Kenneth Baker was a leading Conservative Minister during Mrs Thatcher's period as Prime Minister. Because he was so 'smooth' an operator, he was most unkindly satirised as a slug in a popular TV programme. Today, as Lord Baker, he has written an interesting article for the Sunday Telegraph, asking questions about how many MPs we need to represent us. Actually, he's asking a second question as well. Should the size of constituency electorates be equalised - not a straight forward question in a devolved UK. Nick Allen has also written a piece for tomorow's Telegraph, claiming that David Cameron takes a similar view. Whatever, in my opinion, Lord Baker is a man worth listening to.
The assumption on which Lord Baker has based his figures is that the number of MPs would be reduced by 10% from 646 to 579. Each constituency would have an electorate of around 76,000. There would be 486 MPs representing English constituencies, 51 representing Scottish constituencies, 15 representing Northern Irish constituencies, and 29 representing Welsh Constituencies. I don't think any allowance has been made for the fact that much of the work of MPs has already been devolved. I can imagine these proposals not receiving a unanimous welcome.
The Conservative manifesto at the last General Election also included a policy about this issue. It was linked to the holding of a referendum on full law making powers in those policy areas which had been devolved by the 1998 Government of Wales Act. If the Welsh electorate voted yes, the number of MPs would fall to 26 (I think); if the position remained as it was the number of MPs would only fall to 33 (I think), and if the Assembly were to be abolished, the number of MPs would remain at 40 (I think). If I'm wrong here, I hope someone will let me know. All the current media comment I see emanating from my party in Wales tells us that any change would still be linked to a referendum. So I'm not at all sure where Lord Baker is coming from with his article. The bit of it that did catch my eye was "It is now official Conservative policy". Anyway, I found it an interesting read.