Welsh Labour MP Chris Bryant criticises his own party’s Senedd reform plans
A Welsh Labour MP has criticised his own party’s plans to reform the Senedd, saying that they will make elected members “less connected to local people”.
Rhondda MP Chris Bryant said that his party branch had “voted unanimously” to oppose the plans because the constituencies would be too large.
The Welsh parliament voted last week to rubber-stamp the reforms which will see the number of members expanded from 60 to 96.
The 32 Westminster new constituencies will be paired to create 16 large constituencies electing six Senedd members each. It will also use closed proportional lists with integrated statutory gender quotas, in practice giving parties full control over their list of candidates.
“Although we support reform in principle, the Rhondda Labour Party voted unanimously last night against the present proposals for reform of the Senedd,” Chris Bryant said.
“We object to electing six representatives in each 200,000 constituency on closed lists. It will make MSs much less connected to local people.
Responding to criticism on social media, he clarified that he wasn’t asking for them to use the first past the post system.
“I don’t like large six member seats and closed lists,” he said. “There are other better proportional systems. I prefer top up lists.”
His comments put him at odds with the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, who put forward the proposals jointly with Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price.
Announcing the plans, Mark Drakeford said: “The case for Senedd reform has been made. We now need to get on with the hard work to create a modern Senedd, which reflects the Wales we live in today. A Parliament that truly works for Wales.
“The joint position statement we are publishing today will help support the important work of the cross-party Special Purpose Committee to move Senedd reform forwards.”
The Welsh Conservatives have strongly criticised the Senedd reform plans, with Monmouth MP David TC Davies used his speech at the Welsh Conservative conference to say that the new voting system will “lock in a Labour government forever”.
“By creating huge constituencies and using close PR [proportional representation] lists they’re going to remove the local accountability, which was supposed to be one of the advantages of having a Senedd, and concentrate power in the hands of a few party managers,” he said.
“The simple fact that they kept these plans a secret until the day after the local council elections tells us all we need to know.”
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