said the Lib Dems "code of conduct" amounted to "an eye for a coalition eye" and they were now giving "flirtatious glances" across the Commons to Labour.
"The Liberals have exchanged their legendary sandals for flip-flops in the hope that it will enable them to keep their options open," she said.