80 to 100 member Senedd backed as part of Plaid-Labour cooperation agreement
An 80 to 100 member Senedd has been backed by the Plaid Cymru and Labour cooperation agreement in the Senedd.
The agreement includes a commitment to supporting plans for an expanded Welsh Parliament – up at least 20 from the current 60 – that would require a two-thirds majority to get through.
It also includes a commitment to either retain the current proportional representation system or bring about reforms to make the voting system more proportional still.
Last year, a report by Labour and Plaid members on a Senedd committee backed expanding to 90 members, from the current 60.
The agreement text states that Plaid Cymru and Labour will “support plans to reform the Senedd, based on 80 to 100 Members; a voting system, which is as proportional – or more – than the current one and have gender quotas in law.
“We will support the work of the Senedd Special Purpose Committee and introduce a Senedd reform Bill 12 to 18 months after it reports.”
The agreement between Plaid Cymru and Labour is a joint policy programme covering 46 areas, ranging from the delivery of free school meals to all primary school pupils; a commitment to take immediate and radical action to address the second homes crisis, to long-term reform of the Senedd.
Plaid Cymru Members will not be joining the Welsh Government as Ministers or Deputy Ministers. Plaid Cymru will instead appoint a designated lead member for the agreement and committees made up of Welsh Ministers and Plaid Cymru designated members will be established to reach agreement on issues covered by the Co-operation Agreement.
Both Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats have previously backed having a bigger Senedd, providing the required 40 seat majority to make changes, but the Conservatives oppose the move.
A sticking point however could be how proportional the new system would be. The current semi-proportional system, where 2/3 of members are voted in through First Past the Post in constituencies, favours the Labour Party.
In 2017, Cardiff University’s Professor Laura McAllister conducted an in-depth review on the issue. Her Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform recommended the Assembly should be increased to between 80 and 90 members and also a change to a Single Transferable Vote system of choosing MS.
Mark Drakeford said in May that there were still “significant practical issues to work through”
“I want to see the Senedd properly fit to discharge its responsibilities,” he said. “It’s a matter not just of numbers but it’s a matter of method of election as well, which is a thorny issue, on which there are many views”
However, he added that there was “growing enthusiasm” for a Welsh Parliament “fit to discharge its responsibilities”.
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