Y Pwyllgor Biliau Diwygio

Reform Bill Committee

24/04/2024

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

Catherine Larkman Rhwydwaith Hawliau Merched
Women's Rights Network
Claire Loneragan Rhwydwaith Hawliau Merched
Women's Rights Network
Jane Dodds Aelod Canolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru
Member for Mid and West Wales
Janet Finch-Saunders Cawcws Menywod y Senedd
Senedd Women's Caucus
Jessica Blair Electoral Reform Society Cymru
Electoral Reform Society Cymru
Joyce Watson Cadeirydd, Cawcws Menywod y Senedd
Chair, Senedd Women's Caucus
Katharine Owen Rhwydwaith Hawliau Merched
Women's Rights Network
Nkechi Allen-Dawson Cyngor Hiliaeth Cymru
Race Council Cymru
Rhianon Passmore Cawcws Menywod y Senedd
Senedd Women's Caucus
Selima Bahadur Tim Cymorth Lleiafrifoedd Ethnig ac Ieuenctid Cymru
Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team Wales
Sioned Williams Cawcws Menywod y Senedd
Senedd Women's Caucus
Victoria Vasey Rhwydwaith Cydraddoldeb Menywod Cymru
Women's Equality Network Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Catherine Roberts Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Claire Thomas Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Gareth Howells Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Georgina Owen Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Helen Finlayson Clerc
Clerk
Josh Hayman Ymchwilydd
Researcher

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 a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:17.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:17.

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

Good morning. Could I welcome the Members and the public to this morning's meeting of the Reform Bill Committee? Before we commence our evidence collection this morning, could I just go through a few housekeeping items?

The meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and a transcript of the proceedings will be published in the usual way. The Senedd does operate bilingually, in Welsh and English, and simultaneous translation is available on the headsets via channel 1. It is also available for amplification, if you require that, on channel 2.

There is no scheduled fire alarm this morning. So, if the alarm goes off in the Senedd, could people please leave and follow the directions of the ushers to a safe location? Does any Member wish to declare an interest at this point in time?

Yes, Chair. I am a member of the women's caucus for the Senedd, whom we will be receiving evidence from later on.

Ie, yr un un i mi. Dwi hefyd yn aelod o'r cawcws menywod.

And the same for me too. I am also a member of the women's caucus.

2. Papurau i'w nodi
2. Papers to note

Okay. Let's move on to item 2, which is papers to note. We have a couple of papers to note at this point time, for our consideration. The first is a letter from the independent remuneration board regarding the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill, following the letter that we sent to them, requesting information and their views. So, both papers—papers 1 and 2—relate to the independent remuneration board.

Paper 3 is a letter from the First Minister to the Llywydd indicating which members of the Government are in charge of Welsh Government Bills. You will note that, for this particular Bill, Jane Hutt is the Member in charge.

The fourth is a response from the Standards of Conduct Committee regarding the Stage 1 report that we produced on the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, in particular, the aspect of recall. The final one is a letter from the Llywydd regarding this particular Bill, the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill, again in response to a request that we sent to her. That letter was noted last week. Are Members content to note those letters? Thank you very much for that.  

3. Bil Senedd Cymru (Rhestrau Ymgeiswyr Etholiadol): Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda 5050Amrywiol
3. Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill: Evidence session with Diverse5050

We move on now to item 3, which is our first evidence session this morning on the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill. Can I welcome our witnesses and can I thank you all for the written evidence we have received? If you'd like to introduce yourselves for the record, I will go through what I can see—two members in the Senedd, and then I'll go through the members virtually. So, Jess.

09:20

Good morning, everyone. I'm Jess Blair, I'm director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru.

Hi, good morning, I'm Selima from EYST Wales—so, that's the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team.

Good morning, I'm Victoria Vasey, I'm the director of the Women’s Equality Network Wales.

Good morning, bore da, I'm Nkechi Allen-Dawson, and I'm the lead policy officer at Race Council Cymru.

Thank you very much, all of you. We go straight into questions, if that's okay. The first simple question is, for each of you—and I'll go through in the order in which you've just actually introduced yourselves—to outline the views you have in relation to the provisions of the Bill.

We're fully supportive of this Bill. I think it's key to mention that we strongly believe that this fits in with the wider package of reform. The Members and elections Bill obviously will increase the size of the Senedd and change its voting system; we feel that this goes hand in hand. A larger Senedd should be more representative as a whole. It's a really key part of a healthy democracy that our elected representatives reflect the populations that they serve.

For this Bill, I think it's a key part of a healthy democracy. We need fair representation here, I think, in the Senedd. The volunteer measures haven't done too well at the moment, I think, so I think it's needed.

I would reiterate what colleagues have said, I think, also to underscore that not only is this a positive addition to the reform package, but, if we do not see this as part of the reform package, there's actually a risk of regression, there's a risk that, in an enlarged Senedd, the lack of reflection of the whole of the population of Wales actually becomes more marked and entrenched.

Absolutely, we are fully supportive at RCC of this Bill. For us, the power of quotas goes beyond simply ensuring equal numbers are represented in politicians; it can transform our politics. Just by ensuring that we are properly representing the communities we're serving, we're actually doing a first for Wales in going above and beyond where we are at the moment. So, we are fully supportive of this Bill.

Thank you. Obviously, this Bill focuses very much on gender quotas, and we'll come on to diversity perhaps later in the questions. Do you see any challenges or failures of this Bill that need to be reflected in our evidence and our reports? I'll do the reverse this time; I'll start with Nkechi.

Could you repeat the question, please?

Yes. The Bill is focused very much on gender quotas, and not all aspects of diversity—we'll discuss some of those diversity aspects later in the session—do you see where this Bill needs to be strengthened to be able to perhaps be stronger in its delivery? Do you anticipate any challenges the Bill might bring forward?

Yes, absolutely. I think we see this Bill being implemented as something that, again, as I mentioned previously, goes above and beyond where we are at the moment. I think, in Wales, we need this to ensure that we are properly representing the communities we're serving, but also to ensure that the legislation—. For example, we're making it possible to pass groundbreaking policy and legislation on areas such as social care, mental health, women's reproductive justice and domestic abuse—policy areas that male-dominated Governments are less likely to focus on. It means that we're more likely to legislate on issues like menopause and endometriosis and sickle cell, which are rarely brought to light by politicians, despite affecting up to half of the population. So, we see this as Wales being a beacon of light globally, really, for being the first nation to reach a 50:50 gender balance in its Parliament back in 2003, but, regrettably, since then things have gone backwards. And those are the challenges that we're currently facing if this Bill isn't implemented.

I hear that you don't want to hear this, but I think the primary concern is around diversity, and, if we get back to that, that would be great. I think, in terms of doing what this needs to do in terms of a stronger and more representative Senedd, looking at gender parity, I think that the Bill is strong and should be able to do what it needs to do. I know there's been a lot of discussion about a pipeline of women to be able to move into these positions and be ready for these roles, but I think that, with concerted efforts outside of the Bill, it seems to me eminently possible to have a whole slate of wonderful women who are going to be able to step up and take on these roles.

09:25

Just to clarify, we do want to hear everything, and diversity will be some of the questions later, specifically on that matter. 

Thank you. There are no real challenges. Like Victoria said, it is a really strong Bill. We've been working on this for a good few years now. Myself, I've been in role for two and a half years, and, since I started, we've been campaigning and working on this. We're just, yes, looking for everybody's support now. Thank you.

In terms of the actual wording of the legislation, I don't think there are many changes that we would like to see at all. I think the challenge comes in terms of implementation, and that kind of responsibility then passes to parties, really, to ensure that this legislation really has the impact that it needs to in terms of women's representation. ERS have done some modelling work, looking at the operation of quotas, and there is a real role for parties to play, really, to ensure that they deliver. So, for example, there's always going to be an element that is up to the electorate in terms of what voters actually want to see, but there is a role for parties to play in terms of putting women at the top of a list in winnable seats, to really ensure we get that gender parity that is needed. But I think we also want to raise that there is a significant challenge in not implementing this Bill. The idea of not progressing with this is, obviously, much more of a concern than, actually, its implementation.

And the final one from me at the moment is—you've just highlighted it—did any of you have any interaction with the Welsh Government in the development of the Bill? Let's just keep the order that we just had. So, Nkechi, did your organisation have any input into the development of the Bill?

RCC had input in terms of the development of the anti-racism action plan, which looks at section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, and that talks about ensuring that parties had full representation of women as electoral candidates on the list. So, yes, we did have involvement in the Bill, and working with WEN and ERS as well for the last two years or so on this Bill, absolutely.

Yes, in terms of this having been a central campaign in access for WEN over many, many years, yes. The Diverse5050 coalition has been in place since 2020, and this has been a key part of the Diverse5050 coalition, which is made up of 48, I think, now, organisational members, and several hundred individuals. So, to the extent that this has been a matter that we have campaigned for, yes. We either, as Diverse5050, or individually as WEN, have given evidence at various stages of the electoral reform process to the expert panel and most recently to the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform. So, yes, this is a long-time project of WEN, together with our partners.

Yes, for us, it's been as part of the campaign—the Diverse5050 campaign—in partnership with colleagues here.

Yes. So, all of the meetings that Victoria mentioned as part of the Diverse5050 campaign, but also ERS itself has, obviously, given evidence to previous committees. We have presented our modelling work to civil servants working on the development of the Bill, and met with Ministers in relation to just getting updates on the progress of the Bill.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Byddaf i'n siarad Cymraeg. A gaf i ddechrau jest trwy ddiolch i chi am y gwaith rydych chi wedi'i rannu efo ni ymlaen llaw? Mae o'n fuddiol iawn o ran ein gwaith ni fel pwyllgor. Gaf i bigo i fyny efallai efo Jess i ddechrau? Fe wnaethoch chi sôn, wrth ymateb i'r Cadeirydd rŵan, ynglŷn â'r risgiau o beidio â mynd ymlaen efo'r Bil. Allwch chi amlinellu'r rheini i ni, os gwelwch yn dda?

Thank you very much, Chair. I will be asking my questions in Welsh. Could I start just by thanking you for the work that you have shared with us? It's very useful in terms of our work as a committee. Can I just pick up with Jess, first of all? In responding to the Chair's questions, you mentioned the risks of not proceeding with the Bill. Can you outline those risks to us, please?

09:30

Apologies for responding in English. I think the main risk in not proceeding with this Bill is, as has been outlined, there are massive changes coming to Welsh democracy, with an increase in Senedd Members, and there is a real risk that, unless we embed quotas in a legislative way, that will bake in inequality in terms of women’s representation. Going to a system where you have more Members, it’s really important that women are represented. We know the history of the Senedd has been one where we’ve seen really good representation of women, but that has largely been reliant on parties opting into voluntary quotas, and reliant on the success of those parties that have actually opted in to do that. I think it’s something that you can’t really leave to chance. Unless you bake in these legislative quotas, we have absolutely no guarantee that there will be anywhere like the levels we’ve already seen in terms of women’s representation.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Oes yna rywun arall sydd eisiau ychwanegu sylwadau? 

Thank you very much. Does anyone else want to add any comments?

Does anybody wish to add any points? Selima.

Looking at the way it's going, we were at 50:50, and it was amazing, just a few years ago, and then there was a decline—it's a steady decline, and it is a slippery slope. So, yes, that's the danger, I think, with not going ahead.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi ddim yn siŵr os ydy Nkechi neu Victoria eisiau dod i mewn. Nkechi.

Thank you very much. I'm not sure if Nkechi or Victoria want to come in. Nkechi.

Yes, absolutely. That's a very good question. Just building on what Selima said, following the 2021 Senedd election, women's representation had fallen to something like 43 per cent, I believe, and the voluntary measures that were put in place have clearly failed. If you look at it currently, only three Members of the Senedd are from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds, for example. That includes the first woman of colour to be elected in May of 2021. I think for us it's really high time that we are not only representing the communities that we're serving, but we're doing the right thing, the humane thing, which is to ensure that we are properly represented so that our policies can yield real benefits for those under-represented groups. So, I think it is of paramount importance that this Bill goes through. Diolch yn fawr. Thank you.

I think I'd add that, in addition to the technical measures that this Bill would bring in in terms of more diverse and equal representation, there's also some messaging if this opportunity isn't taken at a time of wider Senedd reform. When we know that introducing some form of gender quotas at a time of legislative reform around legislatures is normal, it sends a very negative message, actually, to the many women who we know do not find politics an accessible and an easy space to break through into. 

Yn amlwg, o ran y dystiolaeth rydych chi wedi'i darparu o ran yr ymgyrch 5050, rydych chi'n gwneud yr achos yn gryf iawn o blaid cwotâu rhywedd, ac rydych chi wedi eisoes y bore yma hefyd, ac yn nodi yn y dystiolaeth y risg o ran mantais y deiliaid sy'n gweithio yn erbyn menywod a grwpiau ymylol eraill. Gaf i jest ofyn oes yna unrhyw bwyntiau penodol yr hoffech ehangu arnynt o ran y bwriad i fabwysiadu cwota o leiaf 50 y cant ar gyfer ymgeiswyr benywaidd? Hefyd, oes yna unrhyw risgiau posibl, yn eich barn chi, o ran y cwota hwnnw? Efallai y caf i ddod at Victoria yn gyntaf efo hynny. 

Clearly, in terms of the evidence that you've provided on the Diverse5050 campaign, you make the case very strongly for gender quotas, and you've done so this morning, too, and you note in your evidence the risk in terms of the incumbent's advantage, which works against women and other groups. Can I ask you were there any particular points that you would expand upon in terms of the intention to adopt a quota of at least 50 per cent for women candidates? Also, are there any possible risks, in your view, in terms of that quota? Perhaps if I come to Victoria first on that question. 

I think Jess mentioned briefly earlier the risk in the quota being that there is still a lot of power left to political parties, which is a risk and an opportunity. It can work to great advantage for the system, but it also does mean that, technically, mathematically, it is actually possible that this legislation will work in such a way that there would not be 50 per cent women in the Senedd, which obviously is not a position that we would support, hope for or advocate for. In fact, we think the flip side of that is that there is, I guess, some latitude left in this legislation, which is a positive thing. 

09:35

Diolch. Does anybody else wish to add any comments on that? Jess. 

In terms of the 50 per cent thresholds that are included in the Bill, I think that's actually a really positive thing. We've obviously seen internationally quotas at a lower level, but I think 50 per cent recognises the benchmark that we, as a Parliament, hit in 2003, and it also essentially aims for that parity, I think, which is what we're really looking for. 

Diolch. Selima neu Nkechi, ydych chi eisiau ychwanegu rhywbeth? 

Thank you. Selima or Nkechi, do you have anything to add? 

Nothing to add to that, thank you. 

No, thank you. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Os caf i efallai droi unwaith eto at Jessica i ddechrau, rydych chi yn amlwg wedi sôn yn barod am y gwaith modelu manwl rydych chi wedi'i wneud, ac mae hynny yn fuddiol iawn i ni wrth edrych ar hyn. A fyddech chi'n gallu rhoi barn, os gwelwch yn dda, o ran ydych chi'n meddwl bod y system sy'n cael ei gynnig gan y Bil yn briodol, a sut ydych chi'n credu mae'n cymharu gyda'r dull am-yn-eilio oedd yn cael ei argymell gan y pwyllgor diben arbennig? 

Thank you very much. If I could turn again to Jessica first of all, you've already mentioned the detailed modelling work that you've been doing, and that's very useful for us. Could you express a view as to whether you think the proposed system in the Bill is appropriate, and how do you think it compares with the zipping approach recommended by the special purpose committee? 

This is something that we've liaised with Professor Piscopo at Holloway university about. Essentially, this legislation doesn't rule out zipping. It is largely likely that parties will zip their lists, but it also adds a little bit of flexibility, which we think is appropriate in this instance. We know straightforward zipping does not guarantee 50:50; our modelling has demonstrated that. So, it's right to have the flexibility for parties to stand more women in areas if they want to, either to adjust that drive further to 50:50 or to account for a historical imbalance. 

We know that there are concerns that lists might not be zipped. Actually, we don't think that's a particular issue. Realistically, only 31 per cent of candidates, I think, at the last election were women. The likelihood is that parties will try and zip lists where they can, and we don't really see any issues with more women being added to lists to correct that historical imbalance.

Diolch. Does anybody else wish to add? I see some nodding on the screen. 

No, thank you. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi am ofyn cwestiynau yn Gymraeg hefyd. Rydych wedi cyffwrdd ar rai o'r pethau roeddwn i eisiau gofyn ynglŷn â darpariaethau yn y Bil, ond a gaf i jest ganolbwyntio—? A oes yna bethau eraill, yn eich barn chi, i sicrhau, neu ddim, bod y Bil am fod yn effeithiol? Os ydych chi'n meddwl nad oes yna bethau yn eu lle, beth ydych chi eisiau gweld yn narpariaethau'r Bil? A gaf i fynd i'r sgrin yn gyntaf? Efallai Victoria. 

Thank you very much. I'll also be asking my questions in Welsh. You've touched upon some of the issues that I wanted to address in terms of the provisions of the Bill, but could I just ask whether there are other things, in your view, that need to be done to ensure that the Bill can be effective? And if you think that there are certain things that aren't in place to achieve that success, what would you want to see provided within the Bill? If I could go to the screen first. Victoria, perhaps. 

Thank you. The Diverse5050 campaign has long advocated for wider diversity measures to be put in place, ideally in legislation. I'm not sure that at this point it would be right to do that within this Bill. That's something that we would advocate to be looked at in the future, and to have this Bill working alongside a raft of other measures, some of which are actually being dealt with in other legislation—I suspect Jess will have much more to say about that in detail—and some of which we would expect political parties and others to put into place on a voluntary basis. Whilst we say that voluntary measures have been unsuccessful, which is manifestly the case, in order for this Bill to really work, some voluntary measures will need to be put in place and implemented, but they rightly can exist without the legislation itself.

Thank you. Diolch. And Nkechi, any thoughts from you about this?

09:40

Absolutely. Diolch yn fawr, Jane. That's a really good point that Victoria makes—that, actually, any additional voluntary measures cannot exist without this Bill going through. One of the things that Race Council Cymru have seen discussed of late is having shortlists for ethnic minority women, and again, without this Bill, that won't be possible. I think that measure would align very nicely with the anti-racism aspiration for Wales by 2030, which encourages parties to look at the candidate list and actually ensure that it is representative of the communities that they're serving. So, absolutely, without this Bill, there won't be the opportunity to embed or add in voluntary measures, which would be really useful to other such legislation across Wales.

Diolch. To the room—to Selima and Jess; have you got any further comments?

Thank you. Similar to what Nkechi is saying there, it would be good to see something around having more minority ethnic women in the Senedd. There is a lack of representation, a lack of confidence, generally, amongst women of colour—whichever minority ethnic background you're from. It is changing; I've seen it changing over the last five or 10 years, shall we say. But it's not enough, to be honest. And we do have excellent programmes. EYST are part of the Equal Power Equal Voice programme. That's a mentoring programme, getting people from minority ethnic backgrounds—that's where our input is—into political positions, or onto boards, school governors, that kind of thing. And even a little bit of mentoring, seeing somebody out there who's the same as you, who's in that position already, gives you that boosted confidence. So, I think it would make a huge difference. If this Bill goes through, obviously, there are going to be women of colour who do come through, and even being put on those lists is going to give a boost to the rest of us. So, just to add that. Thank you.

I'd definitely reiterate what colleagues have said on this. I think it's really important that this Bill is seen as a starting point for measures to improve the wider diversity and representation of the Senedd. I think I'd totally agree with what colleagues have mentioned about increasing the representation of ethnic minority women in particular, but also provisions around data for diversity is something that we would like to see being introduced as a result of this legislation hopefully passing. Diversity data is something that is significantly missing. It's a relatively simple thing to add, and it would enable us to really see the impact of this legislation.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Jest i fynd yn ôl i'r Bil fel y mae o rŵan, fel y mae'r bwriad, ydych chi'n ei weld o'n bod yn effeithiol i sicrhau bod gennym ni 50 y cant o fenywod? Ac os dydych chi ddim, oes yna rywbeth arall y gall y Llywodraeth ei wneud? Dydw i ddim yn gwybod a oes gan unrhyw un ymateb i hynny—Victoria neu Nkechi.

Thank you very much. Just returning to the Bill as it currently stands, as it is intended to be implemented, do you believe that it will be effective in ensuring that we do have 50 per cent women? And if you don't, is there anything else that the Government could do? I don't know if anyone has any view on that—Victoria or Nkechi.

Do you see it being effective as it is at the moment?

Absolutely. I think parties have a part to play in that, of course. The legislation forces a culture of change that has been long overdue, and I think parties need to ensure that their lists have hit that 50 per cent mark. I think the responsibility and the accountability rests upon parties, but also on those putting themselves forward as well, to ensure that the systems in place and the legislation in place are being adhered to. I think there is something there around trust also, about trust around your parties: 'We're going to do the right thing, we're going to lead from the front'. I think it's really important to bear that in mind—that we all have an equal part to play in ensuring that the Bill does what it says on the tin, so to speak. So, for me, yes, it's vitally important. Diolch.

Diolch. Mi wnaf i symud ymlaen, achos rydyn ni'n brin o amser, dwi'n gwybod. Gaf i jest ofyn un cwestiwn olaf? Ydych chi'n ymwybodol o wledydd eraill, sydd efallai fel Cymru, lle mae hyn yn digwydd? Oes gennych chi ryw wybodaeth am wledydd eraill lle mae hyn yn digwydd, ac ydych chi'n gallu jest dweud wrthym ni beth dŷch chi'n meddwl am y rheina, a beth sy'n bwysig ar gyfer y Bil? Diolch. Gaf i fynd i'r ystafell yn gyntaf? Gaf i ofyn i Selima a Jess? Oes gennych chi rywbeth, Selima a Jess?

Thank you. I'll move on, because we I know that time is against us. Can I just ask a final question? Are you aware of any other countries, that are maybe similar to Wales, where this is being implemented? Do you have any information about other nations where this kind of approach has been adopted, and could you just tell us what you think about that and what's important for the Bill, in that context? Could I go to the room first of all and ask Selima and Jess whether they have any comments?

09:45

Do you want to go, Jess? You've got the figures.

So, I think the first thing to say is that quotas are not a new thing; they are used really commonly across the globe. Over 100 countries, I think, use different types of approaches to ensure representation, but, in particular, countries that use horizontal and vertical zipping in their quotas include Mexico, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Ecuador. I believe Portugal has already been mentioned, as well, in your evidence sessions. We obviously understand that this Bill doesn't explicitly include zipping, but it will ensure that type of model is used. I know, in Chile, there have been discussions around using women's representation as a floor, which is a kind of similar model to what's being actually proposed in this Bill too. So, this feels like a world-leading Bill, in a way, but also learning from where countries have used successful examples of quotas internationally.

I think everybody's nodding with that, so I'll move on to questions from Darren.

Thank you, Chair. Can I just pick up on this issue of this being a start of further diversity measures? These Bills come around very rarely. This is the first Bill of its kind in the 17 years that I've been in the Senedd to try and advance diversity in the Senedd, something on which all parties need to do better. But I was surprised, I think, at the suggestion from Nkechi, and from you, Selima, that you are therefore satisfied that this Bill is appropriate, given that it doesn't touch on other aspects of diversity, in particular things like race and ethnicity. Why aren't you arguing forcefully for that aspect of diversity on the face of this Bill? I don't understand it. I would expect you guys to be the champions of wanting to ensure that that aspect of diversity was in here.

Shall I go, Nkechi? Yes. I think it's one step at a time, to be honest, and this is, like you say, it's almost groundbreaking for us here in Wales, anyway. I know Jess has just mentioned all the different countries around the world that are doing it. And once we get women in here, there are going to be more women from minority ethnic, and it's not like we're drawing a line, 'This is it and this is the Bill, and it's only the white-background women who are going to come forward or who can come forward'; this is for all women. You know, this is the thing, we understand that this is for all women. Whether we've explicitly had it added to the Bill or not is not making a difference at the moment, because we know it's going to include those women. We've got things going on. You know, we've got—

How do you know? How do you know it's going to include ethnic minority women?

Because of the climate that we're in in Wales. We're very lucky to be in Wales. We've got the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan', we were the first nation, worldwide, when we were setting it up—as EYST, we took a great part in that, working with Welsh Government. We went round the whole of the world. We thought, 'Hang on, let's see who's doing this around the world so we can model ourselves on the world', and I'm so proud to say we are pioneers with the anti-racism work. There's no way it's going to happen that, we take a Bill through like this, which is all about equality and being fair, which is what we're all about in Wales—. It's not going to happen. I've got full faith, and I don't know if Nkechi's got anything to add to that.

Well, there's no guarantee on the face of this Bill that any women have to be selected as candidates who are from ethnic minority backgrounds. Nkechi, do you want to respond to that? You seem to suggest that the Bill would require parties to take some positive action; there's nothing on the face of the Bill that requires that at all, in respect of those other aspects of diversity.

Absolutely. Thank you so much for posing that question, and I think it's a very good question. What we're not going to sit here and do is to fight amongst each other for space or for visibility. I think, around the world, countries are increasingly using quotas to advance the diversity of political representatives, but most countries with quotas, as you've clearly pointed out, target only one type of under-represented group, for example, women or ethnic minority. I don't think, in this case, it's an either/or. I think what we're saying is that, through one pioneering piece of legislation going forward, it opens the doors really, it breaks down the barriers to allow more women to come forward. And the result of that will be more women from other backgrounds as well, not just white women, through great initiatives that Selima has just highlighted there around the Equal Power Equal Voice initiatives, and other great work that we're doing at RCC as well.

I mean, even countries with both gender and ethnic quotas, called tandem quotas, the policies typically evolve separately and work differently. Women and ethnic minorities are treated as distinct groups, and we shouldn't do that, and I think ignoring the political position of ethnic minority women is a very slippery slope. What RCC wants to see are quotas that are intersectionally embedded to ensure that ethnic minority women are represented proportionally in the Senedd. We know that that's not the case at the moment, so we hope that this could be in the form of nested quotas, for example, which can also help to increase young women's chances for representation as well. I think, for us, it's one step towards nirvana; it's one step towards ensuring that we are properly represented.

We know that we're not there yet, however, we have other legislation at the moment, as we mentioned, about the anti-racism action plan, but also the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the public sector equality duty as well. So, there's lots going on at the moment in the landscape that will ensure that ethnic minority women are properly represented in the Senedd, but as you said, you've been doing this, sir, for I think 17 years, and you haven't seen that yet, so we're hoping that we can achieve that through this Bill and through working together, rather than working against each other.

09:50

And, of course, we need more ethnic minority men in the Senedd as well, don't we, which this Bill also won't deliver.

Can I just turn, then, to this issue of gender? Because there are two things, it seems to me, that are most contentious about this Bill. One is whether the Bill is within the competence of the Senedd or not—and I'll touch on some of the legal advice that you've provided to the committee in a few moments—but perhaps the thing that has riled many people the most is the fact that it will effectively introduce self-identification by individuals who put themselves forward as candidates to the Senedd, so that they determine whether they are a woman or not at the point of their candidature. So, isn't it undermining women's rights, because you're actually allowing men to fill the women's places on these quotas, aren't you? Who wants to respond first? Victoria. 

Happily. Thank you for the question. I don't think we are allowing men to fill women's spaces in the quotas. To be very clear, the way that the legislation is drafted follows international standards; it's a perfectly normal way of identifying, and it hasn't caused problems. I think there's one case that we've been able to find, six years ago in Mexico, of men identifying themselves as women and taking up spaces that ought not to have been theirs. That was dealt with through an electoral tribunal, and six years on, the quota system in Mexico remains in place and is working effectively. So, of all of these 100-plus countries that we've heard of who run these quota systems of one sort or another, this is the only time that we have been able to find that this has been an issue, and actually it's been resolved very, very speedily and properly.

So, I don't really see that this is really a credible argument in terms of this legislation. If parties or individuals decide to make a mockery of democracy and to play with the electoral system and undermine its integrity by this kind of trickery, then that's problematic, but it will be dealt with either as it was dealt with in Mexico, or, actually, perhaps more powerfully, by the electorate. The electorate will be the judge of this, and I think will give very, very short shrift to any sort of attempt to make a mockery of this democratic process.

Sorry, Victoria. You said that this is 'normal' in legislation. Is it normal to ask someone whether they're a woman or not a woman, rather than, 'Are you a man or a woman?' Because I think this is the only example I can find, globally, of that question being asked to any candidate. Is that normal?

09:55

I think that your question was about self-identification, and that's normal.

That this is normal in legislation. This is a normal way to deal with things. It's normal. Well, it's not normal, is it, to ask whether you're a woman or not a woman? Usually you would ask whether you're a man or a woman, wouldn't you?

It does what it needs to do. It does what it needs to do in terms of this legislation, and if asking this question ensures representation for the full diversity of identities in Wales, then that can only be a good thing.

Jess, do you want to respond to this question about whether this is actually really advancing women's rights, or whether it's giving men more rights behind the back door, as it were?

No, I think Victoria has really summed up our campaigning position on this as a coalition of organisations.

The Minister seemed to suggest, and I don't think it was a satisfactory response, that the only way to resolve this is by going to court. So, if somebody identifies themselves as a woman at the time that they become a candidate, even though they might be living their life as a man, then it would be for the courts to determine. And that's because, of course, there's no definition of what a woman is on the face of the Bill. Do you think that's a helpful way? Because, surely, it's going to be tested in the courts, and that's going to cost money to the public purse, unnecessarily, isn't it? Isn't it better just to have a system that says, 'You're either a man or a woman, and that's defined by biology'? Because that's what most of your organisations have supported, certainly the Women’s Equality Network, over the years. Wouldn't that be a better approach and a cleaner approach, which would give more confidence to women and protect their rights? Jess.

I think this Bill really reflects the competence that we have in Wales in terms of what actually our powers are, and I think it's really important to state that we're supportive of this and we really believe it will improve the representation of women. We do not have concerns in relation to this at all.

Can I just touch on the issue of competence, then, if I may? This committee, through its legal advisors, has had very clear legal advice that the Bill is not within the competence of the Senedd. The Llywydd has also written to the committee, stating her view that the Bill is not within the competence of the Senedd. Even your own legal advice says that it's arguably within the competence, but effectively would likely end up in the Supreme Court to determine whether that was the case. Isn't that a very risky strategy to play at the next election, to roll this out and then end up in the courts to determine whether the Senedd is legitimate in terms of whether it's been elected or not?

I think there is an element that there is no clear line here in terms of its competency. However, we strongly believe that it is within competence. This fixes a wider package of reform for the Senedd, and it is about increasing representation as part of that electoral system change. Obviously, WEN and ERS—so, it wasn't a Diverse5050 thing; it was a WEN and ERS joint commission of a legal opinion—said that this was arguably in competence. There are differing views on that, we recognise it, but we strongly believe that this is about representation as part of that electoral reform change.

The evidence you provided us indicated that legal advice, but it was dated 2022, before this Bill was actually published. Have you sought legal advice on the Bill itself as published, or are you still relying upon the advice given to you on a general-principle concept?

We haven't. I don't know if anyone else has done.

Because I think WEN were also involved in that. Is it the same legal advice you have, or have you modified that legal advice or sought further legal advice?

We await fully updated legal advice on this.

And just to be clear as well, that legal advice was based on the recommendation in the expert panel report, wasn't it, your previous legal advice, which was about gender zipping and male-female gender zipping, rather than any extension of the definition of a female to a trans person. So, the legal advice was 2022; you are refreshing it and that will be shared with the committee, will it? Victoria—

10:00

—you'll be able to share that the committee when it's available. Okay. Thank you very much. 

I'd just like to add that the notion that I think was set out in the question, that the question of competence will necessarily, or it was suggested would, end up with an election that takes place that is then, potentially, declared null and void on a competence issue is not necessarily the path that would ensue. I think that's important to underline, that there are—

No, I think we recognise it's not necessarily the path, but it is a possible path, I think. That's some of the advice we've had.

It is a possible path, but, absolutely, not necessarily the path. 

But you appreciate that that's a significant risk, isn't it, that it could end up in the Supreme Court, and that the whole election of a whole new Senedd could be declared null and void because of the challenge to the system. It's a risk, right?

Well, if I understand it correctly, the timetable is such that that question could be resolved before any election, were that necessary. 

I think these are issues we'll discuss ourselves. We'll move on to questions now from Sarah. 

Thank you very much. And we're moving on to diversity and inclusion.

We'll move on—[Inaudible.]—the last bit then, yes. 

Okay, fantastic. Thank you very much. So, yes, we are going to now focus on the section of diversity and inclusion, but, of course, that has been threaded through all of the questions that we've asked you so far today. So, just to start with, can you outline for the committee whether you believe the provisions of the Bill will actually increase the representation of underrepresented groups, such as disabled people and ethnic minorities? Thank you. Who would like to go first? Selima, thank you very much. 

Yes, I think I said that previously, Sarah. So, just to reiterate that I think it will. It's natural that women from minority ethnic backgrounds, women who do identify as disabled, women from all walks of life, really, are going to come forward. It's just that we need to make sure that those other programmes are still funded and we are giving them that kind of boost that they need. And sometimes, just a little boost, just seeing somebody who looks similar to yourself in these positions—. Yes, definitely, I think. There are no two ways about it, as far as I'm concerned.

Excellent. I thought it was really interesting as well that you talked about confidence. Confidence is so key, for everybody, really, but I am a believer in, 'If you can see it, you can be it.' And that's a huge issue that we have here in the Senedd. So, I was just wondering what else do you think that the Senedd can do to make people feel—. We heard evidence last week, for example, from Elect Her, that it's about making people feel as if they're wanted as well, like you're wanted here. So, do you think there's anything else that the Senedd could be doing in preparation for the next election, regardless of what happens with these Bills, honestly, to enhance that for people?

Absolutely. So, it's having that understanding. There's no point in diversifying if we're not going to have people who feel like they belong here. So, for example, for myself, if I was to spend a day here—I pray five times a day; I am practising, in that sense, as a Muslim—if there was no pray room here for me, then, I wouldn't even want to come back tomorrow, to be honest. So, it's making sure that people from different minority ethnic backgrounds feel like they're included and they're valued here, it's not just a token gesture, for any of this, actually, where we're talking—people are here because they've got the skills, they've got the knowledge and you are all receptive to that as well. So, it's just making them included and being as inclusive as you can. And I think you are anyway. I'm not saying that you're not in the Senedd; I know you have people from different backgrounds here already. There just needs to be more, Sarah. 

Yes, absolutely. Do you want to come in on this as well, Jess?

Just to add on the first question about how this Bill will ensure greater, wider diversity, I think the important thing is that this Bill isn't taking place in isolation. There is other legislation going through—the elections and elected bodies Bill—that puts the access to elected office fund on a statutory footing. There is provision also to put a duty on Ministers to think about how other barriers can be mitigated and what funding arrangements can be put in place to support that. We've already mentioned the anti-racism action plan. There are diversity action plans that parties will be responsible for pulling together. There's Equal Power Equal Voice. All of this in the round, I think, really drives a wider picture of a Senedd that is much more representative in all aspects. 

Absolutely. Thank you very much. Victoria and Nkechi, did you want to come in on these as well, these questions?

10:05

Yes, absolutely, I think—. Sorry, did you want to go first, Victoria?

No, you go.

I just wanted to echo what Jess has just said in terms of that this opens, or paves the way, rather, for—. The Bill doesn't work in isolation. It doesn't operate in isolation. It does pave the way for other measures, and we're really proud at Race Council Cymru, really, to see that. If we take an intersectional approach to this, I think we can go a really long way, and that's not just women, that's not just ethnic minority women, but women with disabilities, women with neurodiverse conditions and so on. And I think for us it's paramount that we start somewhere, and I think there is a wealth of evidence and expertise on this, and we're really keen to work with parties to support them on the details of their anti-racism action plan, but also on their strategic equality plans as well. And I think, in collaboration with WEN and the ERS, we can do that and we can ensure that we are equally represented, but also properly represented. I think the lady before mentioned something about how seeing is believing, and I'm a strong believer in that. I think it's important that if you're invited to a party that you're also invited to dance at that party, which means that you cannot have diversity without inclusion. People need to feel that sense of being part and parcel of the problem, and being part and parcel of the change we want to see lead us, leading from the front. That, for us at Race Council Cymru, is paramount, really, to ensuring that this Bill goes through, but also to ensuring that everything else becomes a catalyst for change and Wales becomes pioneering in this work. I think it's tremendous, the work going on in Wales, and I think we do need to appreciate that and see it for what it is and work together collaboratively.

Thank you, Nkechi. You know, I love that phrase. I'm going to use that myself in future—that's wonderful. Victoria, can I just expand on that a little bit before I come to you, as well? Just to say that, in the Diverse5050 evidence, it says that the Senedd itself should be coming up with a diversity and inclusion strategy and publishing that for all of the parties to follow. However, at the moment, it looks as if the parties are going to do that themselves individually. We heard last week from the leaders, general secretaries, of Welsh Labour, the Conservative Party and Plaid Cymru. Obviously, we didn't include smaller parties in this, so I'm not sure what the plan is with that. I was just wondering what are your thoughts on that. Do you think that the parties should be doing that themselves—we did ask them all last week if they would publish that, and they agreed to it, all of them—or do you think that this should actually be something that—? As you've mentioned, we've got the networks and advisory groups for VAWDASV, for example, for the race equality action plan. Do you think that this is actually something that the Senedd should be doing and giving out to the parties?

I think this is something where we need to look at what can work and what can work in good time. I think there are going to be some specificities within each party, whereby to be able to develop individual plans is a good thing. I think the answer to this is one of practicality; how quickly can these plans, which are absolutely imperative to making this legislation work, be put in place, I think, is the answer to that additional part of your question. But if I may just return to the original question, I'm afraid I don't have the lovely dancing in the Senedd sort of image, but I think that it's incredibly important that the Senedd puts in place, actually, some of the measures that political parties will be needing to put into place. This is around—. That has a sort of dual effect: one of encouraging women to enter politics—if there's a visible and transparent plan to make the Senedd a place in which women can thrive, that's going to encourage women, and it's going to make building these wonderful lists an easier task—and I think the second in that dual function is to ensure that once women enter politics they stay there. And so, for those two reasons, I think it's very important. I'd like also to perhaps mention one of the elements that hasn't yet been touched upon. We've talked about mentoring—incredibly important, and so, so valuable for individuals involved in any such programme, like the wonderful Equal Power Equal Voice programme that Selima mentioned, but also, I think, taking harassment and abuse seriously and having systems in place whereby people who may be subject to that kind of abuse know that there is a response and know that there is a procedure whereby they can be taken seriously and looked after when that happens. And I think that's incredibly important once elected—I think we've seen the effect of harassment and abuse of elected women politicians, particularly in Westminster, but we see that everywhere—and we know from the outreach we do through Diverse5050 and through EPEV that this kind of abuse—particularly online, but not only—is one of the factors that puts people, actually—women predominantly, but many, many people—off entering politics. And I think that if there are procedures within the Senedd, if there are procedures within political parties and there is joined-up thinking with law enforcement, then that's an incredibly important thing to bear in mind in this process.

10:10

Thank you very much. Just one quick question, last question, Chair. So, we did hear from Elect Her about the Scottish Parliament, who did a gender-sensitive audit, which has been very successful. And recently—just this week now—we have ended up in our Senedd with two committees that only have men on them—only male representation on them—which a lot of people have said is a huge kind of step back. So, I was wondering if you would support having a gender-sensitive audit, and also a more inclusive audit as well—some of the things that you've touched on there, Selima—to look at what it is like when you actually get to come and work here, not just for the politicians either, but this is also for everybody that works in this institution, and also if you've got any examples of where similar actions have been taken in other Parliaments and have had positive outcomes. Anyone else want to come in? Jess.

I think the silence suggests that they believe that there should be a gender-sensitive survey.

Yes. I think it's definitely something the Senedd should look at doing. I think an audit shouldn't delay other work where barriers and solutions are being looked at—for example, introducing opportunities for job sharing—but it's definitely something that we believe could be a positive intervention.

Thank you very much. Thank you all. Thank you, Chair.

Before I ask Darren for a supplementary, just for the record, the panel that came last week were members of the political parties panel, in which smaller parties are not represented on that panel, and we have written to smaller parties for their consideration as well, for the record. Darren.

Yes. Just one final question, if I can, and it's on whether there should be statutory requirements for diversity plans from each individual party in order to encourage them to promote diversity? At the moment, there's nothing on the face of the Bill about that, but I do think that that would be a very positive thing that we could legislate on in a powerful way in order to promote all aspects of diversity. Is that something that you would agree with? Should there be a requirement on political parties to produce such plans? Perhaps Jess—.

I was going to let other colleagues take this one.

It's Nkechi.

Nkechi. I'm so sorry. I can't see the words on the screen.

That's fine. Thank you. I think having statutory—. Yes, absolutely. It's a matter of concern that we aren't as diverse as we would like to be as a nation. And I think that we know from research from the Harvard Business Review that diverse organisations outperform non-diverse organisations by at least 30 per cent. I think those statistics are not ones to be sniffed at. I think they are really, really serious, looking at the changing landscape in Wales and what that actually looks like, what that actually translates into, when we look at our senior leadership teams across institutions, across our colleges, our universities, our schools, our Senedd and so on. I think it's high time that, yes, we do look at—I think 'imposing' is a strong word, but—actually setting mandated guidance around our diversity strategies, otherwise we won't hit them, which is probably why we are where we are 40, 50 years on.

I think taking these things seriously needs to be everybody's job. It's not the diversity, inclusion and well-being manager's job, or the Prime Minister's job or the First Minister's job, it's everybody's job. I think if we can work together collaboratively to set that mandated guidance, guidelines et cetera, I think it's only then that we can work together to achieve them, otherwise it's a 'nice to have'. And when you're talking about people's lives, we come to work black, we come to work as a disabled person, you come to work as a man, as a woman and so on; it's not something you bring with you and you decide to leave it at the door when you come to work. It's part and parcel of your life, and I think we need to start really looking at that and what that means to people.

So, I do agree with colleagues previous to this around representation. Seeing is believing. If people cannot see themselves in those top echelons of society, then it becomes almost unattainable, and therefore having that hope and that aspiration to do better becomes a thing of the past because you don't see it as something attainable. So, I think it's really important to have those measures in place from the get-go so that we all know where we stand. 

10:15

Perhaps it's easier to ask if there's anybody who doesn't think that we should have statutory diversity plans as a requirement, because, if you all support that principle, that's something that we can discuss with others. Thank you. 

Okay. I'm going to ask the very last question. We've come to the end of our time, but just to ask Jess, and only Jess: the sanctions in the Bill, are they sufficient? Because, clearly, a lot of the sanctions that we see elsewhere are focused on financial sanctions, and that's not applicable in this case. So, are the sanctions in the Bill for not meeting these quotas appropriate, and are they actually going to be achieving what we want to achieve?

I think it's absolutely fair to point out that the financial sanctions that are used in other countries would not work in Wales. I think other people who have given evidence have talked about the flexibility in the sanctions at the moment, the idea that, if a party were to submit a list that wasn't compliant, they would have the opportunity to revise that. And I think that's a really important point. Having that flexibility when we're introducing a brand-new system is really key, and it would also ensure that mistakes aren't made. It gives parties the opportunity to correct. So, I do think they're sufficient. Obviously, there is a review mechanism being discussed, so if it's felt after the election that that isn't the case, maybe that's something that can be looked at, but, at the present time, we think they're a very practical solution to non-compliant lists.

Okay. We've come to the end of our time, so can I thank you all for your participation this morning? As you will be aware, you will receive copies of the transcript. If you identify any factual inaccuracies, can you please let the clerking team know as soon as possible so that we can get them corrected for the record? So, once again, thank you very much for your time this morning. We will now take a short break before we move into our second session. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:18 a 10:32.

The meeting adjourned between 10:18 and 10:32.

10:30
4. Bil Senedd Cymru (Rhestrau Ymgeiswyr Etholiadol): Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda'r Rhwydwaith Hawliau Menywod
4. Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill: Evidence session with the Women's Rights Network

Good morning. Can I welcome Members and the public back to this morning's meeting of the committee, and to our next evidence session? And we now move into the second session, in which we have representatives from the Women's Rights Network, and can I start by asking you each to introduce yourselves for the record, please? And I'll go left to right in the order that I see them.

Claire Loneragan, WRN director and founder member.

Catherine Larkman, WRN founder member, Wales lead and national policing lead.

Katharine Owen, WRN member and lead for Cardiff and south-east Wales.

Thank you for that. And can I thank WRN for their written evidence, which we obviously have considered and will be considering, and, as a consequence, we have some further questions we would like to expand upon.

Two questions from myself, before I ask colleagues to come in. In your written evidence, you have sometimes quoted some legal aspects. Can I ask whether you received legal advice on the Bill as published, or is that just legal advice you've received on other matters generally?

We've scrutinised the Bill in detail ourselves, and come to our conclusions in relation to that. We're familiar with the provisions of the Equality Act, and obviously are mindful of the documents that are already in the public domain, including the Llywydd's statement.

Okay. But just for clarity—and I just want to make this clear—that's not separate legal advice you've sought on the particular Bill?

No, that's our interpretation.

Okay, thank you. Can I just perhaps start with a simple question? Do you think legislative quotas will work or will not work, based upon your interpretation of the Equality Act 2010?

Well, what we're here to consider today is this particular Bill as presented, rather than legislative quotas per se, and, on the basis of what is presented in this Bill, we do not believe these gender quotas will work to improve the position of women in Wales. We've got many reasons for that; one of the reasons would be, really, that, aside from the sort of legality issues, this Bill will do nothing to remove the structural barriers that women face in Wales. There are many capable and competent women out there. We believe that women deserve a seat at the table, we believe women should be represented in political life and have fair opportunity, as well, to be able to represent themselves and the nation in political life.

We don't believe this Bill as drafted will actually provide that, and, if I may say, in the last census, 22.3 per cent of women in Wales stated they were disabled. In Wales, we have over 180,000 unpaid female carers. Forty-six per cent of households living in poverty are lone-parent households, and, overwhelmingly, the lone parent is a female. Those women will not be helped here. This Bill will do nothing to remove the structural barriers facing those women, but it will help the women who either don't have those barriers or who have already managed to overcome them to be prioritised. 

10:35

Okay, so just for clarity, again, the position you take is—. The question is: is the use of quotas an appropriate mechanism to provide a greater gender balance within the Senedd, and, if it is, clearly, your view is this Bill doesn't provide for a wider—? You're talking about structures, I understand what you're saying, but is this a process to actually start building that wider structural change that you are looking at, and do we need quotas to actually start that process off?

Well, I think the fact that needs to be pointed out here, as well, is that the Equality Act permits voluntary shortlists. The Equality Act does not permit mandatory quotas. And the Equality Act also allows certain acts of discrimination on the grounds of sex if they are a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim. The question of whether this is a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim is very much up in the air, I would suggest, in relation to this Bill. The Senedd very proudly has obtained parity previously at 50:50, which is marvellous. Obviously, it's currently, from my understanding, 43:57 in terms of the difference between the sexes in terms of representation here. Basically, we've dropped by four female MSs. That shouldn't be insurmountable to the political parties represented here. It should not be insurmountable, we've achieved it before, and this Bill is a blunt tool that is unnecessary, in our view, although we want fair representation and fair opportunities for the women of Wales.

Thank you, Chair, and thank you for submitting your evidence, as well as, today, being here. Could you outline why you believe the quotas are not necessary and what potential consequences could result in the event that quotas are introduced? You've already outlined it, but I see in your written evidence you've gone into more depth about this, so, if you could explain that for us a little bit more, that would be wonderful. Thank you.

Yes, of course. I'm sure my colleagues may wish to come in if I don't cover all of this, but I can only look at the Bill as it's currently drafted, and it's unfortunate to say, in our view, the Bill is poorly drafted and we have concerns in relation to it. These aren't just the concerns of the Women's Rights Network in Wales; these concerns are shared by other women's groups as well, who I believe have submitted responses to the consultation, particularly Merched Cymru, LGB Alliance Cymru, Labour Women's Declaration and Women's Declaration International, just to name a few. So, we're not alone in relation to that.

In terms of why we think this won't automatically help those women who need to be represented in political life, just to name a few factors, really, the Bill is not clarifying its terms. So, I should say at the outset here, when the Bill talks about the representation of women, our view is that women, in the absence of any clarity within this Bill, should be as outlined in the Equality Act, and that's what we take it as. In section 212 of the Equality Act, a woman is 'a female of any age'. That's our view and our interpretation as to law. If anything different is meant by those who have drafted the Bill, or by the Welsh Government, then that should be stated as soon as possible, in very, very clear terms, so that we all know exactly where we are.

In terms of the drafting of the Bill, where we are, really, is that the Bill caps, as I understand it, the number of men at 50 per cent, but doesn't cap the number of women. As I've said, the Equality Act allows discrimination on the grounds of sex, and as Professor Laura McAllister said to you the other day, sex is the protected characteristic here, not gender, as has been stated throughout the notes attached to the Bill. So, if you cap the men at 50 per cent and you don't cap the women at 50 per cent, it may be thought that it would be unlikely to have 100 per cent women representation, but that's not the way law should be drafted—on the basis that something might not happen and is likely and probably won't happen. Good law, surely, should consider the consequences and even the unintended consequences. And unfortunately, because, in our view, it's not a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim, it's just plain old sex discrimination then, under the Equality Act. And it's likely to be viewed as such.

I'm really grateful for the question. There's so much that could be said about it, and I'm sure we'll come onto the statement aspect of it, the statement that you're either a woman or not a woman, because, obviously, we have quite a bit to say in relation to that, as well.

10:40

That's right. My colleague Darren will be coming to that later. Absolutely. Was there anything else that you wanted to add, though?

No. I think that covers it. Thank you.

Wonderful. Thank you very much, because it is about looking at even the unintended consequences, so it's very helpful to hear that.

My second and last question is this: can you outline your views on the use of the terms 'sex' and 'gender' in the Bill and explanatory memorandum, as you just did? You are right: we have received evidence that does say that it's very unlikely that it would happen that we would have more women than men. Do you have any examples or anything that you can point to that shows where this has potentially happened before, or how likely it is that this could happen in future?

Again, I'd say that law, as drafted, should take account of what may or may not happen and is likely to happen. We know that, if you create an incentivisation for one sex, and there aren't checks and balances to manage that, that will, potentially, be abused. And clearly, in legislation, that should be anticipated and taken care of at that early stage. I point, for instance, to a recent example in Spain, where Spanish men have, because of a potential pension uplift available to women, because of childbearing years, made a declaration purely to obtain the pension uplift available to women, and we've referred to that in our consultation response. 

Similarly, in Mexico, it's happened in terms of gender quotas as well, where men have obviously made a declaration to obtain that advantage. Because if you're going to put men at a detriment compared to women, don't be surprised then if you leave a gate wide open and they walk straight through it. And that has happened in Mexico, unfortunately. So, we'd be keen to see that prevented from happening here. But unfortunately, the lack of clarity around the terminology used in the Bill is only going to make that happen.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi jest am ofyn cwestiwn byr yn Gymraeg ynglŷn â'r pwynt olaf ynglŷn â'r dystiolaeth o Fecsico. Roedden ni'n clywed gan y panel cyn chi bod yna un enghraifft dros chwe blynedd yn ôl o self-identification. Oes gennych chi fwy o dystiolaeth? Mae gennym ni ddiddordeb mewn tystiolaeth. Felly, roeddech chi'n sôn am y sefyllfa ym Mecsico; oes yna fwy? Diolch.

Thank you very much. I just want to ask a brief question in Welsh on that final point that you made in relation to the evidence from Mexico. We heard from the earlier panel that there was one example, which took place over six years ago, of self-identification. Do you have any more evidence? We are interested in evidence. So, you mentioned the situation in Mexico; are there other examples that you could refer to? Thank you.

Thank you for the question. I mean, obviously, we've provided the—. Can I take these off now? My words are echoing back at me; it's not a good place to be. Obviously, we've produced those particular two examples, but in relation to legislation more broadly, I think everybody will be mindful of how events played out in Scotland in terms of the gender recognition reform Bill. At no stage during the drafting of that Bill would I like to think that senior Ministers were having to defend a male rapist, Isla Bryson, going into a female prison, and yet that's exactly the position that Ministers were in. So, I do think, in terms of examples, it's very difficult to resource lots more examples, because if the system doesn't allow the challenges or the sanctions against it, then it's difficult to pull up the actual evidence, because it's not going to be recorded. But what I would ask is how many instances would be enough. How many women displaced from political life would be enough? Do we need 100 women displaced before we decide this is not appropriate, or is one woman one woman too many? Because my view is that one woman is one woman too many. 

10:45

Just to have clarity for the question, there's the example you gave as Mexico—. I take the Scottish gender recognition reform Bill as a separate issue. I understand what you're saying there. But, at the moment, you don't have any other evidence where quotas have been used in electoral systems, other than the Mexico one.

I've quoted the examples in the consultation response that we've got. 

Yes, just the Mexico one. Okay. Thank you. Heledd—is it on this point?

Yes, on this point, if I may. Can I just ask—? Thank you for giving evidence today as well. In your papers that you've submitted, you've talked about the unintended consequences. One of the comments made was in paragraph 29:

'Most women (like most men) want to be elected on merit, not because they tick a box. The use of quotas is likely to drive the belief that successful candidates are not good enough to be elected otherwise, reducing respect for MSs.'

Can I ask for the basis of that statement regarding international examples? Because obviously we've heard a wide range of evidence, which has shown perhaps an opposite view in terms of the use of quotas. So, I'd just like to understand some of the evidence that's informed that view.

Well, I noticed the evidence—. I'm sure, if you read on to paragraph 32, you'd be really mindful of two of the academic papers that a lot of the explanatory notes point to quite a bit: Clayton and Cowper-Coles. Clayton herself says, and I will read it out, even though it's in the consultation document:

'the positive consequences of quotas are not guaranteed. Entering into men-dominated parliaments, quota-elected women often face gendered constraints in their legislative work, particularly when they attempt to reform policies that uphold traditional male authority. As such, researchers would do best to avoid any variant of the old “add women and stir” expectation that might predict universally salutary effects following women's rising numbers.'

So, the evidence itself that the Bill uses says that to sprinkle in additional women is not going to overcome those difficulties for women. 

But if I may, sorry, the evidence there is on men-dominated parliaments, and your evidence, obviously, points to the fact that we have achieved 50:50 in the past here and, in terms of representation, 43 versus 57 now. I'm just keen to delve to understand why—. Because some of the counterevidence is there also in terms of the need for quotas. I'm just interested to see from other examples why you disagree with some of those counterviews, perhaps. 

Well, I was very interested, and I'm sure you'll hear further on this soon—. I attended the women's cross-party meeting, and there was an excellent presentation from Jennifer Piscopo, who's done a lot of work in relation to this. I think, sometimes, if you ask the questions that you want to ask, you'll get the answers that you're seeking. And I was very interested in Ms Piscopo's presentation of a 12-country-wide study around perceptions of legitimacy of all-male legislatures and where 50 per cent parity had been achieved. Obviously, they asked the public what their perception was of an all-male legislature in terms of its legitimacy, and the scores—. Forgive me, I can't remember the scores, or the remarks, from the top of my head, but they were poor, as maybe you'd expect. And then, where 50 per cent parity was achieved, it was markedly better. But when the electorate, or the people surveyed, were told that it was a result of gender quotas, that actually dropped—not hugely, but the legitimacy perception actually dropped.

What is interesting for me is that nowhere in that did they ask what the public's perceptions of an all-female legislature would actually look like in terms of legitimacy, particularly if it had been achieved through an uncapped gender quota system. I think women are capable of everything. I think we are as good as men in political life, and we should be given that platform to achieve, and those excellent women who might put themselves forward, we should be helping them to come forward. But I don't see anything in this Bill that will help those women who are not coming forward. We know, from the statistics, and from what we've quoted in this consultation, that where women do come forward, the electorate vote for them—that will happen. So, it seems to me that the problem here is that it's not an electoral issue, it's a candidature issue; there are insufficient candidates. For me, that's where the work needs to take place, rather than the blunt instrument of a gender quotas Bill. We need to be working on why there are insufficient candidates. Why are all those excellent women who aren't coming forward, who may face those barriers that I've already referred to, not coming forward, and what are we doing to help them? What are all the parties doing to help them?

10:50

I'm very interested in the point you made about gender quotas being potentially disproportionate if they were applied in this way, because, potentially, in theory, it could lead to 100 per cent women represented in the Senedd, and no men, and that would be regarded as okay. Do you want to just tell me a little bit more about this disproportionate issue? And also, you seemed to imply in your evidence that while you don't like this Bill, clearly, you do support gender quotas, but on a voluntary basis. Would I be correct in saying that? And that would be if gender quotas were female and male gender quotas, rather than people who identify themselves as women.

I think the first thing we'd say is that those quotas must use clear language and be based on sex. Unfortunately, as Professor McAllister pointed out only too well to you, since she formed the recommendations on the expert panel, there's been much discussion of the protected characteristic of sex and the tendency to use the term 'gender' instead, and she certainly reflected her thoughts in relation to that. The first thing I would say is that the language needs to be clear. If the Welsh Government mean anything differently to the normal definition under section 212 of the Equality Act, namely 'a female of any age', they need to specify that.

But I think your question was about what our views are in terms of voluntary or mandatory quotas. The Equality Act allows for voluntary shortlists on the basis of sex. It doesn't allow that to be conflated with any of the other protected characteristics. I'm mindful that the Equality and Human Rights Commission have provided their own short consultation response to the Reform Bill Committee as well, and I know you'll have all seen and read that. But in the way the Bill is drafted—and I'll just repeat again—the men are capped, women are not capped. There is insufficient clarity around the terms 'women' and 'not a woman' and what will happen in relation to those statements.

So that's why you feel it could be disproportionate. But again—I just go back to this issue—if it were to be clear on the face of the Bill that a woman was what is stated in the Equality Act, 'a female of any age', would you then be content? So, if the Bill said we needed gender quotas that were 50:50 in terms of zipping, that didn't allow more than 50 per cent men, or more than 50 per cent women, to be elected to the Senedd, or decrease the possibility of that significantly, would you then be happy with the Bill?

Well, I think we'd have to look at the Bill on its own merits as drafted then, and I would say this for our members of the Women's Rights Network in Wales, and I'm sure it's the case for the other women's groups as well: we will have members who will be very much in favour of legislative quotas on the basis of sex, and we'll have members who won't be in favour of legislative quotas on the basis of sex. That's the way representation works, and women are not a homogenous being in that we all share the same views. We in WRN welcome a variety of views, and, as I often say, we've got representatives—actual political representatives as opposed to supporters—of all the political parties in Wales in our network.

10:55

So, you have a position on this Bill as drafted, but you don't have a wider position on gender quotas per se, because of the diversity of opinion within—

We think the most important thing is that any Bill as drafted should comply with the law and be within legislative competence and be cognisant, fully cognisant, of the Equality Act. 

And presumably, given that you're a women's rights network, you're alarmed at the suggestion that this Bill could effectively give rights to men who claim to be women, who are trans women. Tell us your views on this gender statement requirement that candidates have to put forward. So, it's not that you have to identify whether you're a man or a woman; it's you have to identify whether you are a woman or not a woman, and it allows people to self-identify at the point that they become a candidate. What's your view on whether that is appropriate or not?

Well, our view is—and I know I've said this multiple times—that, in the absence of clarity from Welsh Government, a woman is as defined by the Equality Act, 'a female of any age'. The fact is, regardless of people's identities et cetera, that this Bill as drafted will provide an incentive for men to make a false statement. Because, as I see from the details of the Bill, there is—well, it's stated, isn't it—there is no sanction within the Bill for falsifying that statement. So, if there's no sanction, what would stop an ambitious man making that statement one day? What's going to happen then if, the next week, that's all forgotten about and he's back to being as he normally would state he is? There is nothing in this Bill that would deal with that, so why wouldn't a man take advantage of that? Why on earth wouldn't that happen?

So, you're talking there about someone who might make a false statement or claim to be a woman at the time that they become a candidate, and then choose to live their life as a man thereafter, yes, as they were previously.

I would go further and say they don't need to do anything other that sign the statement, make the statement. They don't have to live as anything before, during or after. 

They just sign a statement. There is no additional detail.

The Minister has suggested that the way to resolve situations like that would be in the courts, in her first evidence session with us. Do you think that's a sensible thing?

No, I would advocate more strongly against that. I would consider that to be really remiss at this stage in legislation. And in terms of the reputation, as well, of the Welsh Government, if we were having bun fights throughout the courts on individual cases in relation to this—. And of course, the other concerning thing, without knowing a huge amount about constitutional matters, is: what about other candidates, other candidates in positions where challenges were then being made about the correctness of these statements—will it then throw into doubt any electoral results? So, it's got quite profound consequences for everybody, and it's just very important that the detail is right at this stage. This is supposed to be, on the face of it, about helping women. That's what it's supposed to be about. We want to help women in Wales, as I've said numerous times, but this Bill doesn't do it.

If I could just add to that, regarding the statement from the Minister saying, 'Oh well, you know, if that happens then the appropriate resolution will be through the courts', well, surely the purpose of resolving something through the courts would be if a loophole is discovered subsequently, rather than to allow to allow a loophole to be legislated, and then have it—. Well, why not close it now, if you have the opportunity at a pre-legislative stage, rather than say, 'Well, the courts will have to determine that'?

11:00

Especially when you're fully aware of it and it's already been flagged up on numerous occasions. It just seems an unserious way, really, to do politics. 

The Minister seemed to be adamant that the Welsh Government had no intention of wanting to define what a women is for the purpose of the legislation, and that that ought to be a matter for the courts to decide if a challenge was made. What she also didn't have a response to was those individuals who may be gender fluid, for example, who may regard themselves to be a woman one day and a man the next.  

Well, this is where it's really important that it is stated and made very clear that this is based on sex as a protected characteristic, because there will be women—females—who claim to identify as something different to their registered sex at birth and their sex. How is this going to affect them? And as you say, individuals who believe they are fluid in their identities, what is going to happen in relation to them? It's just—. I just feel it's very, very messy, it's vague, and it's preventable. 

So, it's obviously a gift to lawyers, isn't it? Can I just come on to this issue about—

Not a gift to the Welsh taxpayer, I have to say, in court. 

Can I just come on to this issue of data protection? So, you make reference in your evidence to the fact that you don't believe that there is a sensitivity around these statements, and that they ought to be publicly available to people to be able to probe. In the explanatory memorandum provided by the Government, they say that there may be some sensitivity about individuals who have to identify themselves as either a woman or not a woman at the point of their candidature. Why do you not believe that the statements should be considered sensitive for data protection purposes?  

Because that's what the Information Commissioner's Office say—sex is not sensitive information. Obviously, gender reassignment would be, but sex is not, so there is no need to hide that data if this Bill is based on a person's sex. 

And just to be clear, you believe that, if this Bill is to proceed, it needs to be clear that, for the purposes of the legislation, 'woman' means 'female of any age'. 

As per the definition in the Equality Act 2010 and as outlined by the United Nations' Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women as well, of which this Government is also cognisant, and supportive of the CEDAW declaration.  

Yes. Just in terms of sanctions now, if I may, so you're quite—. You rightly identify that the Bill does not make it a corrupt practice to make a false statement in relation to whether someone's a woman or not a woman at the point that they submit their papers to become a candidate. What sort of sanctions do you think that there ought to be on the Bill? 

Well, I should certainly think prohibition from standing for that particular seat, if you make a false statement. Any views? 

I don't think WRN have a particular view on what would be appropriate. 

But you believe that there are insufficient sanctions at the moment on the Bill for those who choose to make a false statement. 

Well, 'there's a lack of detail in relation to sanctions' is probably the correct statement to make, because there is no sanction for falsifying a statement—none whatsoever. 

It should be commensurate with other sanctions for falsifying candidates' details. 

Which would be the corrupt practices sort of legislation, so added to the schedule of corrupt practices for the purposes of elections. Okay. Thank you very much.  

And I suppose it should be said at this point as well, which is why that definition in the Equality Act is so important, that it must be pointed out that self-identification is not the law in the UK; it is not the law in Wales. Clearly, we're mindful of the Llywydd's comments already. We're mindful of the Equality and Human Rights Commission's comments, and that would very much put a very firm—well, more than a—footstep into self-identification and the whole world of legislative competence issues.

11:05

Diolch yn fawr iawn. I'll just ask a very quick question in English, because I think we've covered quite a bit that I wanted to talk about. You've made it very clear, your concerns around the structural issues facing women here in Wales and in the UK, but, given that we have a Bill here just looking at 50:50 gender quotas, I'm just interested in what else you think can be done, particularly around political parties, to look at a better gender representation in the Senedd. It was 20 years ago that we had our last 50:50 Parliament here in Wales. So, in your view, what else should be done by political parties to improve the representation of women? I'm interested in hearing from all of the panel. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you.

Well, I know my colleague will come in here on one particular matter in a moment, but my view would be—. The first thing that I would say—and I'm really glad that we are speaking to you today—is, for those groups that haven't necessarily had this platform before and who have asked and asked and asked to be represented at meetings and to have a platform, they represent women of Wales as well. They will have a very firm view, as will I, really, that the women's groups that have been listened to have come from a very small cohort of particular beliefs and a particular consensus. It's healthy in a democracy to listen to different views. We have different views within the Women's Rights Network, certainly within the Women's Rights Network in Wales; the other groups will experience the same as well. So, I'd say one of the first things that should happen, if you want to encourage women to stand up and be represented in public life, is to actually speak to those women's groups and not shut them out and not present them, as has happened in some quarters, as somehow unworthy to have the political stage or to have the public stage. And I'd say that's the first step that's incumbent upon every political party represented at the Senedd. And I know you want to make a point.

Yes. One of the things that we see is that, when they stand for election, women are elected more readily than men. The problem isn't that women aren't getting elected, it's that they're not even standing, they're not even arriving as candidates. So, to increase the number of candidates would be the first step. So, how do you do that? Well, mentoring, reaching out to women's groups, encouraging people, women in particular, to come forward. So, rather than seeking to make sure that those who are already candidates get elected, to boost the number of female candidates.

Thank you. Just two small points I'd like to make. With the issue around quotas not addressing the structural inequality, I think the issue with quotas is what you are doing is you are engaging with the engaged and you enable women who are already engaged within the political system to then become candidates and then, obviously, get elected, so it doesn't address the grass-roots issue. And I also think that political parties need to be very honest and robust with themselves about identifying and rooting out where there may be inherent misogyny within parties, and I think we're all aware that that has been an issue in Wales, and we'd be very, very keen for a frank examination of that by the parties.

Thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd.

Okay. Moving on, but, just for clarity purposes, I think, in your answer, you refer to the Llywydd referring to self-identification in her comments. She hasn't; she just referred to the competency issue of the Bill and made no comment on self-identification—for clarity purposes. Heledd.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Byddaf i'n gofyn yn Gymraeg. Diolch. O edrych ar amrywiaeth a chynhwysiant, ac efallai'n dilyn o bwynt olaf Catherine, efallai, ydych chi'n credu, felly, fod dim angen unrhyw fath o fecanwaith er mwyn cael mwy o ferched ac amrywiaeth i mewn i'r Senedd? Rydych chi'n sôn ynglŷn a'r angen i'r pleidiau wneud mwy efo'r grass roots a ddim yn derbyn bod cwotâu'n mynd i newid. Beth fydd yn creu'r newid hwnnw? Beth fyddech chi'n awgrymu fel system amgen?

Thank you very much. I will be asking my questions in Welsh. In looking at diversity and inclusion, and following on from Catherine's final point, perhaps, do you therefore believe that there is no need for any kind of mechanism in order to get more women and more diversity in the Senedd? You talk of the need for parties to do more with the grass roots and don't accept that quotas will change things, but what would lead to that change? What would you suggest as an alternative system?

11:10

I'd say certainly a commitment that is recorded, actionable and timescaled with each of the parties around voluntary shortlists that actually mean something, that there's an active sort of mentoring programme as well locally within parties, including within constituency areas. So, I'd certainly say this is doable. I keep saying this, but it is doable; we're not in a dire situation. We're not in the situation, for example, of Ireland when they introduced quotas. Fifteen per cent of women in the legislature in Ireland when they introduced quotas—we're not that far off parity, so to be bringing in such a dramatic measure to move things forward just seems a lot. Anybody else want to add anything?

Sorry, can I just pick up on that point? So, you think that actually just asking political parties to do more would be sufficient.

No, I think it's incumbent upon women's groups as well to hold events, to have discussions between themselves, to seek out their elected representatives and to work with political parties, really, to help channel women into politics, and particularly young women, because we know that young women—yourselves excepted, obviously; young compared to me—are not necessarily represented in the political arena, so I think there's a lot that can be done there. I think we need to remove structural barriers that prevent single mothers being able to put themselves forward and be active in political life. They may be financial measures, they may be measures that assist with their time—a crèche at the Senedd, for example, good working hours at the Senedd to help those women. What does disability access look like here? How are disabled women empowered to stand for political office not just here, but, obviously, back in the areas that they represent as well, and women from other diverse protected characteristics as well? Specific programmes of work, and I think women's groups, should be heavily involved in that, and we should be looking at perhaps spending our money and our time and effort on reducing those structural barriers.

Do you feel there's any kind of legislation that we should be introducing to support everything that you've outlined that I'd hope everyone agrees that we need to enable everyone to be able to participate in our democracy? So, is there anything specific, because, obviously, when things are left to chance, if you look at a local authority level, we're not anywhere near being on par compared to what you say in terms of the Senedd, and many women don't choose to continue as elected representatives—often, perhaps, stand for one term rather than continue?  So, I'm just interested.

So, we should understand better, I think, what is preventing women from standing, understand better why women are dropping out, because unless you know what those reasons are, what underlies it, then you're pretty much clutching at straws if you try and implement legislation to address it. Once you know what the problems are, then you can start implementing legislation that will tackle them. So, it feels a bit cart before the horse. 

Yes, it's hard to predict the legislation that you'd need without that work to speak to the women and identify the evidence first.

Yes, and, obviously, we're considering the whole breadth of evidence and have been presented with evidence to look at in the main there. Are there any additional comments you'd like to make in terms of the capacity of the Bill to increase the representation of women here, or do you feel that you've covered everything?

I feel we've probably covered all the points that we want to make, but I'll just look at my colleagues. Thank you.

Yes, thank you very much. Thank you so much for your evidence, as well, today. This has been really, really helpful. I guess I just wanted to say, in response to what you've been saying about, 'It's about getting the candidates', I completely agree, and your evidence that you've submitted absolutely supports that. I guess, when I talk about my own party here now, Welsh Labour, we do have a black, Asian, ethnic minority committee, a person, a representative on the Welsh executive, we have women's officers on committees and forums, we have a women's conference annually where we provide a crèche, we have representatives on our Welsh executive committee for disability, for LGBT, we have mentoring programmes, we have funds for women to be able to apply for, and, yet, we cannot seem to do it—we cannot seem to do it. And, I guess, there are 17 Welsh Labour women here at the moment, but my count is only a handful—a handful—came through on a non-all-women shortlist mechanism. So, I guess, we began—let's not forget—we began with quotas, and ever since we have not had the quotas, we have lost and lost and lost, and we have not benefited or increased in those other other diverse areas. And I suppose that that's why the call is for gender quotas. So, I guess my final question would be: do you really think that we should just scrap this—and I understand your points about the competency, I really do—and just continue with what we have, because there is an argument that that is just not working?

11:15

Well, I think there's certainly a disparity between some of the parties in how this has worked previously. And I note you referred to quotas; I think it's shortlists, isn't it, that the Labour Party have done, rather than quotas. 

We have a shortlist, and once we get to a certain point, then we can't use them anymore, yes. 

No, because the Equality Act says that, once you achieve 50 per cent parity on shortlists, you don't proceed any further, that you've achieved parity, obviously. But Labour have achieved it, and I do appreciate your frustrations. It is very, very difficult to say what is going wrong. It's interesting that you mention women's officers. You've got women's officers. It's not always the answer, because we know, nationally—and I'm not specifically referring to Wales—but we know, nationally, there are men in women's officers posts. And there's nothing to prevent men sitting in women's officers posts, but, then, that maybe tells you something about how successful the Labour Party has been, really, in dealing with those women's officers posts and getting women into them. So, clearly, things are going wrong. I think it's incumbent upon all the parties to look very, very hard at themselves, and to look at what the political landscape and life day to day look like for female representatives, in terms of misogyny, sexual harassment, abuse, and all the other extremely unwelcome things that happen, particularly for female candidates, and whether that is putting them off. 

Yes, just one final question. I asked the previous panel this as well. Do you think that there ought to be, that the one step forward that could be taken would be a statutory requirement for every political party to produce a diversity action plan of sorts that's set out in terms of what needs to be included in that plan? Would that be helpful?

I keep going back to the Equality Act. The Equality Act allows you to discriminate on the basis of sex as a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim. It doesn't allow you to discriminate on the basis of any of the other protected characteristics. And parties should be—. The very ethos of every political party should be fairness, transparency, openness and accountability, rather than an action plan that says, 'You must have a representative of this, must have a representative of that'. How many sub-categories do you go down into? I think you're in a very difficult arena, personally, if you were to do that. But in terms of the overall commitment of a party to be fair, we just want fairness as women. I suppose that's what I want to come back to—we just want fairness. Wherever we are, whatever our social status is, whatever our financial status is, we want fairness in political representation, rather than tick-box targets, which is what, forgive me, you seem to be, perhaps, potentially, alluding to.

No, I think—. Look, I'll be blunt with you. I don't think my party has done enough on the diversity agenda. It's taken some positive steps. We have some of the things in place that the Labour Party has, for example, but there are other things, probably, that we ought to be doing. It may well be the same in the Labour Party in other aspects of diversity. So, I'm simply suggesting that it might be helpful if there was a statutory requirement for every party to produce a diversity action plan, to show that they're making progress on this diversity agenda.

I think, to comment on that, I would need to see the details of that diversity action plan. Where plans have been drawn up in other organisations, those sorts of plans and commitments have caused a lot of problems, a lot of mischief, have not always been compliant with the law and have resulted in court cases. So, I think I would need to see the detail.

11:20

So, in a sense, on section 106 of the Equality Act, which requires parties to actually produce data on diversity and needs to be enacted by a Minister of the Government, and the UK Government at this stage, you believe that that should actually be now enacted, so we can at least start collecting the data to ensure that when action plans come forward.

Of course.