Big electoral changes are contained in the Government’s Representation of the People Bill, published in London yesterday.
Under it, university seats will be abolished. This will mean that Northern Ireland’s representation at Westminster will be reduced from 13 members to 12. (Prof D L Savory, Unionist, is the present member for Queen’s University.)
The constituencies are North Antrim, South Antrim, County Armagh, North Down, South Down, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, North Tyrone and Magherafelt, Londonderry, and the four Belfast constituencies.
The main reforms are:
1- The House of Commons, which has 640 MPs, will be reduced to 608 by the re-drawing of constituency boundaries. After the next General Election there will be 489 MPs for England, 71 for Scotland, 36 for Wales and 12 for Northern Ireland.
2- Plural voting is abolished. Hitherto, university graduates could vote at their university and in the town where they lived. Business men could also vote at home and where their business premises were situated. The 12 university seats will disappear. The only vote anyone will have will be where he or she lives.
3- Standing for Parliament is to be much less expensive.
4- There will in future be one member only for each constituency.