This blog briefly summarises developments in the reform programme to date and highlights the main recommendations from the Committee’s final report.
Senedd reform: brief background
The Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform (“Expert Panel”) was established in February 2017 to advise the Llywydd and Senedd Commission on the number of Members the Senedd needs, the most suitable electoral system by which they should be elected, issues relating to Senedd electoral areas and the minimum voting age for Senedd elections.
The reform work was split between two phases:
- Phase 1 led to the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act 2020 (summarised here), which implemented a number of the Expert Panel’s recommendations.
- Phase 2 is ongoing and its proposed purpose was “to make the Senedd a more effective, accessible and diverse legislature”.
In June 2019, the Senedd Commission decided it would not be possible to legislate on Phase 2 during the current Senedd. Instead, aCommittee on Senedd Electoral Reform was established in September 2019 to consider the recommendations of the Expert Panel that were not taken forward in Phase 1.
Now that its final report has been published, the Committee will be dissolved following the Plenary debate on 7 October 2020.
What the Committee found
The Committee found ‘clear and compelling’ evidence that the Senedd is currently undersized and that its membership lacks diversity. It also found that the current electoral system constrains voter choice and Member accountability. The Committee made 32 recommendations in total. Some of its main findings are summarised below.
How many Members should the Senedd have?
- Senedd membership should increase from 60 Members to 80-90 Members to improve governance and representation and to increase scrutiny of the Welsh Government.
How should Members be elected?
- Members should be elected by theSingle Transferable Vote (STV) electoral system from the 2026 election onwards;
- Legislation should be introduced early in the sixth Senedd to establish review arrangements for the Senedd’s electoral boundaries.
How to elect a more diverse Senedd?
- There should be broadly equal numbers of women and men in the Senedd, and Members should be from a range of diverse communities and backgrounds. The report recommends actions to achieve these aims.
How can the Senedd increase public awareness of its work?
- Communication about the Senedd’s work should reach everyone in Wales, and must encourage people to vote and take part in the Senedd’s work.
- The Senedd should provide more information about what Members do and how the Senedd’s work makes a difference to the issues people care about.
What should be done before the 2026 election?
- The number of members cannot increase before 2026. In the meantime, measures are required to help the 60 Members of the sixth Senedd fulfil their representative, scrutiny and legislative roles effectively, possibly by adopting new ways of working learned during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Reacting to the report, a Welsh Government spokesman said that it “makes important recommendations for the future of the Senedd, which will need to be carefully considered by all political parties and will be for the next Welsh Government and Senedd to take forward in terms of legislation."
You can watch the debate on Wednesday 7 October at Senedd.tv
Article by Gruffydd Owen, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament