Welsh Secretary demand for Senedd expansion referendum ‘very strange’ says top academic
The Welsh Secretary’s demand for a referendum on expanding the Senedd is “very strange” as the UK Government has implemented a number of changes to Wales and England’s elections without holding referenda, a top academic has said.
Simon Hart said yesterday that the Welsh Government should “seek the approval of its voters” by holding a referendum before expanding the size of the Senedd.
His comments come after the First Minister and leader of Plaid Cymru, in a joint statement, suggested that the Senedd should be expanded to 96 members, from the current 60.
“I would suggest that the proper course of action for Welsh Government is to seek the approval of its voters before proceeding with any of these costly measures,” Simon Hart said.
But Professor Richard Wyn Jones, the Director of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, said that the suggestion was “very strange”.
“The UK govt is currently changing the voting systems for local authority and combined authority elected mayors in England, the Mayor of London, and Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales,” he said. “It’s doing so without referendums.
“In addition, it is reducing the number of Welsh MPs at Westminster and doing so without a referendum.”
Richard Wyn Jones also questioned the credibility of Conservative’s concerns about the new voting system’s lack of proportionality.
Mark Drakeford and Adam Price’s statement suggested the Senedd should be elected using closed proportional lists with integrated statutory gender quotas. Seats should also be allocated to parties using the D’Hondt formula, they said.
Politicians from the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats have raised concerns that such a system would be less proportional than the one currently used.
At Wales Office questions, Tory Devizes MP Danny Kruger said: “The Welsh government has decided it wants to increase the size of the Senedd, however there are real concerns that this will lead to a lack of proportionality in representation.”
Richard Wyn Jones said that these concerns did not stack up as the Conservative party “is opposed to proportional representation”.
“So what’s the point of principle at stake that apparently requires a referendum for changes to the arrangements for the Senedd but not for the other changes being pushed through by the UK Govt?” he asked.
“I’m really struggling to see it, but presumably the Secretary of State must have an answer?”
In their statement on Senedd reform, Mark Drakeford and Adam Price said they wanted reform to be implemented in time for the next election in 2026, even if some of the changes are introduced on an interim basis.
- The Senedd should have 96 Members.
- It should be elected using closed proportional lists with integrated statutory gender quotas and mandatory zipping. Seats should be allocated to parties using the D’Hondt formula.
- The 2026 Senedd election should use the final 32 UK Parliament constituencies proposed by the Boundary Commission for Wales once it has concluded its 2023 Parliamentary Review.
- These constituencies should be paired to create 16 Senedd constituencies. Each constituency should elect six Members.
- A full boundary review should be instigated in this Senedd term and its recommendations should take effect from the subsequent Senedd election.
Mr 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.”
Mr Price added. “These reforms will lay the foundations for a stronger Welsh democracy and a fairer, more representative Senedd that will look entirely different to the outdated political system at Westminster.
“A stronger, more diverse, more representative Senedd will have a greater capacity to perform its primary purpose of making a positive difference to the lives of the people of Wales.”
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