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First Minister’s comments on enlarging the Senedd ‘a big step forward’ say campaigners

19 May 2021 2 minutes Read
The Siambr at the Senedd building

The First Minister’s comments saying that he would like to expand the Senedd are a “big step forward” for tackling Wales’ democratic deficit, campaigners have said.

Mark Drakeford said there was “growing enthusiasm” for a Welsh Parliament “fit to discharge its responsibilities”. Last year, a report by Labour and Plaid members on a Senedd committee backed expanding to 90 members, from the current 60.

Jess Blair, Director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru welcomed his comments, saying that the institution needed to expand in order to better deliver for the people of Wales.

“The First Minister’s comments today represent a big step forward to address the democratic deficit in Wales,” she said.

“In the two decades since devolution the powers and responsibilities in Cardiff Bay have grown, yet the size of the Senedd has not, remaining the same size as Pembrokeshire County Council.  But the call for a larger Senedd is being heard in Cardiff Bay with politicians from across the chamber recognising the time for reform is now.

“Our parliament must expand if it is to deliver for the people of Wales. We need a chamber that is fit for purpose if we are to deliver the fair recovery from covid that Wales needs. We look forward to working with the First Minister and all pro-reform parties to make that change happen.”

‘Practical’

Both Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats back 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 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”

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Adrian Meagher
Adrian Meagher
6 months ago

Glad to see an enlargement of the Senedd is not completely rejected by Mark Drakeford. Unlike Laura McAllister’s panel, I believe coterminosity with Westminster seat boundaries is worth keeping. Pair off the 32 new Westminster constituencies into 16 “swperetholaethau” and elect 5 MSs from each, preferably by STV. That would give 80 MSs, all with an equal and local mandate.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
6 months ago

Very interesting article. My suggestion for the voting system (although STV also is good): How about 80 or 90 smaller constituencies elected by supplementary vote (like we used for PCCs)? This system is simple, ensures a majority, it’s easy to understand, it keeps the link between AS and constituency and ensures local accountability. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Any thoughts…?

Adrian Meagher
Adrian Meagher
6 months ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

The supplementary vote is designed for electing one person, eg a mayor or a PCC. As far as I can see it is not used to elect a parliament anywhere in the world. One drawback of it is that it resembles the Alternative Vote system rejected by a majority in the UK in the 2011 referendum. By contrast, STV is regularly used in one part of the UK (Northern Ireland) with apparent success. And in the Republic of Ireland the people twice voted down a majority government’s attempt to get rid of STV.

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