Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland to lose two MPs in boundary reforms

By Noel McAdam

Northern Ireland will lose two MPs in the next elections as part of a reform of representation at Westminster.

A Boundary Commission |review is set to cut the current 18 constituencies across the province to 16.

The exercise — the sixth — will involve a redrawing of existing electoral areas which could eventually lead to a reduction of Assembly Members.

However, it had been feared population numbers would lead to the loss of three seats overall.

Based on last year’s electoral register, Northern Ireland would only have been eligible for 15.3 seats, but this has been rounded up.

The revamp could mean — for example — that Belfast will be represented by two MPs rather than the current four, with south and east, and north and west constituencies in the city being amalgamated.

It may also result in one of the constituencies in more thinly populated areas in the west of the province disappearing.

Northern Ireland is losing two seats compared to seven in Scotland, 10 in Wales and 31 in England, all to be in place by the time of the next House of Commons election, expected in 2015.

The shake-up is the result of new rules brought in by Parliament last year which mean that, broadly, the electorate of each constituency will have to be within 5% of the electoral quota (76,641.2). It will be a lengthy process. The Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland is to put its final recommendations to Secretary of State Owen Paterson by October 1, 2013.

Liz Benson, secretary to the commission, said the new rules “will result in significant changes”.

North Antrim is currently the single largest constituency with around 73,000 voters.

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