Y Pwyllgor Biliau Diwygio

Reform Bill Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Darren Millar
David Rees Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Heledd Fychan
Sarah Murphy

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Anna Hind Uwch-gyfreithiwr, Gwasanaethau Cyfreithiol, Llywodraeth Cymru
Senior Lawyer, Legal Services, Welsh Government
Jane Dodds Aelod o’r Senedd dros Ganolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru
Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales
Mick Antoniw Cwnsler Cyffredinol a Gweinidog y Cyfansoddiad
Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution
Tom Jackson Rheolwr y Bil, Bil Senedd Cymru (Aelodau ac Etholiadau), Llywodraeth Cymru
Bill Manager, Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, Welsh Government
Will Whiteley Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Diwygio’r Senedd, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Senedd Reform, Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Catherine Roberts Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Georgina Owen Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Gruffydd Owen Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Helen Finlayson Clerc
Josh Hayman Ymchwilydd

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:34.

The committee met in the Senedd.

The meeting began at 09:34.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions, and declarations of interest

Good morning, and can I welcome members of the public and Members of the Senedd to this morning's meeting of the Bill Reform Committee? And this morning, we will be taking our first evidence session in relation to the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, which was introduced on 18 September. Before we go into the evidence session itself, can I remind Members that the meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and that a transcript of the meeting will be published in the usual way? Can I also remind Members that the meeting will be held bilingually, and headsets are available for simultaneous translation from Welsh to English on channel 1? If you require amplification, that's available on channel 2. Also, in case of a fire alarm, because there's not one scheduled, can we follow the directions of the ushers to a safe place?

2. Bil Senedd Cymru (Aelodau ac Etholiadau): Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda'r Gweinidog
2. Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill: Ministerial evidence session

With that in mind, can we now move on to the substance of today's meeting, and can I welcome the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution? And, for the record, Minister, would you like to introduce your officials who are accompanying you today?

I will do; I'll ask my officials to introduce themselves. 

Morning, Chair. I'm Anna Hind, I'm legal services for Senedd reform. 

Will Whiteley, deputy director for Senedd reform within Welsh Government. 

Tom Jackson, Bill manager for the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, Welsh Government. 

Well, thank you very much for that, and we'll go straight into questions. And I'll open it up with a nice easy one for you, Counsel General. How do you think that this Bill is going to deliver what it was always intended to be, which is to become a more effective and efficient Senedd?

I think we have to look back to, firstly, I think, our own personal experiences in this Senedd—I've been here now for 12 and a half years—also familiarity with all the considerations that have been given by a whole variety of commissions—the Richards commission 2004, Silk 2014—the McAllister review, then the special purpose committee and so on. And I put it down to this: the Senedd has changed dramatically since the time I was on it, and, in fact, had changed, was changing, in the years leading up to that as well. So, compared to the Senedd that we had, or the National Assembly for Wales, from 1999, this is now not only a fully-fledged Parliament, it is a fully-fledged legislature; it has to deal with a wide variety of enhanced responsibilities—the issues of areas of transport, economic development, rail, the taxation issues that are there. And I think the growth of those responsibilities, the need to legislate in very complex areas, the need also to engage on inter-governmental relations with counterparts across the UK, and to deal with a very substantial UK Government legislative programme that engages with many of our responsibilities—it is about the capacity to have the depth of scrutiny that is needed, and for having enough Members who will be able to develop the particular skills, the expertise, the specialisms that are necessary. And I think increasing the size of the Senedd enables that to happen. It doesn't guarantee it happens, but I think, without that increase in size, the ability to fulfil all those new, additional functions to the standard that is required is not going to be possible. 

So, just to be clear in my mind, the focus is therefore on improving the effectiveness of scrutiny as we get more responsibilities, and we've had more responsibilities since 1999. I understand that argument, and I came in the same time as you, Counsel General, sat on committees, and multiple committees. But I want to just clarify: okay, if it's focusing up on scrutiny, why are we also increasing the size of Government?

Because I think the additional responsibilities that are there mean we need a more enhanced, skilled, expertised Government itself. I'll give you one example. One area, for example, from the Thomas commission, was a recommendation that there should be a justice Minister. I don't think we're in that position yet, but, with further devolution, we will certainly need to do that. I suspect, in the next Senedd, there will need to be a justice Minister, which means, I think, there will need to be a justice committee. So, for example, the work that is carried out by the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee I think is fulfilling the functions of two committees. And I think you can take that example in terms of other areas—in terms of climate, in terms of local government, and in terms of various areas where you need a more specialist ministerial structure. At the moment, we combine everything that has been added on in terms of governmental responsibilities into the same number, so it means that Ministers have probably more functions than it is desirable to have, in an area where the Minister needs to be fully in control of what they are doing, but also, then, to be able to engage with the Senedd, which has a committee structure that is also capable of holding Government to account in that particular way as well.


I understand what you're saying. I'll take climate change as an example where there's quite a large portfolio to be responsible for. But the Bill says five additional members of Government, with the possibility of going up to seven additional members of Government, and you've just indicated that some of those are possible events that might happen, because justice, as an example, and some of them may be on existing size of portfolios. So, I just want to know where the five comes from and where the seven comes from. And also, perhaps, on the seven, it's an increase throughout, which will be a permanent increase, so it's not as if it's something where we may say, 'Okay, we need to do something because of powers or responsibilities we now have', and it might not come, so we can change it back. Once you make that change, it's fixed.

The first thing is that the five is what is built in; the seven only can occur with the consent of the Senedd. So, there would have to be an approval of that by the Senedd itself. But I think, pro rata, with a Senedd of 96 people, Government has also got to reflect what that changing workload of accountability, of scrutiny, of functions is going to be. It also has to be futureproofed to some extent—that is, I don't think we want a situation, in terms of the Senedd, where we are continually having to review either its size or the size of Government. So, I think what the Bill actually does—. And I suppose I ought to say, again, really, from the outset, my job is—. This isn't a matter of Government determining what the reform for the Senedd should be; this is about how we implement, really, the recommendations and the views that come from the special purpose committee and I think from all the other expert discussions that have taken place over this. So, I think the five is a realistic representation as to how a future Welsh Government can operate. There is that capacity in there to go a little bit further, but it will be one that will be accountable completely to the Senedd. That is, it can't happen without the Senedd agreeing and recognising that it needs to happen.

And then let me ask you this question: this Bill needs a supermajority because it's a constitutional change. Why isn't the increase in Government also subject to a supermajority, if that's the case? Because you've put it as a simple majority. Why don't you make it in the Bill that it has to be a supermajority—superaffirmative rather than affirmative?

Because I think the supermajority goes to the Bill and to the empowerment of the change. The actual implementation of the change within the Bill is one that will be a simple majority. But it's a matter for the Senedd as to how they want that to happen. If it was the Senedd's view that that's what should be the case, well then that would be a matter for the Senedd. But I don't think that was one of the recommendations that came through.

Well, it's something I'm putting to you now, as a thought, Minister. Let me give you a hypothetical example that worries me: after the next election, if this goes through, you have a Government that has 17 members, but you need a coalition, and perhaps to appease a coalition, you need an extra Minister. So, you're putting a motion through simply for a political purpose, not for a practical purpose. So, a supermajority would actually put that under greater control than just a majority.

I think the position is that if the Senedd wants a supermajority, then that's what it will be able to achieve. This is a Bill that I'm bringing forward. It's not a Government Bill; it's the Welsh Government facilitating the ability of a Bill to pass through the Senedd. I think it is actually quite reasonable to say that, in order for the change to take place, there's a supermajority. But the power to actually increase is one that's quite reasonable for a majority of Senedd Members to say, 'Yes, we agree that's required'—or not required. Whether it's a majority or supermajority, that applies in both circumstances. But ultimately, it's a matter for the Senedd as to how it would wish that to proceed.


Can I just pick up on what the Chair was just saying there? The scenarios presented by the Commission, in terms of the costs that they've put down, are that there might just be one additional committee. They've done a range of between one and three additional committees. If there are an additional seven Ministers, do you think that constitutes good scrutiny, one additional committee, if we've got seven new Ministers gallivanting around Wales, making decisions and looking after their respective portfolios?

I think with 96 Members, firstly, you're going to have individual Members who are only on one committee, who would be specialising and understanding the detail of that committee's work, as opposed to being on quite a number of committees. I seem to remember when I was a backbencher I was on three committees, and I had a Committee of the Regions responsibility. I don't think that was appropriate, but it was the things we did because that was the environment within which we worked and we existed. I think it's up to the Senedd, really, to decide what its committee structure is and how broken down that committee structure needs to be in order to scrutinise Government. But what I think it does ensure is that not only will the individual Members have more time to spend in terms of properly analysing all the data when it comes to scrutinising the Minister, and also developing policy as well, but equally so, it means the Ministers themselves would be much more specialist in that particular area. And I think that would lead to far more effective committee work and I think far more effective and accountable ministerial work as well.

But you accept that one outcome could be that we have seven more Ministers eventually, with one extra committee in the Senedd—and you think that's satisfactory. 

What I would hope is that with 96 Members the accountability and scrutiny of Government is going to be not only much sharper, but far more specialist, and far more effective. Ultimately, the quality of any Parliament is the quality of the Members themselves and their ability to actually do the job and be motivated to do that. I think that would be achieved by an increased membership of the Senedd, but I think, equally so, it would mean that Ministers would be far more effective as well.

Can I turn to the issue of public support for this Bill? How can you demonstrate that the public are behind the proposals in the Bill as published?

I think what you have to do is you have to look at the work that's gone on, really, almost over the entire 20 years in terms of the analysis of how this Senedd works, how it has changed, what it is required to do for the future. That is why a whole series of Senedd commissions have been set up; we've almost become quite famous, haven't we, for the number of commissions that we've actually had, that have been talking about this, whereas this Bill now is actually about doing it. I think, in order to do it, there's a need for manifesto commitments to do it; I think there is a majority of Members who belong to parties where those commitments have already been given, and I think, for this type of democratic reform, that is appropriate.

But I don't recall reading in any political party's manifesto a commitment to 96 Members of the Senedd, elected on closed lists, with four-year terms. Frankly, there was none of the detail, was there, in anybody's manifesto? And if you ask most people on the street, the idea of having more politicians is not very popular, is it?

Well, listen, if there was ever a time when you asked people, 'Do you want more politicians?', the answer isn't always going to be supportive. I've actually been quite encouraged by the number of people who have actually said, 'Well, if it's what's needed to do things better, then that is the case'. But I think the reality is that what has been in the manifestos is that there is a need for reform, there is a need to change the Senedd, to increase its size. And I think that, when you had the special purpose committee considering those issues around size, and then you look at converting those recommendations into legislation, you have to look at the number of constituencies, the practical method by which that can happen, it's clear it's going to be 80, 90, whatever. I think the fact that we've also then had the parliamentary constituencies change, and we've had to use their boundary structures, and then you look at a mechanism for reform and election, 96 I think is the figure there. I think it is within what is an acceptable and reasonable range of increase in size, also having regard to what I think is necessary, which is the futureproofing—that this has to be something that is going to be sufficient not just in terms of what we want to do now, but what the Senedd wants to do in 10 years' time and in 20 years' time. And I think even at 96, we are still I think, de facto, almost the smallest of all the parliaments, and certainly pro rata we are. The Scottish Parliament have 129, so we're substantially less than that. 


None of the commissions that were established by the Senedd to consider this matter came up with any of the proposals on this particular list that you're now implementing. So, I ask you again: how can you demonstrate public support for the specifics in this Bill? 

I think the public support that we seek is for the reform. The precise detail of the mechanics is one that I think you have to work out within a constitutional structure, and this is what this Bill does—it creates a constitutional structure that delivers, I think, a recognition that there was a need for reform, there was a need to change, a need to increase the size. I think the precise details of it are complicated, ones that have been subject to the special purpose committee and the various recommendations, and so on. Those are taken forward by Government to try and implement the recommendations of that committee, and convert it into legislation that is workable. 

You speak about the work of the special purpose committee. I was actually a member of that committee, Chair, and its work was completely stymied and overturned by a political agreement, frankly, between the First Minister and the former leader of Plaid Cymru. The recommendations that the committee came forward with were instructions given to that committee by the First Minister and the leader of Plaid Cymru. You say you want scrutiny, that you want to respect the views of the Senedd. How do you reconcile those two things, when the—? I can assure you that the direction of the work of that committee was going in a very different way. 

Well, that's a matter for the Senedd. All I can do is take the recommendations that come forward from the Senedd committee, and my job is to convert those into legislation, and I think that is effectively what we've done with this Bill. 

But you don't accept that this is simply a political agreement, rather than the considered views of a respected Senedd committee that was trying to do a difficult job of working through various options for reform that could then have a broader consensus within the Senedd. 

Well, I think any reform of this type that requires a two-thirds majority has to have the consent of two thirds of the Members—

Two thirds of the Members who are instructed to vote for a proposal, whether they like it or not. 

Two thirds of the Members of the Senedd. And, as I say, this is a matter that comes from the Senedd. It will only go through if two thirds of the Members actually support it. My job isn't to second-guess the individual Members of the Senedd; my job is to convert the recommendations that come forward into, as accurately as possible, a practical and workable set of legislation.  

Jane has got a supplementary she wants to come in on. 

Thank you so much. Like Darren, I was on the previous committee as well, and it is just trying to understand the process, because you were in the Cabinet, you were part of that discussion that actually led to us being totally stopped in our tracks in relation to further discussion on the key issues that we were trying to get to grips with. My big one is the single transferrable vote, as you will know. And it seems that what you're saying is that the two-thirds majority—which, obviously, we recognise—is in doubt, when actually the Labour whip, as I understand it, is fairly robust—nobody diverts from it—and Plaid Cymru might be persuaded to vote in a different way. So, could you just tell us what the process was that led to the letter from Plaid Cymru and from Labour virtually telling, virtually instructing, the special purpose committee to follow a particular line?


Firstly, I have no knowledge of any letters that have gone to committees or whatever. We have a party political system within the Senedd. It is undoubtedly the case—as we know, because there was a co-operation agreement—that political parties talk together, as indeed they inevitably do, because in order to achieve a two-thirds majority, that is part of the discussions, and I’m sure that all Senedd Members in one way or another have been involved in those discussions. My position, as I say, my job is that this is a Bill that comes from the Senedd, it comes from all the ways in which the discussions take place within the Senedd, the nature of the political relationships that take place, but when those recommendations come forward, that is my job. My job isn’t to second-guess those recommendations; my job is to basically say, ‘Okay, those are the recommendations. Let’s work to convert those.’

Thank you. I guess I'm surprised that the letter, which was public—which was put out in public—isn't in your pack, because that was critical. We spoke a lot about that in the Senedd, so I guess I'm just wondering why you didn't get to see the letter. However, just to follow up very quickly, would you agree that the Labour whip could potentially tell the Labour Members of the Senedd to vote in a particular way, and that would then possibly be followed by Plaid Cymru?

I'm going to—. The question here—. That's a political question, not specific to the Bill. The Minister may not wish to answer that because we are looking at the Bill here, not necessarily what parties will decide to do as far as the whip is concerned. 

What I was going to say is that all those points, as far as I'm concerned, are largely irrelevant, and don't influence me in any way. My function, as I said, is very, very clear. There are Senedd processes and recommendations have come forward. I’ve made it absolutely clear from day one in the Senedd that this is not my Bill; this is my Bill implementing what actually emerges from the Senedd, from the parliamentary process itself. That’s what I’ve implemented. In terms of any letter, I have absolutely no interest in whatever processes may have gone on, whatever discussions may have taken place, and so on. My function and my interest are solely to actually create viable, effective and in-competence legislation for the Senedd to consider, to implement the wishes of the Senedd.

In terms of every individual Member of the Senedd, I think every individual Member of the Senedd all have themselves personal and very strong views on this. This is not some sort of thing where there is some sort of knee-jerk reaction to this. Individual Members themselves will make choices in terms of what they think is the appropriate way of reform taking place. They have their own minds and I’m sure they have their own discussions, and I’m sure that has probably been reflected in many of the debates. But as I say, again, none of that is of consequence to me, because I’m not here to say what I think would be best, what I think should have been done, or to say this could have been done, or that could have been done. My sole interest is how do I actually convert what the Senedd wants done into legislation, and legislation that can command a two-thirds majority. Because if we can’t command a two-thirds majority then there’s no point to bringing this legislation forwards.

Minister, I accept what you've just said, and I accept that you've indicated that you are responding to the Senedd requirements of that special purpose committee, and your job is to put a Bill together to resolve what that committee said. I'm going to come to some of the details in the Bill in a minute, but just a general point, then: you've actually got things in this Bill that weren't recommended by the special purpose committee.

And you mentioned the Thomas commission, you mentioned the Richards commission beforehand, the previous committee—not the special purpose committee, but the previous committee, chaired by Dawn Bowden in the last Senedd—and of course the expert panel. Did you take any consideration of those other aspects when you did the legislation for this Bill, or did you simply look at the special purpose committee's recommendations? And why, in that case, did you add to it?

Well, I think the main areas that have been added to, for example—. If you take them one at a time, the first one is the four-year period, which was not one of the recommendations, but is there. I think that is solely that, when you're bringing legislation of this type forward, there are other things that are there that naturally fit within that, that are an opportunity to raise, and again will go through, or not go through, depending upon the wishes of the Senedd itself. So, for example, the reversion to four years, we in fact never had a detailed policy discussion in terms of moving to five years. It was essentially a technical change to avoid a conflict of elections when the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 came through. That has been repealed, so we would naturally go back to four years, but there needs to be a mechanism to do that. So, that is very much a mechanistic issue.

The other thing in terms of residency is, once you start putting this legislation together in this particular way, the issue arises of who should be entitled to vote. We do already have some divergence on that in terms of UK Government reserved elections, but that was one where it naturally needed to be addressed, and it basically seemed a logical issue to say, 'Well, residency should be those who live in Wales, that make the laws for Wales, are affected by the laws for Wales.' If that is something the Senedd doesn't want, then it can take that out or change it. 


Os caf i ddod i mewn, os gwelwch yn dda. Byddaf i'n siarad yn Gymraeg. Os caf i ganolbwyntio felly ar dymhorau pedair blynedd. Fyddech chi'n gallu rhoi mwy o wybodaeth i ni o'r asesiad rydych chi wedi'i wneud o ran yr effaith bosib fyddai hyn yn ei chael, nid yn unig ar weithredu addewidion maniffesto, ond hefyd o ran deddfwriaethu? Oherwydd, yn amlwg, mae'r newid i bum mlynedd wedi bod, yn dilyn ni'n cael mwy o bwerau, i allu craffu, wrth gwrs, ar ddeddfwriaeth a datblygu deddfwriaeth ein hunain. Felly, pam y newid i bedair felly, ac oes yna risg o ran ein gallu ni i fedru craffu a datblygu deddfwriaeth?

If I may come in, please. I'll be speaking in Welsh. If I could just focus then on these four-year terms. Could you perhaps give us more information on the assessment you've made in terms of the potential impact, not only on delivering the manifesto promises, but also the legislative programme? Because, clearly, the change to five years occurred, following us having more powers, to be able to scrutinise legislation and develop our own legislation. So, why the change to four years, therefore, and is there a risk in terms of our ability to be able to scrutinise and develop legislation?

Well, it's not that we're changing to four years, we're reverting to four years. We're reverting to what was the norm from the initial establishment of the National Assembly for Wales, and we're reverting in the light of a legislative repeal, whereby the move to five years was purely to avoid a conflict of elections. Is a four-year term any better, does it have merits to it that are more than five years? Well, those are matters, I think, for the Senedd to consider.

In terms of my view, I think that having a four-year refresh, having a refresh of accountability of the Senedd and Members is, I think, an attractive one. There is a counter-argument that says, 'Well, if you have that extra year, it gives you that much more time to fulfil your manifesto, to carry out further legislation.' I think those are things for Senedd Members to weigh up. But I think reverting to four years, which was the original intention within the Senedd, that there would be an accountability through an election every four years, is the correct starting point. If Senedd Members are not happy with that, then, no doubt there will be opportunities to look at that during the process of this legislation. 

Ond rydych chi'n derbyn, ers i ni gael tymhorau pedair blynedd, fod ein grymoedd ni wedi newid o ran deddfwriaeth. Felly dyw hi ddim yn bosib cymharu'r ddau.

But you accept, since we've had these four-year terms that our powers have changed in terms of legislation. So it's not possible to compare the two things. 

I think in many ways the increased powers, actually, make the accountability issue even more important. What you're doing is not only more significant, but you are legislating in much more complex areas that directly impact on people's lives, far greater. And I think there is an argument—and it's an argument to come through the Senedd itself—but I think there's a strong argument that it makes the imperative of going back to the people more regularly, stronger. Now, that's an opinion. It's a matter for the Senedd itself in terms of whether that is the correct mode or not.

We consulted on this in the White Paper. This is in respect of local government on those terms. And there were quite mixed views. And I think the view was basically that there should be some sort of—. There was obviously a concern that relates to the synchronisation between local government and with the Senedd. It's a matter for local government in terms of their views on how this might impact. But I think, for the purpose of this Bill, and for the purpose of the Senedd, I think the key issue is whether it is considered, firstly, right that it reverts back in the light of the repeal of the 2011 Act, but secondly, whether it's what the Senedd actually wants. And again, as I say, this is a Bill to implement the wishes of the Senedd, and during the course of that, if there's not a two-thirds agreement for that, then, that part—. Sorry, it's not a matter of the two thirds, if there's a view during the process of this Bill that that shouldn't be the case, well, that's a matter for the Senedd Members themselves.


Diolch yn fawr iawn. Os caf i ofyn un cwestiwn pellach: gan gymryd bydd etholiad San Steffan nesaf yn 2024, pa asesiad sydd wedi cael ei wneud o'r posibilrwydd y bydd gwrthdaro ag etholiadau'r Senedd yn y dyfodol? Ydych chi wedi ystyried o gwbl rhoi darpariaeth yn y Bil i ddiogeli rhag hyn? Oherwydd rydym ni'n gwybod yn barod, o ran democratiaeth yng Nghymru, mae'n heriol iawn cael sylw o ran etholiadau yma yng Nghymru, ac i bobl ddeall y gwahaniaeth rhwng beth sy'n cael ei benderfynu yma yn y Senedd hon i gymharu efo San Steffan. Felly, ydych chi'n meddwl byddai gwerth bod yna darpariaeth fel ein bod ni ddim yn wynebu etholiad ar lefel Brydeinig ac yma yng Nghymru ar yr un pryd?

Thank you very much. If I could ask one further question: assuming that the next Westminster election will be in 2024, what assessment has been made of the potential conflict with Senedd elections in the future? Have you considered at all putting provision in the Bill to safeguard against this? Because we already know, in terms of democracy in Wales, that it's very challenging to get attention paid to elections here in Wales, and for people to understand the difference between what is decided here, in this Senedd, compared to what's happening in Westminster. So, do you think there is value in having such a provision so that there is no conflict between British and Welsh elections?

I think there is a recognition with the UK Government and with ourselves, and indeed, with the Scottish Government—this is one of those areas we've discussed that everyone wants to avoid a conflict of elections. The way the UK parliamentary constitution works, you can never predict when a general election might actually take place. And with the repeal of the 2011 Act—[Inaudible.] And if you have, after the next general election, a different Government, or you have a Government that is dependent on an agreement between a number of political parties and so on, you cannot predict how long that stability might be there, when there might be a general election, when there might not be one. So, those are always a risk. I think what there is agreement on is that we all want to see that not happen. And secondly, it is desirable that there is a mechanism that were that to happen, we would need to do something to ensure it didn't happen. There already are some provisions in terms of the length of time by which you can actually defer an election and so on, but I think that is an area that is well worthy of scrutiny. Did you want to add anything to that—?

No, I don't think there's anything further to add.

My final question is on the length of term. You've identified throughout this morning so far the changes in the powers, the responsibilities the Senedd has, the complexities that exist as a consequence of all these. Those complexities will exist in legislation, for example, but you are reducing the time that will be available for Members to scrutinise legislation, and that the Government have to bring forward legislation. In your opinion, can a future Government, whichever party is in place, actually deliver manifesto commitments effectively within the four-year period, and have that scrutinised? Because you and I have both been in a situation where Bills have fallen on the last day.

So, are we going to be in a situation where four years actually creates more jammed legislation towards the end, rather than actually give us sufficient time to scrutinise those pieces of legislation?

I think the reality of four years within a busy and tight legislative programme—by legislative programme, I mean not just what would be the Welsh Government's programme, but also the engagement in terms of UK Government legislation—I think it is; I think what happens is that you have to focus, within the period of the term of office that you have, what it is you want to do and want to achieve within that. Within that, there will be some that are very specific manifesto commitments and so on, and I think you basically cut your cloth according to what you need, and I think you focus more on that. I think there are lessons we are already beginning to learn in terms of the way we do legislation, that probably smaller, more focused legislation and so on is a desirable way forward, rather than the larger, include-everything-you-can-within-legislation approach. So, I think, basically, it's a question of, you know you've got four years, you know what are the most important things you need to do, that impacts on what you are actually going to put within your manifesto. I think it also means that you also are continually looking ahead to what your political mandate is, as well, in a world that is changing very, very quickly. So, it's a matter of judgment, and I think it is perfectly achievable, whether it's three, four, five, six years or whatever. You know, you have more time, you basically just adjust what you do within that time period. So, I think four years is probably more efficient. That would be my preference, but it's not about what my preference is, it's about what the Senedd's preference is.


Heledd, you don't want to—. Darren, on that point.

Yes. Just in terms of the term length, I have no issue with a four-year term. I think it's perfectly appropriate, to be honest, and I think the more frequently you can go back to the people, the better, frankly. But there will now be an inconsistency with local government election terms, won't there? I mean, you've just brought forward the other Bill on elections and elected bodies, and I appreciate that that's not something that this committee will consider, but you had the opportunity to put something in there to prevent there being local government elections on the same day. Why didn't you do that if it's so important to have them on a different day to other elections?

I think it's a matter for local government to consider in terms of their term, and what their views are as to whether they should stay with five years, or whether they would want to—

Well, I know there have been discussions with local government over this, and I think their position is that they would want to review this in the light of what the Senedd decides. So, that's a matter, I think, for future policy, but also future discussion with local government. We're talking about elections that would take place in 2027, aren't we? Anything to add on that?

No, there's nothing to add. Thank you.

Only to add, I suppose, Counsel General, that the first time that there would be a clash at this point is 2042, as things continue. So, as the Counsel General said, there's a period of—

I appreciate that it might be some time off, but I don't recall there being any—. I haven't seen any evidence of consultation with local government over four-year terms at all. I mean, are you able to share with us—?

What you have in terms of legislation, obviously, is there are discussions that take place in terms of, 'This is what's happening with the Senedd'. Clearly, there are views that this has a relevance to the local government situation, which was four years but also went to five years. Whether that would change in the future I think is probably a matter for further discussion. I've certainly got no mandate. It's not within my portfolio of policy decisions. All I think I can say on it is that, clearly, it is a relevant factor that is consequential upon this legislation, and I think those discussions will take place and a decision will need to be taken at some stage whether that should change or not. It's not a part of this Bill, but it clearly is something that will be considered in the round later on.

Obviously, the other Bill does have references to the new body, which this Bill is going to create. Isn't that a risk—having two Bills running concurrently that are interdependent on one another? What consideration have you given to having to throw them both out if this suddenly fails?

Well, that's a matter, obviously, in terms of what the Senedd chooses to support and not support in terms of legislation. The reality is, though, I think that there are clearly some overlaps. I think they complement one another in terms of reform, but I don't think one is dependent on the other. If one were to not go through, I don't think it prevents this legislation from going through, but, clearly, there are those overlaps there. There are things that would need to be managed, but one doesn't fall if the other falls.

But there would have to be significant changes to the other Bill, wouldn't there, if this one fell?

Well, you're looking at areas, aren't you—? You're looking, for example, in terms of changes that have been taken to the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru, which is being created, and there are certain issues in terms of the increased size of the commission, there's the issue of the independent remuneration board and, of course, there's the electoral registration board. Now, if those things didn't go through, they don't prevent this legislation from going through in its current format. There are administrative issues that would have to be addressed, but, as I say, those are things that are complementary. I'm confident in terms of both pieces of legislation, but ultimately it's a matter for the Senedd to consider those.

Did you consider merging the two into one Bill at all, as a Minister?


The answer is 'no', because I think the electoral reform Bill, again, is one in terms of administration, organisation of elections, automatic registration, dealing with a whole series of issues around how our elections actually operate. The Senedd reform, I see very much as a constitutional reform, and a constitutional reform of legislation that comes from the floor of the Senedd. It would be possible to combine them. I'm very much a great fan of the idea that we have smaller, more focused pieces of legislation, and I think this is probably an example of that. I don't think it's necessary for the one to be combined with the other. In fact, I think it would be a mistake for the two to be combined.

Os caf i ddychwelyd i faint y Senedd, a 96, rydych chi wedi amlinellu'n barod rhai o'r pethau dŷch chi'n eu gweld fel manteision hynny. Rydych chi hefyd wedi sôn am y 96, ac efallai trio egluro pam eich bod chi heb fynd am yr 80-90 a gynigiwyd gan y panel arbenigol o ran rhyw fath o futureproofing os ydych chi'n gweld mwy o ddeddfwriaeth yn dod. Ar ba bwynt ydych chi'n meddwl, felly, neu ba fecanwaith ydych chi'n ystyried fyddai angen i adolygu'r 96, oherwydd fe wnaethoch chi hefyd sôn ei fod o'n dal yn llai na'r Alban? Yn amlwg, mae ganddyn nhw fwy o rym ar y funud, ond mae pethau'n gallu newid yma yng Nghymru. Ar ba bwynt yn y dyfodol, felly, y byddech chi'n meddwl ei fod o'n addas inni fod yn ailedrych ar hyn, oherwydd rydyn ni mewn sefyllfa ar y funud lle mai dyma'r tro cyntaf rydyn ni'n edrych ers 1999 o ddifrif ar faint y Senedd? Ar ba bwynt ydych chi'n meddwl yn y dyfodol y dylen ni fod yn edrych eto?

If I could just return to the size of the Senedd, and the 96 Members, you've already outlined some of the things that you see as the benefits of that. You've also mentioned the 96 Members and tried to explain why you haven't gone for the 80-90 that was proposed by the expert panel in terms of some kind of futureproofing should you see more legislation coming. At what point do you then think, or what do you think would be need to be done to review this 96, because you also mentioned that it was still less than Scotland? Clearly, they obviously have more powers currently, but things could change here in Wales. At what point in the future, then, would you think that it would be suitable for us to be looking at this again, because we are currently in a situation where this is the first time since 1999 that we are looking seriously at the size of the Senedd? At what point in the future do you think we should be looking again at this?

Not in my lifetime, I hope. I think the figure of 96 is one that you want to futureproof; you do not want these sorts of discussions or need necessarily to have the sort of discussions and reforms on an ongoing basis. It's ultimately determined by the Senedd. If in 10 years' time we've moved to a completely different constitutional structure or whatever and there are issues around that, well, that would be a matter for the Senedd to consider and the Senedd to decide. As I see this, this is something that sees us through for the next 30, 40, 50 years. That's how I would see it—that what we're doing now is basically creating a model that will carry us through the twenty-first century, but, again, listen, it's not for me to determine what might happen in the future; it's for the Senedd to determine that.

What will happen, of course, under this legislation, is there is provision for a review to take place not later than six months after the next election, and that is to review how the whole process has worked, how the reforms have taken place, how the electoral system has worked, and also to look at the issues of job sharing. So, it's not deciding—the legislation doesn't decide any of those things. I think all it is doing is facilitating, via the legislation, that those discussions take place, but they would be a matter that is completely within the ownership of the Senedd itself. Anything to add? No. Okay.

I want to move on now, because I'm conscious of the time, and we may end up, Counsel General, perhaps going a little bit longer than 11 o'clock, if you're free.

I have to say I have a very important meeting straight afterwards, which I've already told I'm going to be a little bit late for, so I'd hope not, but, see how we go.

Let's see how we go, okay. The residency requirement, Darren.

Obviously, there is a residency requirement for candidates that is in the Bill that could lead to someone, for example, on the south Wales coast standing for election in the north Wales coast, where somebody literally a house over the border in a neighbouring constituency in England might not be able to stand for election in a place where they might frequently go for work or to see family or have social connections to. What consideration did the Welsh Government give to that possibility?

Looking at a residency requirement is really quite a complex area, and I think the area we've gone for is basically what I think is the clearest, the simplest and most understandable, and that is, if you want to stand to be a representative of the Welsh Parliament, you need to live within Wales, basically, and be on the register within Wales, and that will be the qualifying criteria. It is difficult to start going into details saying, 'Well, should it be tied into a constituency?' Well, of course, we know the constituency boundaries can change. I give you my example: I've been a happy Member of the Pontypridd constituency; I will, after the general elections, become a happy Member of the Rhondda constituency. I'm not intending to move house as a consequence. We have a large number of constituencies that are very close to one another with high concentrations of the population. So, trying to be too prescriptive in terms of location as to where you actually stand, I think begins to become very difficult. It begins to become very, very difficult to convert into legislation the issue of cross-border as well, because so many other factors come in. In fact, I think it makes it almost impossible to try to define. I think the Scottish Government tried to look at this sort of issue as well and had difficulties on it. So, I think the way we've come up with, which we thought was clearest, was, 'Look, if you’re on the electoral register in Wales, you're qualified to stand to represent a constituency in Wales.' To do anything more—it's a matter of judgment—would be over-prescriptive, but there needed to be some jurisdictional or accountability factor in terms of the elections. And so, I think the clause that's in this is one that most people will understand and most people will also accept—you are on the electoral register in the country and if you’re a representative, you’re making laws that are applicable to yourself as well.


But you accept that those laws might be applicable to somebody who lives in a house over the border in England? Do you not think that proximity to a constituency perhaps is a better way to address whether someone should stand for election in that constituency? So, take, for example, a Mr Jones, born in Wales, works in Wales, registered with a GP in Wales, children go to school in Wales, but happens to live just over the border in Saltney; he will not be able to stand for election to the Senedd. But Mrs Williams down in Pontypridd, living 3.5 hours away, could stand for election to the Senedd in the constituency that would be formed on the border. Doesn’t that seem odd?

No, I don't think it’s odd at all. I think if you live in Wales, you're accountable to Wales. If you don't live in Wales, you’re accountable to the laws that apply in England, and vice versa. So, I don't really see that as being a difficulty. If you wanted to try and actually look at the issue of proximity and how you actually start defining it, I think you basically go down a road that makes it almost impossible to legislate, or you end up with something that is so complex and challengeable.

But we do have such laws already, don't we—for housing purposes, for example. So, someone needs to demonstrate a strong local connection to an area in order to be eligible for support from a local authority in terms of housing. I'm not saying I disagree with the Welsh Government's position on this, I have to say, but I'm simply asking what consideration you gave to other potential options and whether there was any consultation on those, because, again, this is something that didn't appear in the Senedd reform committee's recommendations.

We certainly looked at all the issues around how you would actually look at proximity. I mean, for example, what happens if someone's in Wales and they have to move across the border to look after someone or whatever? The moment you start looking at those, actually, the list of complications and difficulties in drafting the legislation becomes more and more complicated, because you'd have to say, 'Well, if this factor applies, if that factor doesn't, and if you live here, how proximate do you have to be?' There are all sorts of things that can extend quite far into cross-border arrangements, where you have those in terms of family law arrangements, and certainly it's the same in terms of housing, and so on. Those are things that are managing how you actually deliver a service. I think, in terms of when you come to electoral accountability, the simplest of the principles is you live in the country that you're standing for election to and that you want to represent so that you are equally accountable to that. And the simplest and clearest way of doing that—. I don’t dismiss the points you make; I think they're all valid considerations. I just think that when you try to convert into legislation, you do need something that is relatively simple, understandable and workable, and, basically, the electoral register seems, I think, the most effective way of doing that.


But, of course, as you've already said, there are ways that that has been interpreted for legislative purposes in other areas. What about—

Can I just say that they all involve quite considerable amounts of discretion as well—

—and then legal challenges to whether you do, don't et cetera, and we can't really have that in an electoral system?

So, one of the things about the current disqualification list from being a Member of the Senedd is that, very often, the disqualification doesn't kick in until somebody is elected, yes? So, for example, if somebody is a member of a body that is sponsored by the Welsh Government, they might have to step down from that body on being elected. Was consideration given to that being the rule rather than being disqualified at the point of candidature?

I think we’ve looked at a whole range of different ways of trying to achieve that, to achieve the residency, and I think, again, coming within the simplicity, the clarity and something that made operational sense is basically that to be a candidate, you need to be on the register. To be elected, once you’re elected, you need to be on the register, and those were the criteria—so, I think the ones that actually work. The moment you start trying to move away from that, I think you get into an area that just creates unclarity as to whether you can, whether you can’t et cetera, unless you have something that’s just completely open to anyone, but then you end up with additional complications that add to that, as we know with the issue of foreign voting et cetera—expat voting and so on.

And just one final question on this: so, what consultation did you undertake with anybody regarding this particular rule?

Time simply wasn't available in order to undertake a public consultation—

So, there was no consultation as such. It was just a political decision made and put into the—

Well, it was a practical, operational decision made as to what are the criteria for people to be able to stand for candidacy within legislation like this, and clarity, simplicity and operationability and proportionality were the ones that were really the factors around that. And, again, that's forward here and, of course, the residency issue again is a matter for Senedd consideration.

Well, we're very careful. I'm sure the Senedd will take everything into consideration, Minister, so you don't have to remind of us of that all the time, don't worry.

I want to move on because we have quite a few important areas that we still haven't covered, and with your tight schedule, we're limited on time. So, I want to go on to job sharing and then move on to the electoral system. So, Sarah starts and then we go to Jane.

Thank you, Chair, and thank you, all, for being here this morning. So, to get straight into it—job sharing: section 7 of the Bill requires the Llywydd to table a motion to establish a Senedd committee to explore the issue of job sharing instead of introducing any provisions into the Bill. So, could you talk us through the rationale for the Bill's approach of requiring the Llywydd to table a motion to establish a committee when the Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform proposed that the cross-party working group and the special purpose committee only specified consideration on a cross-party basis? So, which one is it going to be and why?

Well, firstly, I think this actually fulfills what's been asked for from the special purpose committee, because it's not determining—. This Bill doesn't determine the issue of job sharing; what it does is ensure that the desire for this to be considered is actually going to happen. Now, you could say that the Senedd, of course, has the ability to consider all of these things without it being in the legislation. What I think the legislation does is make sure that it actually will happen—so, within six months. And there are two sections, aren't there? There's section 7, as you referred to, and section 25, because there's also provision at the same time for there to be a review. How those are managed, whether they're done as a collective thing together or separately, is really going to be a matter for the next Senedd.

In terms of the issue of job sharing itself, it's not something that is feasible. There were different aspects—. There are different understandings of what job sharing actually means—sharing a particular job. There are, I think, other issues in terms of sharing an elected office, which I think create a whole series of additional constitutional issues that need to be considered. There are issues as to how it would work in practice with, for example, certain specific positions, whether that be First Minister or, indeed, Counsel General—ones where there are specific, for example, law officer functions that are conferred et cetera. So, it is an incredibly complex area. But what will happen, if this legislation is passed, in the next Senedd, is that the Llywydd will have to, no later than six months in, start the process of discussion on that. And I think it then goes into the ownership and hands, then, of the processes there for the Senedd to decide what it wants to do, how it might do it, how it wants to scrutinise or explore what possibilities, what options, there are. 


Okay, thank you. So, just to clarify, it will be up to the Llywydd, then, to decide if it's on a cross-party basis or has to be a cross-party committee.

The committee that—. The Senedd has to table a motion. I think it will be for the Senedd, then, to decide what the format of that will be. I think that's right. 

Yes. The Bill provides—well, the motion would be to establish a committee and then, obviously, yes, it would be a matter for the Senedd, then, to determine how that committee is constituted. 

Okay, thank you. And then I suppose, just, why not put it in the Bill? Why not get it ready for the 2026 election? Is it because it's such a big piece of work, or do you think—? What's the reasoning behind that?

I think it is an enormous piece of work. I think it's an incredibly complex piece of work. It has to be defined, but I think it raises a whole series of very fundamental constitutional issues in terms of the election of representatives, what their role is, how it might work and so on. It is not something that I think we would be able to convert into legislation that it would be feasible to be carried through within the timescale that we have, bearing in mind all of our arrangements in terms of elections under the Gould convention have to be in place six months at least before the elections. 

Okay. And then, just to clarify—my last question, Chair—the Bill doesn't preclude any job-sharing measures coming into force for the 2026 election. And if the Llywydd at the moment wanted to propose a committee to look into this to come into force in 2026, that could happen. 

The Senedd can establish whatever committees it wishes to discuss matters et cetera. How those are then carried forward and converted into legislation obviously has other challenges, particularly bearing in mind where we are within the legislative programme at the moment, how close we are to the 2026 election and all the requirements in terms of legislation. But I think there's a serious job of work to be done to look at that, to explore it, to work out what it means and how it might be implemented, if that is what is wanted. 

Can I just ask one question on this, then? You've identified that job sharing is a complex area and that it needs a lot of work to look into it; if that's the case, if a committee is established at the start of the next Senedd, will the next Senedd, in a four-year term, have sufficient time to implement any legislation that may be required to implement it for 2030?

Well, it is feasible. It's up to the Senedd how quickly it completes that work and develops a policy that can be converted into legislation. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi am ofyn cwestiynau am y system bleidleisio—dwi'n siŵr eich bod chi'n disgwyl hynny. Mae maniffesto Plaid Cymru wedi cefnogi STV, mae'r argymhellion o'r adroddiadau cynt—hynny yw, adroddiad Dawn Bowden ac adroddiad McAllister—wedi cefnogi STV hefyd. Felly, beth sydd wedi newid?

Thank you very much. I want to ask questions about the electoral system—I'm sure you expected that from me. The Plaid Cymru manifesto has supported STV, the recommendations of the previous reports—Dawn Bowden's report that is, and the McAllister report—have supported STV, too. So, what has changed?

Well, what has changed is the recommendation that has come to me to convert into legislation is the system that we've incorporated within the Bill. 

Gaf i ofyn mwy am hynny, os gwelwch yn dda? Hynny yw, dwi eisiau clywed, os yw'n iawn, beth sydd wedi newid ynglŷn â'r adroddiad o McAllister a hefyd o Dawn Bowden? Beth sydd wedi newid? Roedden nhw'n glir eu bod nhw eisiau cefnogi STV. Beth sydd wedi newid yn eich barn chi i—?

May I ask more about that? I want to hear from you, if it's okay, what has changed with regard to the report from the McAllister board and Dawn Bowden. What has changed? They were clear that they wanted to support STV, so what has changed since then in your view to—? 

Well, I wasn't on the committee that considered this. As I say, my job is to convert what they recommended into legislation. You're right in terms of the various recommendations that come through committees at a particular time, but, clearly, the recommendation has been what we have now, which is basically a closed list system, a proportional system, using the D'Hondt mechanism. It is one of the versions of proportional. No, it's not the one that you want, but it appears to be the one that the committee wants and considers that there would be a two-thirds majority to enable that reform to take place, to introduce a proportional voting system.


Jest i ddilyn hynny i fyny, os gwelwch yn dda. Dydy hynny ddim yn hollol wir, os mae'n iawn dweud hynny. Hynny yw, roedd y pwyllgor diben—. Ac roedd Darren a fi, fel dŷch chi wedi clywed, ar y pwyllgor hynny. Doeddem ni ddim ar y pwynt lle roedden ni am wneud argymhellion ynglŷn â'r system bleidleisio, achos fel roeddwn i wedi sôn, roedd y llythyr wedi dod o'r Prif Weinidog ac Adam Price yn dweud, 'Dyna fo—dyma'r cytundeb.' Dwi eisiau deall y broses. Dyna beth dwi'n gofyn. Dwi eisiau deall mwy am y broses, achos doeddem ni ddim yn cael cyfle i wneud hynny yn y pwyllgor cynt. Felly, beth oedd y broses i ddod â'r system doedd neb yn cytuno arni yn y pwyllgor cynt? Pam doeddem ni ddim yn cael y cyfle i siarad mwy am y broses? Dwi eisiau clywed hynny wrthych chi, os gwelwch yn dda.

Just to follow up on that, please. That isn't entirely accurate, if it's okay for me to say that. The special purpose committee—. And Darren and I were on that committee, as you've heard. We weren't at the point that we wanted to make a recommendation with regard to an electoral system, because as we mentioned, a letter came from the First Minister and Adam Price stating, 'That's it—this is the agreement that has been reached.' I want to understand the process. That's what I'm asking. I want to understand more about the process, because we didn't have an opportunity to understand that in the previous committee. So, what was the process to arrive at a system that nobody agreed on in the previous committee? Why didn't we have the opportunity to talk more or to debate more about the process? I want to hear about that from you, please.

Well, as I understand it, the committee did discuss those, but that it ultimately, though, decided that it was going to go for this particular option, and that's the option and the recommendation that's come to me. I think what you might be suggesting is that I should be now second-guessing that decision, that I should be discussing what I think are different options, what I would like, what other people might like and so on. As I say, this is not a Government Bill. My function in this is carrying out the wishes of the Senedd, and if those wishes have a two-thirds majority in the Senedd, then that's what this legislation will be representing.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Jest yn symud i ffwrdd—. O, sori.

Thank you very much. Just to move away—. Oh, sorry.

I understand what you're saying, Minister. You're simply reminding us that you are implementing the recommendations from that special purpose committee, and our job may be to explore, from the Chair of that committee, as to why that conclusion came around, which is not your decision, I understand that. But I therefore opened, for example—. You've often said it's the will of the Senedd that will make decisions. The Senedd could actually agree to a change of system, for example. As you know, Bills can be amended. So, is the Government open to such amendments? Would it see that alternative option as something that is acceptable, that can operate effectively and efficiently and will still deliver the changes and the reforms that the Bill is trying to achieve for the Senedd?

Well, if the Senedd did not support the proposals within the Bill as it is, then it won't go through. My understanding, though, is that where you are—and it would be churlish not to recognise that there is the co-operation agreement—there are those discussions that take place in order to ensure that there is a two-thirds majority to get reforms through. That, as I understand it, is what we have incorporated into this legislation. As I say, at the end of the day, though, none of this happens unless there is a two-thirds majority. If there was a two-thirds majority that wanted a different system, then that is what would happen, but that would have to be changes that went through the process. As far as I understand the position at the moment, it seems clear that there is support for—there is a two-thirds majority of support—and satisfaction with this system.

Well, the Bill will—. The time the Bill goes through the Senedd will decide whether there's a two-thirds majority at that point.

That's the point I'm making, that this legislation is put forward there and it doesn't go through unless there is that two-thirds majority.

Gaf i ofyn jest dau gwestiwn arall ar y system bleidleisio? Dŷch chi wedi sôn yn y Siambr am sicrhau bod y cyhoedd yn deall yn hollol y systemau, a bod yn agored i'r cyhoedd. Felly, mae'r system dŷn ni'n gweld yn y Bil yma yn symud y pŵer o'r cyhoedd i'r blaid. Hynny yw, in a closed list system, mae'r blaid yn gallu dweud yn union pwy sy'n gallu bod ar y rhestr. A gaf jest ddeall mwy am eich barn chi ar hynny, achos dŷch chi wedi siarad—a dwi wedi cefnogi hynny, wrth gwrs—am bob system yn bod yn agored i'r cyhoedd, a'r pŵer efo'r cyhoedd. Felly, a gaf ddeall tipyn bach mwy am y closed list system, a sut dŷch chi'n gweld hynny'n digwydd?

May I ask just two further questions on the electoral system, please? You've mentioned in the Siambr the need to ensure that the public understands entirely the electoral systems, and that we need to be transparent and open with the public. So, the system that we see in this Bill shifts the power away from the public to the party. So, in a closed list system, the party can state exactly who can be on that list. So, can I just understand a little bit more about your views on that, because you have said—and I've supported that, of course—that every system needs to be transparent for the public, and that the power should lie with the public. So, can I understand a little bit more about the closed list system, and how you see that operating?


Okay. Well, listen, I actually don't think it is, actually, in reality that different to what we have at the moment. Let's be totally honest in terms of the way the party system—. The parties select who their candidates are, whether it's one candidate in a constituency, or whether it's more candidates, a group of candidates, in a list system. It is effectively what we have at the moment, isn't it, within the list system that we have for the regional list. The parties will, under this, then—all they'll be doing is putting forward a list in respect of the paired constituencies of a number of persons, and people will either accept that as the team of representatives for that area—. But whether you break it down and said—. Well, you break it down into, just as we had with the 40 constituencies, where you have 40 candidates on that, and that's what the parties do—they're deciding who is going to be their candidate, and, at the end of the day, the electors have to decide they want it, they want that candidate, or they don't want that candidate. And I think the difference here, of course, is that they will have the list, they will have the names. I think the system does actually facilitate and make it easier to introduce a gender quota system, so it has, certainly, that advantage. But I don't think it changes the positions of the parties at all. If people don't want the candidates, the team of candidates, then they won't vote for them. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. A gaf jest ddilyn hynny i fynd hefyd, os yw hynny'n iawn? Dwi ddim yn deall yn hollol sut mae'r system closed list—y closed list system—yn cynyddu mwy o fenywod, er enghraifft, ar y rhestr. Dŷn ni wedi clywed tystiolaeth, er enghraifft, o'r Electoral Reform Society ac Elect Her, yn dweud dyw'r system—y closed list system—ddim yn sicrhau ein bod ni'n cael mwy o fenywod ar y rhestr. Felly, a gaf ddeall tipyn bach mwy am beth dŷch chi jest wedi'i ddweud, os gwelwch yn dda? Diolch. 

Thank you very much. May I just follow up on that too, please? I don't entirely understand how the closed list system increases the number of female candidates on the list. For example, we've heard evidence from the Electoral Reform Society and Elect Her, saying that the closed list system doesn't ensure that we have more female candidates on the list. So, can I understand a little bit more about what you've just said, please? Thank you.

I think what I'm probably doing is looking ahead at that there is going to be further legislation in terms of gender quotas and so on. And I think if that legislation, again, is legislation that goes through, the list system here makes it easier in order to actually do that by having equality within the list itself. With alternative systems, although you can have gender equality, it makes it a lot more difficult in terms of who's actually going to get elected, who isn't, where you are on the list and so on. So, there are pros and cons in terms of those. I'm, of course, not taking that legislation forward, so that's obviously a matter for your further scrutiny in due course. 

Heledd, and then Darren, have short supplementaries on this. 

Ie, roeddwn i jest eisiau gofyn: o ran codi ymwybyddiaeth o ran y cyhoedd, pa gorff dŷch chi'n credu a fyddai â'r cyfrifoldeb arweiniol dros godi ymwybyddiaeth pleidleiswyr a'r cyhoedd yng Nghymru o'r trefniadau newydd, ac ydych chi'n gweld hwn fel cyfrifoldeb statudol, ac, os felly, lle mae hyn wedi'i osod, neu dylai fe gael ei osod?

I just wanted to ask: in terms of raising the awareness of the public, what body do you think would have the lead responsibility for raising the awareness of voters and the public in Wales, and do you see this as a statutory responsibility, and, therefore, where is this located, or where should it be located?

Well, the first thing I think you're raising is that, I think, clearly, there are going to be, in 2026, issues in terms of clarity of communication and so on. And that's going to be around a number of issues, and those things are going to have to be thought through very, very carefully—not just this—and again there's a certain overlap in terms of the other legislation that's going forward. And I think, in terms of managing that, what information goes out, the electoral registration board that is going to be created by the other legislation will contribute towards the administration, I think, in a more cohesive way. Also, proposals in respect of the creation of an electoral platform, I think, are very important in terms of information that's there. Clearly, there is a very important role for the Electoral Commission to be played, and I think there's a very important role for all those who are participating in elections—candidates and, in particular, the political parties—within that. So, I think it's going to be a combination of those. I don't know if there are any other views on that.


The Senedd itself, the Senedd Commission, has the power to raise awareness in relation to elections and electoral changes, although it's not a duty, as such.

Os caf i hefyd—. Diolch yn fawr iawn am hynny. Un nodwedd bosib o'r rhestrau caeedig newydd ydy y bydd yna fwy o bwyslais ar raglen bolisïau’r pleidiau, eu syniadau ar gyfer Llywodraeth Cymru, yn hytrach na faint o bwyslais sydd yna rŵan ar bersonoliaethau ac unigolion, fel sydd yn system San Steffan. Yn amlwg, fel rhan o San Steffan, mae yna grant datblygu polisi yn bodoli, sydd yn caniatáu i bleidiau gwleidyddol fod yn datblygu syniadau ar gyfer maniffesto ac ati. Mae hwn yn rhywbeth sy'n cael ei gyllido, ac mae o'n amodol ar gael dau Aelod yn Nhŷ'r Cyffredin er mwyn gallu cymhwyso, ar y funud, ar gyfer cael cefnogaeth i ddatblygu maniffestos—yn aml ar gyfer rhai Senedd Cymru hefyd. Ydych chi wedi ystyried beth fydd ei angen ar gyfer rhywbeth cyffelyb yma yng Nghymru?

If I could—. Thank you for that. One potential aspect of these closed lists is there'll be more emphasis on the political programmes of the parties, rather than how much emphasis there is now on personalities and individuals, as there is in the Westminster system. Clearly, as part of the Westminster system, there is a policy development grant that exists, which allows political parties to develop ideas for manifestos et cetera. This is something that is funded, and it is dependent on having two Members in Westminster to qualify for support for that development of manifestos—often for the Senedd as well. Have you considered what will be needed for something similar here in Wales?

Well, beyond—. The idea of a platform that is available to make information available is one aspect. The other one, of course, is the diversity support that I referred to yesterday in terms of those with disability and accessibility and so on, and the funding to support candidates within that. In terms of policy development, now that's normally a matter that goes within the parties themselves. What I think you are right about is that I think this system does create a much clearer focus and accountability in respect of manifestos, because people will be voting for a party—unless, of course, they're voting for an independent—but it will be much clearer that this is what you are voting for; these are the things you expect this group of candidates who get elected to actually be seeking to implement. In terms of any issues around policy development and so on, I don't think there's anything within the Bill that would provide for that. It doesn't mean that, if funding were available, that there can't be things that could be done, but I don't think it's part of this legislation.

No. Just to say, as the CG said, there's no provision within the Bill, as things stand, in relation to that. Obviously, I think there are mechanisms within the Senedd and Senedd Commission in relation to funding for party groups. And then there is party funding that sits—. As I think the system you were referring to, which is Westminster's; it's a system for the UK, so it's a UK system.

Ydych chi'n meddwl bod gwerth, o ran y mecanwaith adolygu, fod hyn yn rhywbeth penodol inni roi iddo fo i edrych arno fo?

Do you think that there is value, in terms of the review mechanism, that this is something specific for us to look at?

I'd be very surprised if, after the 2026 election, when the review takes place, we didn't look at a number of those factors. You look at things like turnout, you look at engagement, you look at issues in terms of divergence in elections, electoral systems, the fact that we might have—. We already do have a different electoral register, but there may be a greater electoral difference, if you have a larger electoral register because of automatic registration and so on. So, there are all those factors that would need to be taken into account. And I've talked a lot about democratic health. I think there is an ongoing debate, a continuous debate, that we do need to have, about how our democratic system works, how policy is developed, how people participate in it, how we engage with it, and I don't think it's something where there's any silver bullet to how you do it, but I think the fact that we, I think, are increasingly recognising that we need to have this ongoing debate in terms of engagement—. I'm hoping there may be things that come out of the independent commission as well that will be directly relevant in terms of powers, decentralisation, how things might work et cetera. So, I'm sure there'll be interesting—. Part of that debate will follow on after their report in the early new year.

Yes. Obviously, as has already been said by Jane Dodds, the departure from being able to vote for an individual candidate is a huge shift, which people in Wales will not have experienced before in Senedd elections. And given that it's such a significant shift, many people have said there should be consent from people to actually deliver such a significant change in the voting system. What consideration did the Welsh Government give to allowing for a referendum before any change in the voting system, given that we've had such referendums in the past when proposals to change from a first-past-the-post voting system have been proposed?


Well, I think we just follow the example of UK Government, really, on the basis that changes to the number of constituencies, the reduction of Welsh MPs, wasn't something that went to referendum; changes to the electoral system of mayoral candidates, which was done, did not involve a referendum. And I suppose I make the point I made in the Senedd a while back, that, under the 2017 Act, we were given this responsibility to do. We all have our own manifesto commitments in this particular area. But if UK Parliament, when it devolved these particular functions, had wanted it to be a requirement that there should be a referendum every time something like this happens, then it would have been included within that legislation—it wasn't. I don't think a referendum is necessary. And I think putting these things in terms of manifestos and commitments for reform et cetera is actually the way forward. We are an accountable, elected parliamentary democracy, and that's the way our democracy works.

But there was no proposal in your manifesto to introduce the closed list system, whereby people couldn't vote for an individual candidate of their choice, was there?

No, what you have is a general commitment in terms of reform that you want to make and how those changes—

And that gives you carte blanche to do anything, does it? Well, why don't you just put a line saying, 'We will legislate', in every future manifesto, and then you can do whatever you want?

Well, I think we're following the example the UK Government gave. When the UK Government changed the electoral system for the mayors, which was considered to be partisan at that time, there was no referendum whatsoever. There was not even a consideration of it; it was never raised that there should be a referendum in any of those. And that is because it was decided that, no, this is an electoral management system et cetera, it goes through Parliament, Parliament has to vote it through. That's exactly the same thing here—we're operating a system of powers that were given to us in 2017, where there is no requirement for a referendum. We've been through the process, we've been through the scrutiny. It's the wish of the Senedd to make changes, and those are the changes that we've brought forward for you.

Forgive me, but, as I understand it, with mayoral elections, people vote for an individual person. They don't vote for a group of people, do they, to be mayor of their city?

I'm not sure whether it makes a difference whether you're voting for an individual—

Well, of course it does. There's direct accountability to the people, isn't there, if people are able to select an individual candidate?

The Minister has given an answer, which we will consider as far as that answer—

Minister, I need to move on, because we have, according to your schedule, eight minutes left, and we've still got a lot of areas we need to cover.

I've heard the Minister's answer. I don't accept that it's a good one, but I've heard it. Can I ask one more question, just on this very specific issue about the electoral system? Obviously, the one thing that we do know about the Welsh Government is that you've made it clear that you want a more representative Senedd. But, in order to do that, you're introducing a system that increases the threshold over which people need to get a share of the vote in order to get elected to the Senedd to around 12 per cent, which to me seems that you're actually making it less representative of the people in the constituencies that they will serve. How do you reconcile your suggestion that this is going to make a more representative Senedd, given that you're introducing a huge barrier for most smaller parties to get over?

Well, I think the argument that will take place on the consideration of this is: is 12 per cent a reasonable baseline in terms of support for a person to be here and to be in this Senedd and to be deciding the laws of Wales? I take the view that having a threshold is important. It's got to be a reasonable threshold. The judgment is: (1) is this a reasonable threshold? Should someone be here if they have less than that percentage?

I just want to make—. So, if a party gets 11 per cent of the vote nationally, they shouldn't be entitled to a single seat in the Senedd?

Well, I think it's a question as to where do you draw the threshold. And you're right to raise the issue as to whether you think that threshold is right or not. The threshold as it stands I think is one that is reasonable. Now, that will be a matter for, obviously, your committee to consider—that's why we're here before you today—do you think that is reasonable or not? And obviously, your consideration of that is ultimately determinative of whether this legislation goes through, and whether it has a two-thirds majority.

Right. We're not going to get through all the questions we have, Minister, because we've got five minutes, and I've got vacancies to discuss, I want to discuss the future boundary reviews, and there's an issue of costings we haven't even touched on yet. So, Sarah to vacancies. 


Chair, any things that we aren't able to achieve, I'm more than happy to answer in detail those additional elements, and so on. 

Don't worry—you'll get a letter from us. [Laughter.]

I look forward to the postman delivering it, Chair. 

Thank you very much, Chair. We're going to cover vacancies, and I guess the two most pertinent questions that are coming up about this is that the Bill does not seem to allow for by-elections to take place if there is no available reserve candidate to fill a vacancy. So, if a party has gone through all their reserves, there are none left on the list, that seat then, it appears, would remain empty. So, can you just talk us through why that is? 

Well, I think you've got to look at the likelihood of what may happen, but also that the system does operate in a particular way where you put forward a list of candidates. So, the current requirement would be a list of eight candidates for six places. I'm not sure there are any constituencies where any one party is going to win all six of those there. So, if you took it that a party that might win three or possibly even four at a stretch out of that, you've then got four reserved places in terms of the list system there. I think it's very unlikely that vacancies will occur. It is a possibility—I think it is a remote one—but it goes with the territory of an increased Senedd and this particular system. 

Thank you. And my other question then is just about the impact of the residency requirement on reserve candidates. So, if somebody doesn't get elected and then they decide to move somewhere else in the world, and it comes up then that they can now stand and they can come in and fill a space, if they move back to Wales, that would be fine. 

If at the time the vacancy occurs they are qualified to stand or to be a candidate et cetera, and they are on the electoral register, then that is fine. If they have chosen to move, in the knowledge, of course, that if they cease to be on that electoral register and move elsewhere, then obviously they cease to be qualified, it would move on to the next person on the list. 

Okay. I suppose it's just that some people could see that as, well, that's—. What if you have opportunities, job opportunities? What if you—? It's kind of that they have to stay in Wales just in case it comes up and then—. Some people could see that as a bit restrictive. Wouldn't it be more fair if they could move back to Wales if this opportunity came back up? 

If, at the time a vacancy occurs, they were on the register, they would be entitled to do that. If they weren't, then they wouldn't, and it would move, as I said, to the next person on the list. I think people take decisions in terms of their experiences, if they're not elected first through the general election, et cetera. People will inevitably make decisions and there will be circumstances that impact on their life, et cetera, and they take those within that knowledge. I think that is just part of the system, but it means that if someone does come into a vacancy, they are on the register, they are resident, they are living in and accountable to, et cetera.  

Just on the matter of vacancies, you have said that it is a possibility. Don't you think we should be futureproofing for that possibility? The argument previously was in terms of regional Members and that a region is so large. Obviously, the constituencies will be smaller now. You could have a situation of an independent, for instance, elected, or you could have a protest party that decides to stand, get elected, but then resign and refuse to fill that list, or cease to exist as a party. If we're serious about futureproofing, surely that's something that should be addressed, rather than hoping it doesn't happen.  

Well, it has to be within a framework, but what I'd say is I think this is an area for further consideration. I have no difficulty whatsoever with these issues around residency being considered by the committee, and if there are practical suggestions, and so on, that is a matter that is perfectly valid. 

Yes, a very short question. Just in relation to, obviously, by-election costs being a lot less on the new model than they are on the regional model, I do think that there's a reasonable case to be made for by-elections. The First Minister in FMQs this week suggested that the Welsh Government was also open to looking at models for power of recall. I don't know whether the Welsh Government has considered any potential model so far, and whether you could share your consideration of those with the committee so that we can consider that issue further.


Yes, and of course I've been asked about it as well. It is a perfectly valid issue, and I think it's a very topical one in terms of accountability of individual Members, and so on. It is not within this Bill, it was not one of the recommendations to be included within this Bill. It is quite complex—actually, it's more complex under the list system, because, obviously, there were no by-election systems, and how would it actually operate, how you would actually trigger it, and so on. But, look, it's a matter for the Senedd to consider. I don't think it can come into this legislation; I think it is, again, quite a complex area. It needs quite a bit of work done as to how something like that might operate. I'm pretty certain it will undoubtedly come up within the review system after 2026. But there is nothing that stops the Senedd from at least considering it in the interim as well.

We've reached the end of the session, but we started five minutes late, so I'm going to give Darren the last question, on costs. And it will have to be one question, Darren, simply because of timing.

Yes. Obviously, looking at the costs in the explanatory memorandum, many of them have been provided to the Welsh Government from other organisations, including the Senedd Commission. To what extent has the Welsh Government tested those? It is an issue that, obviously, I've discussed with your officials in briefings, but I'd just be interested to know how you've tested those to make sure that they are robust, because it appears to me that they might not be.

Well, I'll go straight to the horse's mouth on that.

Diolch. So, in the case of all of the organisations that worked with us as we developed the RIA, if I take the Senedd Commission as an example, they provided us with an initial set of figures. That was back in March. There was then a period of around four months, actually, where we were in dialogue with their officials, firstly ensuring that we understood the figures that were provided to us and also understood the process that they had gone through to determine those figures, which was not insignificant and was, I think, signed off by the executive board and by the Commissioners as well. There were discussions to ensure that the figures they provided also conformed with the approach that Welsh Government takes to regulatory impact assessments. And, as I said, within that, there is a degree to which we were probing to best understand how the figures had been calculated and what underpinned those figures. They were then agreed between the First Minister and the Llywydd in August, ahead of being included within the RIA.

There was a similar approach, I guess, with the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales in terms of understanding their figures, which, it's fair to say, I think, are narrower than the Senedd Commission's, which are the most significant aspect of the regulatory impact assessments. It's probably worth saying in terms of the local authority-related election costs, as the EM explains, there is a working group set up through the WLGA where we engage with returning officers and electoral administrators. That was from a selection of local authorities that presented a spread geographically across Wales, as well as urban and rural local authorities, to determine, firstly, which aspects of election costs were impacted by the reforms, and then the degree to which those costs may change. So, what they did was provide us with some percentage increases—and decreases, obviously, because there are savings that are identified within the RIA—and then we took the election costs from the 2021 election and reconciled those to establish the figures.

So, in short, you did ask probing questions to try and test the robustness, but you seem to have just accepted the one figure, which is a standout figure, which is the capital costs potentially associated with the additional 36 Members, all of the additional Commission staff, all of the additional support staff, which is just £1.8 million in the memorandum. That was the cost of refurbishing a single corridor in the Senedd a number of years ago, on the ground floor of Tŷ Hywel. What specifically did you do to probe that figure? 


So, I think they would have talked us through the process that they would have gone through. Obviously, they have their own estates—. We didn't—

And we will have the opportunity to probe that with the Commission. 

I appreciate that, but this is a figure in a book that you own—in this. So, by virtue of the fact that you've used it, it's your figure as well. So, I appreciate we'll be testing the Senedd Commission on these things too, but you've included that in your figures. So, you accept that that's an accurate figure of the likely costs. 

We took assurance from the process that they went through to establish those costs, so—

Well, we were satisfied, and I think the First Minister, in agreement with the Llywydd, was satisfied that they were best estimates.

We may well come back to you when you come back to us after we've had that session with them, as well.

I'm going to have to call time, Darren. We appreciate that we've gone over time fractionally and that you have a very tight schedule. Perhaps next time we can actually make sure the schedule has a bit spare at the end of our session just in case we overrun. Can I thank you very much for your time, and your officials? As you know, Counsel General, you will get a copy of the transcript. If there are any factual inaccuracies, please let the clerking team know as soon as possible so we can correct them. Thank you for your time, therefore, and I'm sure we'll meet again towards the end of this Stage 1 process, when we've taken further evidence to clarify, but we have—

I'm tempted to say 'don't know where, don't know when', but I'm sure we will. 

We have not covered the boundary reviews, the implications of the other Bill on automatic registration and what that means for the boundary reviews—votes for 2026 and 2030 elections, for example—if this goes through. And we haven't yet covered the reviews issues. And we didn't even discuss why you've put in the extra position of Deputy Presiding Officer, which I suppose I should be talking about. So, there are a few areas we will need to write to you about and probably will explore even further again. 

Chair, if I can just say, I think this scrutiny is extremely important in legislation like this and I'll do all I can to facilitate your work. 

3. Papurau i'w nodi
3. Papers to Note

For Members, we go into item 3, which is papers to note, and there are two papers in our pack. The first is a technical note from the Welsh Government regarding the use of the HM Treasury discount rates and GDP deflators, and the second is a letter sent to the Counsel General about the link between this particular Bill and the gender quotas Bill that is anticipated, which the Counsel General actually hinted at in his contribution. Are Members content to note those papers? Yes.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Then we move on to the next item on the agenda, which is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting. Are Members content to do so? They are, therefore we will move into private session for the remainder of this meeting. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:08.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:08.