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MSs warned Senedd election could be disrupted by legal challenges over candidate quotas

07 Jun 2024 4 minute read
David Rees MS, Chair of the Senedd Reform Committee

The outcome of the next Senedd election could be disrupted by legal challenges over candidate quotas, a Senedd Committee is warning.

The Reform Bill Committee is calling on the Welsh Government to take urgent action to avoid endangering the 2026 Senedd election.

The proposed legislation, the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill, aims to increase the number of women who stand for election by introducing quotas for candidates standing for political parties from the 2026 Senedd election.

Presiding Officer Elin Jones has received legal advice that the Bill, which would allow any candidate to identify as a woman, does not comply with equality legislation.

Last month, representatives of a gender critical women’s group told MSs that the Bill is in breach of UK law.

Progression

A majority of the Committee, which has been hearing evidence and considering the proposed law since March, recommends that Members back the progression of the Bill to the next stage.

However, all Committee members agreed that the uncertainty about whether the Senedd has the power to pass the Bill has to be put beyond doubt to reduce any risk to the legitimacy of the 2026 Senedd election.

The Committee says that to put the question of whether the Senedd has the power to pass the law beyond doubt, the Welsh Government should hold discussions with the next UK Government before the Senedd is asked to pass the Bill, and, if the Senedd passes the law, the Welsh Government should refer the Bill to the UK Supreme Court for consideration as soon as possible after it is passed.

Barriers

In total, the Committee’s report makes 25 recommendations to strengthen and improve the Bill, put the question about the Senedd’s ability to pass the law beyond doubt, encourage women’s political participation, and address barriers that might deter women from putting themselves forward for selection or election.

David Rees MS, Chair of the Reform Bill Committee, said: “As a Committee, we all agree that the Senedd needs to better reflect the people it serves. We are proud to be part of a parliament which has one of the highest levels of women elected members in the world but there is still more to be done.

“While recognising that the Bill does put in place measures which could contribute to parity of representation in the Senedd, we want to see changes made to strengthen and improve the Bill.”

Disruption

Mr Rees also expressed concern about the potential for disruption of the 2026 Senedd election or its outcome if the question of whether the Bill is within the Senedd’s powers is not put beyond doubt.

“It is not the Committee’s role to determine whether the Senedd has the power to pass this Bill but we are concerned about the evidence we have heard that legal challenges could potentially disrupt the 2026 election and so we are urging the Welsh Government to take steps to manage and mitigate this risk.”

Statement

The requirement in the Bill for candidates to make a statement about whether they are a woman or not a woman, as part of the process of being nominated by a political party, has drawn significant public attention.

A majority of the Committee agree that asking candidates this question is a proportionate means of enforcing the quota rules. However, to guard against abuse of the process, the Committee says that making a false statement must be captured by the corrupt practice offence that applies to any false information submitted on a candidate nomination form.

Commenting on this recommendation, Mr Rees added: “We’ve heard concerns about whether the requirement for political party candidates to state whether they are a woman or not a woman could be open to abuse.

“To alleviate these concerns, we’re calling on the government to include this statement within the corrupt practice offence that applies to other false information on nomination forms.”

The Senedd is expected to debate and vote on the general principles of the Bill on Tuesday 18 June.

The full report is available here. 


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A woman
A woman
9 hours ago

Omg! That is all!! 🥴

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
8 hours ago

After 50,000+ years of striving for ‘behavioural modernity’ we have, in these last few ‘moments’ of the ‘human age’ got nowhere it seems…

Rob
Rob
8 hours ago

This Welsh Labour Government is doing everything it can to make itself even more unpopular. Can we please ditch gender quotas and allow us to elect our candidates on the ability to do the job. Gender quotas are sexist and an affront to democracy.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
7 hours ago

What planet are the members of the Senedd on?
We in Cymru have levels of child poverty of which we should all be deeply ashamed, a health service that is falling apart, an education system not fit for the fourth world, a non existent transport system and a slowly dying economy.
Meanwhile in bubble bay, the urgent business of the day is gender definition and ensuring that the next election is carefully rigged in favour of party faithful candidates.
You couldn’t make it up.

hdavies15
hdavies15
5 hours ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Why bother with real world issues when there are so many urgent ishoos to divert our minimal attention spans ? Watching that lot debating the case of V Gething the other day confirmed that most of them need to be replaced before we have any hope of anything that functions with priority for the interests of the nation.

Daf
Daf
6 hours ago

Two problems – one is that the general voting public in Wales, less than half of whom voted in the 2021 Senedd election, are left cold by this kind of procedural blather. The Senedd sounds the committee formed to invent the wheel, who start off by debating endlessly what colour it should be. The second problem is that unfortunately, this issue does matter. If anyone can declare themselves to be a woman, for the purposes of a shortlist, then Wales is introducing gender self ID unlawfully, and without a public mandate. This is shameful behaviour. At best, it would mean… Read more »

Daf
Daf
6 hours ago

The scenarios the Senedd would end up with, if the offence of ‘corrupt practice’ is applied to someone making a false statement about being a woman, seem to me as follows. Do the Senedd really think the voting public in Wales have any appetite for this? One. A candidate says they are a woman. But they are a trans woman – born male, in other words – who identifies as a woman. They don’t have a Gender Recognition Certificate, so they are not legally a woman. The candidate accused of making a false statement, which is a criminal offence. They… Read more »

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