The Senedd and Pierhead buildings.

The Senedd and Pierhead buildings.

FAQs: What happens next with Senedd reform?

Published 17/05/2024   |   Reading Time minutes

The Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill has cleared its final hurdle in the legislative process.

On 8 May, the Senedd voted by 43 to 16 to pass the Bill. This vote marks the beginning of a significant change for the Senedd in its milestone 25th year.

But this is not the end of the story for Senedd reform. This article looks at some key questions about what will happen next and the issues yet to be resolved.

When will the Bill become law?

The Bill has completed the legislative process in the Senedd. We’ve updated our Bill Summary to reflect the amendments made during that journey.

It is now in what is known as the ‘period of intimation’, where the Welsh Government’s Counsel General or the UK Government’s Attorney General have four weeks where, if they choose to do so, they can ask the Supreme Court to determine whether the Bill is within the Senedd’s legislative competence.

A UK Secretary of State can also stop a Bill from being submitted for Royal Assent if they have reasonable grounds to believe certain conditions apply. Our article looks at these powers in more detail.

If the Bill clears these steps, it will be sent to the King to receive Royal Assent and then become law.

Where will details for the 2026 election be set out?

While the Bill sets out the headline information about how Senedd elections will operate, much of detail will be left to a piece of secondary legislation known as the Conduct Order.

The original Conduct Order was made in 2007 following changes in the devolution settlement in Wales under the Government of Wales Act 2006. It has been reviewed and amended before each Senedd election.

We know that the Welsh Government has said it will consult on and remake a bilingual consolidated Conduct Order ahead of the 2026 Senedd elections. This will be the first time that the Order is available in both English and Welsh.

It will be updated to take account of the changes made by this Bill. The Chief Whip and Trefnydd, Jane Hutt MS, confirmed that there will then need to be further amendments made as a result of the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill, if its passed by the Senedd.

The Welsh Government has said it will consult on the draft Conduct Order in autumn 2024.

Will there be gender quotas in place for the next election?

There is a second piece of reform legislation being considered by the Senedd. It proposes legislative gender quotas for Senedd elections.

The Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill introduces two types of gender quotas. One that relates to the candidates that political parties choose for a list in individual constituencies, and the other about how many women are in first position in each of the party’s lists across Wales.

This Bill is currently at Stage 1 of the Senedd’s legislative process, with a deadline of 7 June for committees to report.

Our article sets out this Bill’s proposals in more detail.

How will the Senedd’s constituency boundaries be chosen?

If the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill receives Royal Assent, there will be a process put in place to review Senedd constituency boundaries for the first time.

This will be done through two reviews by a newly renamed Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru (DBCC) (formerly the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales).

The first review will select the constituency boundaries that will be used for the 2026 Senedd election. This will be a condensed review that will pair the 32 Westminster constituencies to create 16 Senedd constituencies. The DBCC has said it will publish its initial proposals in September 2024.

Following the 2026 election, a full boundary review will take place to determine if any changes will be made to the 16 constituencies to be used going forward. The DBCC will have to publish its final report by 1 December 2028. Subsequent boundary reviews will then take place every eight years.

What is happening with job-sharing in the Senedd?

The Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill requires the Presiding Officer of the next Senedd to table a motion to propose that a committee reviews the possibility of job-sharing of offices in the Senedd.

These roles would include a Member of the Senedd, the Presiding Officer (and Deputy), and Welsh Government Ministers, including the First Minister.

In its Stage 1 report on the Bill, the Reform Bill Committee noted that there is nothing that would prevent the Senedd establishing a committee before the 2026 election to look at this issue. It recommended that the Senedd’s Business Committee consider whether to establish a new committee, or ask an existing committee, to undertake this work during the Sixth Senedd instead.

Will there be a mechanism to recall Members of the Senedd?

While a mechanism to recall Members of the Senedd was not part of the Bill, this was an issue considered by the Reform Bill Committee as part of its stage 1 scrutiny.

The UK Parliament was the first legislature in the UK to introduce a system of recall through the Recall of MPs Act 2015 for Members of the House of Commons. Under this system, MPs can be removed from office by their constituents through a special election if certain conditions are met.

The Reform Bill Committee recommended that the Senedd’s Standards of Conduct Committee should develop options for strengthening individual Members’ accountability, including consideration of a recall mechanism.

It also recommended that public consultation on potential options should be completed before the end of the Sixth Senedd in 2026.

During the Bill’s Stage 3 proceedings, Vikki Howells MS, Chair of the Standards of Conduct Committee, confirmed that the Committee had agreed to take forward this work. She stated that the Committee will:

take evidence from key witnesses who can help the committee to identify an effective and proportionate recall machinery that works for Wales and our electoral system.

Could the electoral system itself change after 2026?

One key feature of the Bill is that it provides for the next Senedd to consider whether to set up a committee to review the new electoral arrangements after the 2026 elections.

Whilst the Counsel General has said that the exact scope of any review will be “a matter for the next Senedd”, the explanatory notes of the Bill suggest that the review could consider:

  • The impacts of the new voting system on proportionality;
  • The introduction of multi-member constituencies; and
  • The experience of closed lists.

If the next Senedd chooses to establish a committee to undertake this review, its likely to have a key role to play in shaping any future changes.

You can find more Senedd Research publications about these Bills and the history of Senedd Reform on this resource page.

Article by Josh Hayman, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament