‘Too risky’ to leave expanding Senedd beyond 2026 says top academic
A top academic has said that it would be “too risky” to leave expanding the Senedd beyond the 2026 election.
Professor Laura McAllister who is co-chair of the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales said on social media that the Welsh parliament risked its legitimacy unless Senedd Members could cope with the “enormous workload” brought about by new powers.
She was responding to Caerphilly Labour Senedd Member Hefin David who raised doubts regarding whether the work of working out how to expand the Senedd – including the possibility of new constituencies and a different electoral system – could be done by 2026.
“Westminster boundary changes took two parliaments,” he said, adding that it “looks unlikely pre-2025/6” that the work could be done.
Laura McAllister responded that it was “certainly a challenge but eminently doable by 2026 if we use mergers of existing electoral boundaries”.
“Waiting until 2031 is too risky for host of reasons, most significantly for me the Senedd risks credibility and legitimacy faced with the enormous workload ahead,” she added.
She added that “new constituency boundaries can be managed without a full review. We need to determine essential priorities as there is no such thing as perfect constituencies”.
Professor Laura McAllister was chair of the report of the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform looked at how the existing 40 Senedd constituencies could be adapted for STV and Flexible List voting systems.
One of the suggestions was to pair constituencies together to create 20 larger ones.
Senedd Llywydd Elin Jones also responded to the discussion, saying: “I think it’s perfectly possible by 2026 if all of us work together, which after today is also perfectly possible. ”
The debate came after Welsh Labour’s conference in Llandudno voted unanimously in favour of increasing the size of the Senedd to between 80 to 100 members over the weekend.
Expanding the Senedd from its current 60 members was included as part of the Plaid Cymru cooperation agreement with the Welsh Government.
Among those calling for a larger Senedd was Police Crime Commissioner for South Wales Police, Alun Michael, who said it would be needed to be able to devolve powers of criminal justice and policing.
“Having served in parliament for 20 years, having served as the first First Minister, I’m conscious more perhaps than anybody have the importance of the role of the backbencher and it is important, as has already been said that holding to account, but there are other things as well,” he said.
“On committees. That’s the place where consensus can be built and where questions can be asked.
“A lot of things are happening to prepare the way for the devolution of criminal justice and policing – it will happen. And my belief is it will happen sooner than we think. Because it’s right.
“The expansion of the Senedd is essential because the journey of devolution is not yet complete. There is more to come. And the capacity needs to be there for those backbenchers to do the job of holding to account that you rightly said, cannot be done by to smaller number of representatives.”
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