Y Pwyllgor Biliau Diwygio

Reform Bill Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

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

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Anna Hind Uwch-gyfreithiwr, Gwasanaethau Cyfreithiol, Llywodraeth Cymru
Senior Lawyer, Legal Services, Welsh Government
Catrin Davies Pennaeth Polisi Amrywiaeth, Diwygio'r Senedd, Llywodraeth Cymru
Head of Diversity Policy, Senedd Reform, Welsh Government
Jane Dodds Aelod o’r Senedd dros Ganolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru
Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales
Jane Hutt Trefnydd a'r Prif Chwip
Trefnydd and Chief Whip
Will Whiteley Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Diwygio’r Senedd, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Senedd Reform, Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

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

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

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

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod am 09:18.

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

The public part of the meeting began at 09:18.

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

Good morning, and can I welcome Members and the public to this morning's meeting of the Reform Bill Committee, where we will be taking our final evidence session in relation to the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill?

Before we go into our evidence session, can I just do some housekeeping? First of all, if you have mobile phones, can you please make sure they are on silent or off to make sure they don't interfere with today's meeting? Secondly, the meeting is broadcast live on Senedd.tv and is available and a transcript is also published in the usual way. We are bilingual in the Senedd and we operate a bilingual policy. Simultaneous translation is available via the headsets on channel 1. If you require amplification, that's available on the headsets via channel 2. There is no scheduled fire alarm today, so if one does occur please follow the directions of the ushers to a safe location. Are there any Members who wish to give a declaration of interest at this point in time? No. Thank you very much.

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

We will move on to item 3, which is papers to note. We have a letter from the Counsel General notifying us of the laying of the revised explanatory memorandum for the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, which was changed during Stage 2. As we all know, Stage 3 occurred yesterday, and I'm expecting a slightly revised explanatory memorandum as a consequence of yesterday's proceedings. We've also got a letter to the Finance Committee, and attached is the response to the Stage 1 report recommendations. Are Members content to note the paper? I see everyone is. Thank you.

4. Bil Senedd Cymru (Rhestrau Ymgeiswyr Etholiadol): Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda’r Trefnydd a'r Prif Chwip
4. Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill: Evidence session with the Trefnydd and Chief Whip

We'll therefore move on to our substantive element today, which is an evidence session with the Trefnydd, who is the Member in charge of the Bill. Can I welcome Jane Hutt, the Trefnydd? Jane, would you like to introduce your officials for the record, please?

Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Can I introduce Will Whiteley, who's the deputy director for Senedd reform, Catrin Davies, who's the head of diversity policy for Senedd reform, and Anna Hind, senior Government lawyer?

Thank you. Welcome, all. It wasn't that long ago we were talking to you before. Just a simple starting question: the Bill is focused upon gender quotas and gender balance, and puts duties upon parties to make sure there's a gender-balanced candidate list, horizontally and vertically, which we'll perhaps talk about a little later, but what do you as a Government see as the role of political parties in achieving these objectives? Could they be achieved without this legislation, or is the legislation required to make sure political parties do achieve these objectives?

I think that's a really important question, Cadeirydd. The role of political parties is crucial for us to achieve what we seek to achieve, which is a gender-balanced Senedd. I think, also, just looking at the evidence that came from political parties before you to this Senedd reform committee, it shows the commitment that political parties—particularly two of the political parties that came before you—to this legislation and the Bill. But I think it's important, in the political parties' role, that they can be thinking at this point in terms of attracting and putting forward a diverse range of candidates and preparing for that. The Bill will make all parties work towards a common goal. I was very conscious of the fact that, in the evidence given by our women's caucus, a point was made that you haven't got consistency if you have voluntary quotas, for example—some parties have and some parties haven't, ever—whereas, actually, we'll get consistency and political parties will have a crucial role.

You've had the very clear evidence from academics, Diverse5050, saying how much political parties have a role to play in that, and also that we have organisations, like Women's Equality Network Wales, who are keen to work with political parties, and certainly that's their goal and their aim. They've been working towards this, in terms of working with, advising and giving evidence to the former special purpose committee. This will be about parties playing the role, but also we must recognise that provisions in the Bill may not automatically translate to all parties returning 50 per cent women MSs, nor to 50 per cent of all Members being women, because it will depend very much on constituencies where parties win seats and whether women are at the top of those lists. That's why the vertical and horizontal is so important. But they have a role to play in terms of understanding this and seeing what's winnable. Obviously, the political parties will be thinking a lot in terms of a diverse range of candidates for 2026, where we will have 96 Members, we hope, from next week, in taking our Senedd reform forward. 

You've obviously listened to the evidence, and all parties gave reasonable evidence that they would like to move in this direction. But do you think that, without the Bill, there will still be a difficulty for some parties to be able to deliver the gender balance we all hope to see?

We're talking about political parties' role in relation to this Bill, and the important role that they will play. Clearly, political parties have given evidence, and you questioned them on this point. I think it’s also very important that there’s been a great deal of work done in terms of all of the electoral reform organisations working towards this. I think this is something where political parties know that they’ve got a real opportunity in terms of reaching out to a much more diverse range of candidates, because this is about the candidates for the next elections. I don’t know, Catrin, whether you would like to comment on this any further.


Only to note, really, that the academics who have given evidence have all highlighted that legislative gender quotas are really effective in increasing the percentage and proportion of women, and also that in creating a demand for more women, the supply then generally follows. So, just to note those pertinent points of evidence that have been given. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn, a diolch hefyd am ddod. Dwi eisiau gofyn am sut mae o’n gweithio. Rydyn ni wedi clywed tystiolaeth gan lawer o bobl. Felly, dwi eisiau jest canolbwyntio ar, yn eich barn chi, sut y bydd o'n gweithio. Felly, y peth cyntaf yw pa fath o symudiadau fyddech chi’n eu gwneud yn erbyn pleidiau, efallai, sydd ddim yn cael y cwotâu. Pa fath o symudiadau fyddech chi’n gweld y bydd yn cael eu gwneud ynglŷn â phleidiau sydd ddim yn dal i’r cwotâu?

Thank you very much, and thank you for joining us this morning. I want to ask questions about how this will work. We have heard evidence from a number of different sources. I just want to focus on how this might work in your view. So, the first issue is what kind of enforcement action might you take against political parties that don’t comply with the quotas. What kind of enforcement action would you anticipate being taken in terms of political parties that don’t actually comply?

Diolch yn fawr am y cwestiwn.

Thank you very much for the question. 

The enforcement proposals are very much in line with the recommendation of the special purpose committee, and you will obviously have seen that report. We’ve heard from academics, you’ve heard from academics giving evidence to the committee, that the enforcement proposals are very appropriate for use in Wales, and also they’ve proved to be effective elsewhere. I think it’s quite helpful to look at this from a compliance perspective. This is about compliance, and the statement of policy intent lays out the compliance plans.

Going back to this point about the role of the political parties, of course it would be in every political party’s interest to ensure that they’ve understood what is required of them, going back to the preparations for this. It will be in their interest to submit nominations early in the window so that there's an opportunity to correct any errors before the nominations deadline. This is standard practice anyway in terms of electoral arrangements. But the rules aren’t complex. The legislation is clear. And training and guidance, of course, which you've, I’m sure, discussed, in advance of the election, will be updated to reflect the changes.

I think also we know that there are opportunities in terms of the vertical rule in terms of returning officers to ensure that parties can get this right, but also in terms of the horizontal rule as well. This will be an opportunity as well to see how they organise themselves, political parties, at a national level to satisfy that horizontal rule. But it is going to be about understanding that they can have the advice and guidance, and that the rules have been recognised, they’ve been advised in terms of enforcement, particularly, I think, focusing on this compliance approach.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. A jest i ddweud tipyn bach mwy am y pleidiau, fyddech chi'n gweld bod yna amser i'r pleidiau gael y rhestr yn iawn, a gweld eu bod nhw'n cael, efallai, y gefnogaeth, a sicrhau bod yna amser iddyn nhw gael y rhestrau yn iawn yn lleol a dros Gymru hefyd?

Thank you very much. And just to cover the political parties a little more, would you anticipate there being time for political parties to get their list right? Could they be given support in order to ensure that they have time to comply on a local level and across Wales, too?

In terms of the vertical rule, we hope it wouldn't be necessary for a returning officer, for example, to reject a list for failing to meet the vertical rule. But it shouldn't be difficult in terms of the political parties getting this right. In the statement of policy intent—which was, of course, published with the Bill—there's a really helpful table laying out how the vertical rule works. It's a vertical compliance list. It's all there. It's very clear. Indeed, there are examples of vertical non-compliant lists as well. But it may be challenging for some parties in terms of co-ordinating their compliance. We've considered vulnerability of parties to potential non-compliance, but I think, as I said, this is possibly higher for the horizontal rule, and that's where it's important that, for political parties that perhaps don't have a strong national co-ordination function, we're proposing that slightly different approach in terms of compliance, which will allow political parties to stand as many of their candidates as possible, but in a different order on their list. So, clearly, it's going to be about a great deal of support, training and guidance to get parties to that point.


Diolch yn fawr iawn. Felly, rydyn ni'n mynd ymlaen i sôn efallai am swydd sy'n canolbwyntio ar sicrhau bod hyn yn digwydd—hynny yw, y national nominations compliance officer. Rydyn ni wedi clywed tystiolaeth hefyd efallai fod yna angen cael dirprwy, achos mae yna lot i'w wneud, a rhag ofn bod rhywbeth yn digwydd, neu gefnogaeth i sicrhau bod y swydd yna yn cael rhyw fath o ddirprwy. A ydych chi wedi meddwl am hynny? A oes gennych chi ryw farn ar hynny? 

Thank you very much. We're going to move on now to talk about a role that would focus on ensuring that this happens, namely the national nominations compliance officer. We've heard some evidence that there is a need for a deputy national nominations compliance officer because there is a great deal of work to be done, and should things go wrong, were there need to be support, that there would need to be a deputy in place. Have you given any consideration to that? Do you have a view on that? 

Yes, indeed, we have. I think we've possibly even discussed this at an earlier session of this Senedd reform committee. Could I just actually say something else just in response to your earlier question? In terms of the horizontal rule, which is of course the national nominations compliance officer's big role and why we may need a deputy, the intention that if the national nominations compliance officer finds a party that's non-compliant, that there be a short window for a party to decide which list or lists are to be subject to any corrective action. And if a party declined to select lists for corrective action, the NNCO will select one or more lists so that a party can stand candidates in as many constituencies as possible, but within the rules. Of course, the finer details of this will be laid out in secondary legislation, which will be subject to consultation. But we are in discussions—Will, you might like to say something more—with the key stakeholders about a deputy. 

As the committee has heard, particularly from the electoral administrators, they've said the same to us and we're in discussions with them about that. I think, obviously, there's a decision for Ministers to determine whether that takes place, but we certainly have heard them say, particularly given the nature of the role, which is specifically around a relatively short window, that if the national nominations compliance officer was, for any reason, unable to complete that role, there would be a deputy there able to stand and step in to take it. And of course, there are not dissimilar arrangements around returning officers where they're able to assign people to undertake their functions as well.  

Diolch yn fawr. Y cwestiwn olaf ar y maes yma, os gwelwch yn dda. A ydych chi wedi ystyried sefydlu corff parhaol i hybu cynhwysiant yn y broses wleidyddol?  

Thank you very much. And a final question in this section, if I may. Have you considered establishing a permanent body to promote inclusion in the political process? 

Diolch yn fawr. Of course, it's great that we're moving forward with Senedd reform, isn't it, in terms of what happened yesterday and hopefully next week as we take forward the Members and elections Bill. And also, we've got the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill, as well as this Bill that you're scrutinising today. So, there are great opportunities for reforming our elections and political processes in Wales. We must see this, as you do, all together in terms of all those opportunities. There will be an electoral management board, and I think that the details about that will be set out in relation to what we were discussing yesterday, in terms of the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru, which we debated yesterday, but we haven't looked at establishing a permanent body at this time. But I think that one of the things that's important—and I know that the Local Government and Housing Committee is scrutinising the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill—is that there's a duty on Welsh Ministers to put in place arrangements, for example, aimed at improving diversity within the Senedd, and local government democratic structures, and for those schemes to be created and tailored to provide support for groups that share protected characteristics.

So, I think that what's important is that we see all of these responsibilities as enhancing democracy, enhancing the effective democratic state of Wales, in terms of our electoral arrangements. And I'm sure that there will be further discussions as a result of that Bill—the Members and elections Bill—in terms of how that will be delivered. But we also have to say that we have bodies already in Wales—they've come before this committee, they've given evidence. We're already funding Equal Power Equal Voice, mentoring. We're also very involved in the access to elected office policies, which have been led at a local government level. And also, I think that it's important that the Llywydd and the independent remuneration board—and they've responded to the committee, I know, Chair—are also playing their part in considering how the Senedd will need to build and grow and develop, to ensure that we reach the diverse needs of all Members.


Is it fair to think that a new Government may be considering including the responsibilities of overseeing the promotion of inclusion within something like the electoral management board? Because the bodies that you've mentioned are funded bodies, and if the funding stops, that stops, effectively. What we are asking is: is there going to be some permanent body that will have that responsibility?

The discussion about whether this is needed or not will develop as part of the Senedd reform programme. But I don't think, Will, at this point we've thought further than that. I think it will be interesting to see what comes out of the—. We're in very early days, really, in terms of the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill, which is going to discuss a great deal more about the diverse needs of candidates and future Senedd Members. Obviously, we've got the Electoral Reform Society, we've got the Electoral Commission, and I can't remember the name of the body that manages elections, but they're all considering these issues, aren't they?

Yes. I suppose, just to say, we haven't given specific consideration to that point, but as the Trefnydd has said, there are a number of measures and also schemes in place that are trying to do the same thing or achieve the same outcome here.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Fe wnaf i gario ymlaen. Dwi eisiau jest cyffwrdd ar y maes ynglŷn â'r rhwystrau sy'n wynebu menywod i ddod i mewn i fyd gwleidyddiaeth. Roedden ni'n clywed lot—. Roedd bron pob un o'r bobl wnaeth ddod o'n blaenau ni yn siarad am y rhwystrau sy'n atal menywod rhag cael y cyfle jest i gymryd cam, a dweud y gwir, i fyd gwleidyddiaeth. Yn eich barn chi, a oes yna ddigon yn ei le i drio sicrhau bod yna fwy o fenywod yn dod i mewn i fyd gwleidyddiaeth, a beth arall y gallwn ni ei wneud, dros Gymru a hefyd yn y Llywodraeth, i sicrhau bod hyn yn llwyddiannus?

Thank you very much. I will continue. I just want to touch on the issues about the barriers facing women in entering the world of politics. We heard a great deal—. Almost all of the witnesses that came before us told us about these barriers that face women in getting that opportunity to just take that first step, really, into politics. In your view, is there enough provision in place in order to ensure that more women do enter politics, and what else could we do, across Wales and also within Government, to ensure that this works successfully?

Diolch yn fawr am eich cwestiwn pwysig iawn.

Thank you very much for your very important question.

Because we have got to ensure that we tackle those barriers, the barriers that many of us have faced in our lives—barriers that are faced particularly by women. But also there are barriers that we of course need to address in terms of the whole population and diverse needs, and I think it is really important that—. I was looking at some of the evidence that came before you, particularly the opportunities for diverse women to come forward, which I thought came very strongly from EYST, the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team, and Race Council Cymru, and recognising that there are clear barriers in terms of the support that we need to address, and those are barriers that are now been considered in terms of access to flexible working hours, access to job sharing, access to childcare and other caring support, but also there are clearly barriers to women perceiving they've got any hope of being elected.

When I went to Ireland—and I think I probably mentioned this when I came before you before—until they had quotas, which they've now had for 11 or 12 years, women just weren't coming forward; they didn't think there was any point. And, as soon as they had a quota, women started applying. So, we have to overcome that barrier: 'Well, there's no point, we won't be in winnable seats, we won't get elected.' We have to overcome that.

Actually, I'm interested—and it's a Senedd responsibility—in whether the Commission will agree to do a gender-sensitive audit, for example. I think, actually, Sarah, you might have called for this already. I'm really interested in what happens with Cardiff Bay 2032. But the whole message, the way in which you, I have to say, as a Senedd reform committee, and us as the Senedd actually address this issue, and actually say, 'We want women to come forward', and there will be a real opportunity with quotas. You know, it's a real test of us, isn't it, as a Senedd? And this has come through from evidence you've had from Elect Her, who offer a support programme for women, at all stages of the candidate pipeline.

Funding is crucially important, as people have to pay for travel to get to meetings, and the Fund Her grant is to assist women with the personal cost of campaigning; also bespoke skills workshops, mentoring campaign toolkits, Equal Power Equal Voice. You cannot underestimate the positive impact of mentoring. And you can mentor someone, as I have—and I've had reverse mentoring—and they've changed their whole outlook on whether they could possibly think about being one of us here today. It is, 'If you can see it, you can be it', Hillary Clinton, what we are. If you can see us, then you can be it at any stage in your life. But it's not just that simple, is it?

We've got to actually make sure we keep funding Equal Power Equal Voice, and we're going to publish guidance. Now, that goes back to the important point of the special purpose committee report: guidance to encourage and support political parties to publish diversity and inclusion strategies. I think that's going to come through—. In fact, we are laying an amendment, aren't we, to the elected Members and elections Bill [Correction: Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill]? Is that on its way, Will?


Yes. We expect that to be tabled very shortly, to the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill. 

Ie. Os caf i ofyn un cwestiwn, jest i ddilyn i fyny ar hynna: rydych chi wedi rhestru nifer o bethau sydd yn wych, fel Equal Power Equal Voice, ond, yn amlwg, rydych chi hefyd newydd sôn am yr angen i sicrhau'r arian. Os caf i gymryd yr esiampl o Chwarae Teg, oedd yn gwneud lot o waith yn y maes yma, yn amlwg dydy e ddim yn bodoli mwyach oherwydd arian. Ydych chi'n meddwl bod angen ffurfioli yr holl bethau ychwanegol yma? Yn amlwg, mae yna rywbeth sydd yn mynd i fod o ran y cwotâu, ond rydych chi hefyd wedi pwysleisio pwysigrwydd yr holl elfennau eraill yma. Ac, o ystyried yr hyn rydym ni wedi'i weld yn digwydd eisoes, sut ydym ni hefyd yn sicrhau parhad y rhai sydd angen cydweithio â'r ochr fwy ddeddfwriaethol, felly, er mwyn sicrhau ein bod ni ddim jest wedyn yn dibynnu ar y ddeddfwriaeth?

Yes. If I could just ask one question, to follow up on that: you have listed a number of things that are excellent, Equal Power Equal Voice, for example, but, clearly, you've also mentioned the need to ensure that the funding is there. If I could take the example of Chwarae Teg, which did a lot of work in this area, and it clearly doesn't exist anymore because of funding. Do you think there is a need to formalise all these additional things? Clearly, there is something that's going to be there in relation to the quotas, but you've also emphasised the importance of all these other elements. And, given what we've seen happening already, how do we ensure the continuation of those who need to work with the more legislative side of things, to ensure that we don't just rely on the legislation?

Absolutely. We know that you need funding as well as legislation, and the policy has to drive that. It's very disappointing that we lost Chwarae Teg. We’ve lost Chwarae Teg and many other very progressive organisations, I would say, largely due to the loss of EU funding, but also 14 years of austerity pressures on our budget and public sector budgets. But this is about priorities, so political parties and the Government have to see this as a priority in terms of where our funding goes, and that's a really valid point to make.


Before I come back to Jane, Trefnydd, you actually mentioned section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, on publishing diversity data, has the Welsh Government written—? Because that's got to be done by a Minister of the Crown. So, has the Welsh Government written to the UK Government seeking for that to be enacted? And if it hasn't, will it?

Yes, the Welsh Government has written. In fact it was Julie James, I recall, who wrote in 2020 to the UK Government to ask for section 106 of the Equality Act to be implemented. Of course, just for everyone to know, section 106 is about the diversity and inclusion information. It's very unfortunate that it hasn't been enacted, I would say, by the UK Government. And, in response to our letter, the UK Government said that while they accept there's more to do to ensure Parliament reflects the full range of talent in the UK, they will keep section 106 under review.

Well, you know, we would call for section 106, and I'm sure this committee would, to be enacted. We haven't got the powers to enact it. When we got the powers to enact the socioeconomic duty, we enacted it in Wales. And I do believe, actually, the socioeconomic duty of the Equality Act is crucially important, that we reach out to women of all circumstances, socioeconomically as well as those with protected characteristics. I feel very strongly that the work that we do, in supporting women's organisations particularly, like WEN Wales, is actually reaching out to those women who will have huge barriers, a double disadvantage, often in terms of financial circumstances and socioeconomic issues.

So, in response, Cadeirydd, that's what the UK Government said.

And I apologise, I've just stolen one of your question, Heledd. Jane.

Mi wnaf i fynd yn ôl i'r sefyllfa efo sicrhau bod yna gefnogaeth i fenywod i ddod i mewn i'r byd gwleidyddiaeth. Rydyn ni wedi cael gwybodaeth ynglŷn â’r gronfa sydd yn cefnogi pobl anabl i ddod i mewn i'r byd gwleidyddiaeth. Fel dwi'n deall, mae'r Llywodraeth yn darparu y gronfa yna. Ond rydyn ni wedi gweld ei bod hi ddim yn llwyddiannus, i ddweud y gwir. Hynny yw, bod pobl ddim yn cael eu hethol i'r Senedd neu, yn anffodus, i gynghorau ychwaith. Felly, beth allwn ni ei wneud i sicrhau bod yna arian ar gael, sydd ddim mewn mudiadau, efallai, sydd ddim yn parhau? Ac yn enwedig, roedden ni'n clywed mai arian oedd yn bwysig, ddim jest cefnogaeth fel help efo teithio ac yn y blaen. Arian oedd y peth roedden ni'n ei glywed oedd yn bwysig. Oes gennych chi ryw fath o farn ar hynny, os gwelwch chi'n dda, yn mynd ymlaen i'r dyfodol? Diolch yn fawr iawn.

If I could just return to the situation in terms of ensuring that there is support for women to enter politics. We've received some information about the fund that supports disabled people in entering politics. As I understand it, the Government funds that initiative. But we have seen that it hasn't been particularly successful, if truth be told. That is to say that people aren't elected to the Senedd or, unfortunately, to our local councils either. So, what can we do to ensure that there is funding available, which isn't given to organisations that might not exist in future? And we also heard that it was funding that was important, not just support with travel and so on. It was funding that we heard that was most important. So, do you have any sort of view on that, please, in moving forward into the future? Thank you.

Diolch, yes. Well, the access to elected office fund, which you refer to, was made available, particularly to reach out to disabled people, and it is being reviewed at the moment. It was the responsibility of finance and local government, and now the new Cabinet Secretary for local government, Julie James, and I'm sure that review outcome will be made available very shortly. But I think it's useful that the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill includes the provision to place a duty on Welsh Ministers to put in place arrangements, including structures and schemes to provide support to and remove barriers to participation faced by people with protected characteristics and those impacted by socioeconomic circumstances. So, this is another tranche of the Senedd reform legislation coming through, and it's also important to recognise that the special purpose committee recommended that political parties themselves should play a role in this. And, indeed, I feel very strongly that this has to be part of the Senedd Commission's work in terms of the future and how we take this forward, because there are barriers, and we've covered some of them, but we've also covered the fact that work is being done through our Business Committee on a cross-party basis, for example, on job sharing. I think, Heledd, your speech about what job sharing meant to you in the Senedd was so powerful because it explained how it enabled you to work and have a family, and people don't know everything about how to actually implement policies and schemes, and we've got to learn from that. 

But, yes, indeed, in terms of the access to elected office fund, we shall look at it beyond what it is being used for. Local government has got a lot to do, hasn't it, in terms of extending access to a much wider, diverse range of candidates. So, all of this is going to be about reform for democracy in Wales.


Diolch yn fawr iawn. Ac wedyn y cwestiwn olaf, ynglŷn â'r diwylliant—diwylliant y Senedd. Dŷn ni'n gweithio tan oriau hwyr, a does gyda ni ddim crèche na dim byd—i bawb, a dweud y gwir, ddim jest menywod—i rieni adael eu plant. Felly, ydych chi'n meddwl am hynny ar gyfer y dyfodol? Ydy'r Llywodraeth yn meddwl am gael crèche, gan feddwl am yr oriau dŷn ni'n gweithio yma yn y Senedd, er enghraifft? Diolch yn fawr iawn. 

Thank you. And just a final question on the culture within the Senedd. We work until late in the evenings, and we don't have any crèche  facilities—for anyone, really, not just women—as childcare for parents. So, have you given any consideration to that for the future? Is the Government considering a crèche, given the working hours here in the Senedd, for example? Thank you very much.

Absolutely. And, as I've said, this is very much a matter for the Senedd Commission and the Cardiff Bay 2032 project. That's looking at long-term estate and accommodation needs, and I hope very much it will look at childcare facilities. The Senedd Commission is going to consider specifically what it can offer to Members of the Senedd in terms of support with childcare; it's a priority, of course, of the Welsh Government. But that's going to be part of engaging with party groups, also looking at ways of working including—. We know that hybrid has been a positive move forward for all Members of the Senedd. We need to look at use of technology to extend access, as well as the work that we're doing on job sharing. But I will, again, mention the independent remuneration board, because they're reviewing its determination, and they're looking at flexibility for Members in terms of their differing and evolving needs. 

As someone who comes from the class of 1999, we were very committed at the start, and in the discussions leading up to the establishment of the Senedd, that this should not be like Westminster; it should be family friendly. And I think culture is also about how we treat each other, just in terms of our debate and scrutiny and work together. It's about women being in powerful positions within the Senedd. But, to do that, we need the support systems like childcare.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Jest i ddweud, mae gan Westminster crèche.

Thank you very much. Could I just say that Westminster does have a crèche?

Westminster has got a crèche—a well-used crèche—for everybody. So, we're a bit behind. Diolch yn fawr iawn. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. I should say, at the start, 'thank you' for the compliment, but I think it was my colleague Sioned Williams—

—who spoke very passionately about job share, so I won't take credit for someone else. 

Yes, for the record. And if I can just reflect, perhaps, on the point that was made now, I think it is really important that we think in terms of parents, because a number of our Senedd Members who are men, as well, have caring responsibilities, and normalising that has to be part of this. And can I just say, as well, just in terms of reflections with working hours, I'm pleased to hear your emphasis on technology, because, obviously, if you're based in north Wales, you're not going to get home to put your child to bed? So, I think we do need to really think about the whole package there, that it's equal for everyone, wherever you represent—not just if you're within distance to the Senedd. Perhaps I can reflect on that as someone from Anglesey but living in Pontypridd. But I think that package is equally valid.

If I can perhaps return to the section 106, I just want to perhaps tease out with you, Trefnydd, just in terms of the proactive steps that we can take. You mentioned in previous evidence that the Welsh Government were looking at ways to legislate to introduce this but perhaps didn't expand on the actual steps that could be taken, not just hoping that we would be given the competencies. So, I wonder if you've had time to consider that, or is that something that you want to actively pursue, because, there were offers of support from the Electoral Commission, that they would be happy to facilitate such discussions between the Welsh Government as well? So, I just wondered if you could expand on those.


Well, I think there are ongoing discussions, but we're really geared up, as they are, to help us with this. Will, do you want to—?

Firstly, we've had some really positive conversations with the Electoral Commission over the last year or more, particularly in the space of diversity information, et cetera. What the Trefnydd referred to earlier, we are shortly intending to table an amendment to the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill, which will place a duty on Welsh Ministers to issue guidance to registered political parties. That's in relation to both the development of diversity and inclusion strategies, but also the collection and publication of diversity information. So, it's not exactly the same as section 106, and there are reasons for that, but that is a clear sign of the intention to produce that guidance, to produce it around a year in advance of the next Senedd election and, obviously, then review that guidance periodically beyond that.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Os caf i symud i'r Gymraeg rŵan, yn amlwg, rydych chi wedi bod yn dilyn y dystiolaeth rydyn ni wedi ei derbyn yn ofalus iawn. Gaf i ofyn, felly, beth ydy eich adlewyrchiadau chi o ran y dystiolaeth rydyn ni wedi'i chlywed o ran y tebygolrwydd y bydd y cwotâu yn sicrhau mwy o amrywiaeth o Aelodau'r Senedd?

Thank you very much. If I could move to ask my questions in Welsh now, clearly, you've been following the evidence that we've received and have done so very carefully. Could I ask, therefore, what are your reflections in terms of the evidence we've heard in terms of the likelihood of the quotas achieving a greater diversity of Senedd Members?

Diolch yn fawr, Heledd. Yes, seeing some of the powerful evidence that's come through from stakeholders, and I've mentioned already the evidence that you received, for example, from EYST, the Ethnic Minorities and Youth Support Team, and Race Council Cymru, and also recognising the evidence from the Women's Equality Network, and how they've spoken about how this legislation will, in itself—and it goes back to overcoming that big cultural or psychological barrier—help attract women from a range of diverse backgrounds. Some of you will be aware of the ethnic minority women's awards scheme, run by Professor Meena Upadhyaya. She held a meeting of some of her people—award winners from all sectors of life—recently, which I attended, and they all want to do more. They've all got businesses, professions, lives—busy lives. They want to do more. And this is an opportunity to open the door to many women, for example, from ethnic minorities in Wales. And I think what was interesting, of course, was the evidence that was given that it actually will mean that more people will feel that they can be candidates. It's a very simple point isn't it, that if you are a school governor or you've set up a play group, or you're a trade union official, 'Why not me?'—why couldn't you go forward? I do believe that the quotas will achieve a greater diversity of Senedd Members and from diverse backgrounds. And also, we see that because Equal Power Equal Voice actually is funded by [Correction: is actually a partnership between] a whole range of organisations—Women's Equality Network Wales, EYST Wales, Stonewall Cymru, Disability Wales—we can see the wider diversity that we're seeking to encourage, which will also come through, I believe, this guidance on the Members and elections Bill as well.


Diolch, Trefnydd. Oes yna unrhyw ystyriaeth wedi'i rhoi i fesurau ychwanegol i gynyddu amrywiaeth, er enghraifft, cwotâu amrywiaeth anffurfiol neu ffurfiol, neu ydych chi'n gweld ein bod ni yn mynd i weld, efo rhywedd—rŵan yn canolbwyntio ar hynny—fod yna le efallai i asesu pa mor effeithiol ydy hynny ac adlewyrchu yn y dyfodol, os nad yn y cam hwn?

Thank you, Trefnydd. Has there been any consideration of additional measures to increase diversity, for example, informal or formal diversity quotas, or do you think that we'll see, with gender now—concentrating and focusing on that—that there's perhaps room to assess how effective that is and reflect in the future, if not at this stage?

Well, I think it has really been helpful to see, in the evidence coming before your committee, how people have identified also that quotas aren't the only answer and that there's more we need to do on top of that to attract and retain women in politics. We've talked about removing barriers to being elected and providing the right support when women have been elected. And I do also take on board very much your point about parents, men as well as women, and single parents in terms of—. I was very interested in the way that some of the organisations and people talked about a quota-plus strategy, and we're talking, obviously, about seeking gender parity, but let's talk about a quota-plus strategy that starts to address some of those wider issues about diversity strategies. 

If you look at the special purpose committee's recommendation, it did ask for political parties—encouraged them—to publish diversity and inclusion strategies. And, of course, that exists in local government anyway in terms of—. We get that information after elections about what the outcome of—. That's an outcome; it's not a strategy. So, I think that amendment that, Will, you say is going to be tabled to the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill will be important.

This is something where, in a way, we've moved on, haven't we? We've had voluntary quotas in terms of positive action, but I think we recognise that we're starting with gender, but it's quota-plus and that we look towards gender quotas. And I think Diverse5050 said that they are an important first step—gender quotas—and that the provisions in themselves could lead to greater diversity in the Senedd across other characteristics.

Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you, all, for being here this morning. This morning? Yes, it's still morning.

I'm going to ask some questions now about implementation. We've touched on some already, but I'm going to get into, basically, the evidence that we've had from the Association of Electoral Administrators. So, they have said that they still believe that the changes can be delivered by the 2026 Senedd election, but they did say that any further delay to the progression of the Bill could pose a significant risk to that implementation before 2026. So, can you see any reason—any reason at all—why you think that it may go over the deadline and that it will need to be extended?

No, I think we're confident in terms of the timescales that have been set out for this, that we would be able to deliver on this. But, obviously, we have a phased approach to taking this forward, depending on how the Bill progresses, because then, alongside and following the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, there will be a conduct Order for subordinate legislation, so that would be our next step. 

And we’re working very closely with the Association of Electoral Administrators. I think they do talk about longer timetables, but I think that applies to all elections, not just the Senedd elections. But this timetable is long-standing and it allows consistency between elections for the timing of nominations. But I do think the next stage conduct of Senedd elections Order later in the year will be important.


Yes, okay, thank you. The Association of Electoral Administrators have said that they will need clear and unambiguous secondary legislation setting out the details of new processes being laid before May 2025, and they add that they will be need to be accompanied by guidance from the Electoral Commission for constituency returning officers and the national nominations compliance officer, ideally by September 2025. Are you confident that you can meet those targets for them to be able to implement this, and have you got any contingency plans in case that is not possible?

Yes. The current timetable does allow for the secondary legislation to be in place in that timescale, respecting very much the Gould convention. Obviously, as the Trefnydd has said, there are a number of steps in the process, and obviously the Bill being passed by the Senedd is one, receiving Royal Assent, and then being able to consult on the conduct Order in relation to this. I think the Trefnydd has said to the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee earlier this week that the intention around implementing this Bill is to amend the main conduct Order, so there is a wider programme of work going on to remake the conduct Order and make it bilingually for the first time, and that is happening. And the intention is for that to be consulted on in the autumn, and then allow time for, obviously, responses to the consultation on that be made, certainly prior to the summer recess of 2025. The intention would be to implement this Bill, and that’s in part due to, obviously, the timetable of the Bill, and that an amending Order would be made to the main conduct Order to implement quotas here. And I suppose just to make the point as well that this Bill is to be commenced by Order, so that provides a degree of flexibility just in terms of bringing it into force to take account of that continuing timetable.

Thank you. I suppose, though, already, all the things that you laid out, then, if one of those got delayed—and there are many reasons why even one of those parts could get delayed—what we’re hearing from the Association of Electoral Administrators is that it would throw out completely their work in being able to implement this effectively. So, I suppose the question is, though: is there a contingency plan? Have you kind of build that in? And specifically, the AEA has provided an alternative timetable in their written evidence, so what are your thoughts on their proposed alternative?

Well, I think we still continue to work, don’t we, closely with the Association of Electoral Administrators, and we’re hearing various on the timetable, and, indeed, not just from them, but from all stakeholders. But, of course, that would be very much part of the consultation on the conduct Order. I have to say that I’m sure these questions have probably been asked about the main legislation that went through yesterday as well, because we have a tight timetable, haven’t we, for 2026, but I think we would always not only currently discuss, because it’s just not about them responding to consultation on the conduct Order—they are helping us to develop the conduct Order, this amendment to the conduct Order, so we have those kind of details to reassure in terms of the timetable.

And if it’s helpful, just to distinguish between two things, the timetable for implementation and, obviously, what we are working towards is having all legislation in place, no later than the Gould convention deadline, which would be September 2025. The point that the administrators have also made is then around the electoral timetable, which is from the point that the notice of election is made et cetera. So, I suppose just to distinguish between those two slightly different time frames that we, as the Trefnydd said, are in discussion with them about.

Of course. They've also said, though, that the electoral timetable is a barrier to the implementation of the Bill. Their submission says that, for example, checking for gender quota and placement criteria requires an additional three working days in the electoral timetable. So, what are your thoughts on that, and, I suppose, also, the additional support that they're going to need and clarity that they're going to need to be able to work that into what they're trying to implement?


Well, I think it is important that everyone has adequate time, as you say—we talked about compliance earlier on—to complete the necessary compliance checks. I think that's where the section 13 Order, the conduct Order, would make provision for changes to the electoral timetable if necessary. But also, the Order is going to create additional time between the close of nominations and the publication of the statement of persons nominated. That's going to enable the information to be shared between the returning officers and the NNCO to check compliance with the horizontal rule and to resolve any non-compliance without negatively impacting on the timetable for the election. But we do envisage that period of up to three days is likely to be appropriate—I think this has been discussed quite a great deal—for the additional steps that will be required.

Also, the intention is that the notice of election would be published earlier than is currently the case to allow for this additional time without shortening the period during which nomination papers can be submitted in all of the period between publication of the statement of persons nominated and the day of the poll. We don't anticipate that this would have an impact, for example, on the timing of dissolution of the Senedd.

Thank you. Obviously, in this, then, we've discussed a couple of times the conduct Order, which is due to be published in the autumn and, as you said to the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee on Monday, that's going to be about a 250-page document. Included in that, then, will be an opportunity to clarify questions around how candidates' statements will work in practice and, therefore, they will need a full legal assessment of candidates' statements, which will only be possible when the conduct Order is laid before the Senedd. So, can you give this committee an idea of the balance, really, between what is going to be left to the conduct Order and on the face of the Bill, because that's quite significant, isn't it?

Yes, and we did discuss this on Monday at your committee. It was important when we drafted the Bill to observe that balance between primary and secondary legislation, but that, indeed, that balance is struck in all our legislation, with a similar approach to the other package of reforms, the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill. Just in terms of nominations at Senedd elections, much of the detail can be found in the current section 13 Order, the conduct Order. So, there's already a conduct Order for Senedd elections. For example, it already includes the process by which a person is validly nominated as a candidate. But just to reassure you that the approach we've taken, and Anna might want to come in here, is very much in keeping with the existing separation between primary and secondary legislation. But operational details for the quota rules will be provided within the secondary legislation, very much the detailed rules governing the Senedd election. We do need to have flexibility for maybe some wider developments affecting elections. We need to have this, really, in subordinate legislation powers, but, Anna, you might want to comment on that.

Thank you, Trefnydd. Just to confirm, as we did before the legislation and justice committee, that it is recognising the existing balance that is between the Government of Wales Act 2006, the provisions about candidates in that, and what's in the conduct Order. As the Trefnydd has said, there's an enormous amount of detail. There's very little on the face of the Government of Wales Act now, and, similarly, when it's amended by the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, it will be very similar, obviously changing the electoral system. I think we discussed on Monday there are practical barriers to being able to change that balance, and that's the reason for it, of respecting that balance, is that all of the nominations process is set out in the conduct Order, and because these rules will be layered on top of that part of the nominations process, because this is about the nomination and fits entirely under the nomination of candidates, we wouldn't be able to refer in the primary legislation to something that happens in the secondary legislation. So, that's the reason, that practical reason, for it being set out. But I think, as the Trefnydd has said on a number of occasions, how that is envisaged is set out in quite a lot of detail in the statement of policy intent.


Can I just ask a question on that? You just mentioned that the conduct Order is likely to be published in the autumn for consultation. The timeline for this particular Bill is not to be completed until November, I think. So, will the conduct Order that is published in the autumn focus on the Members and elections Bill and perhaps the elected bodies Bill, depending on how far that's gone, and will there be, therefore, an amendment to the conduct Order if this Bill is successful?

Yes. It will be an amendment to the Members and elections Bill.

Yes, sorry, just to add, it's the Members and elections Bill, but there are also provisions within the elections and elected bodies Bill that would, if passed, give rise to changes in the conduct Order as well. So, the main conduct Order that will be consulted on in the autumn won't implement the electoral candidate lists Bill. If passed, obviously, there will be a second Order that would amend the main conduct Order to provide for this.

Just another question on this. My understanding is that the current conduct Order, though, doesn't include the impact of the withdrawal of candidates after nomination on compliance with the quota rules or the impact of vacancies that occur during a Senedd term on the gender balance of the Senedd. So, that is what we're expecting to come through in the autumn—is that correct? So, at the moment, then, you must have some idea of how you see that working, so can you provide us with some understanding of how you see that going forward?

Well, as you say, it's not, under the current rules, possible to withdraw a candidate or a list of candidates from the election after the deadline for the submission of nominations. But we're working through the process with key stakeholders on this, on how withdrawals could be handled in terms of the compliance with the rules in this Bill, in terms of the quotas. I mean, obviously, there are some events that could be beyond a party's control that could impact on compliance. So, we do need to look to ensure that we've got safeguards in the conduct Order, in the secondary legislation, so that the returning officers and the national nominations compliance officer can respond appropriately and proportionately, but as far as possible aligning this with current rules and processes. But it will all be set out in that secondary legislation.

Okay. Thank you. Yes, the AEA, again, has said that confidence in the democratic process could be affected unless that is extremely clear, particularly the impact of a candidate withdrawing or dying during the election process or timetable. So, you are absolutely confident that that will be resolved in the conduct Order in the autumn.

Yes. I think we've also got provision in the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill in terms of these circumstances. We are talking, in terms of our experience over the last 25 years, about very low levels of withdrawals or vacancies that occur, which could have an impact on this Bill.

Can I expand on that a little bit? In the previous Bill, for which we had Stage 3 yesterday, we did question the vacancy agenda and how we'd fill vacancies—[Inaudible.]—concerned about. Sarah has highlighted that the two possible options are where a candidate withdraws or passes away prior to an election taking place and how that affects it, but also the situation of casual vacancies. Now, the current Bill, for which we had Stage 3 yesterday, says that the next on the list will be taken. That could impact upon the gender balance as a consequence. Are there any plans of the Government to amend, through this Bill, that Bill to show that it's the next on the list of the same gender?

Well, there aren't any plans, currently, to change this under the Bill. But I think if you look at party lists having—. If the party lists have the required proportion of women  and have ordered them according to the rules, then, in theory, there should be at least a 50 per cent chance that an outgoing Member will be replaced by a woman and that would mean that the proportion of women overall in the Senedd is maintained. Obviously, I realise that that question will have come up, because it is the case that the outgoing Member's place would be offered to the next eligible person on the party's list, regardless of gender. But we do feel that the party list and quota arrangements could, in theory, lead to giving us at least a 50 per cent chance for a replacement by a woman.


But it's also theoretically possible, therefore, to reduce the balance as a consequence of a female leaving and the next on the list being a male. That is a possibility.

I mean, I think—. As I said, we know that there are very few casual vacancies of that kind. But I think it's important that we recognise that we're talking here about candidate quotas in this Bill, so the rules apply to candidates on party lists and not beyond the point at which they stand nominated for their party. But we think that to introduce further rules could be quite complex and disproportionate in terms of the low number of vacancies that are likely to occur and also the nature and rigour of existing rules that apply to lists at nomination stage, and we're keen to get this Bill through in terms of the main purpose.

I just want to ask one more question, if that's okay, Chair. Obviously, you kind of touched on this a little bit before, about there have been concerns raised about what if parties—the smaller parties, really—can't find enough women to stand. The Fawcett Society agreed with your take on this, Trefnydd. They said a big part of the obstacle to women's participation is actually at selectorate level in the local parties. So, when you remove that power for those individuals to express a preference or a bias towards men, you unleash a pool of talent. So, that is one thought. We did receive evidence from the Welsh Conservatives, Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru, who acknowledged that it can be a challenge to find women to come forward, but they believe they can achieve it. But I did want to touch on that we did receive evidence from the Welsh Young Liberals, and they say the Bill should include guidance on what parties can do in the event that they cannot reach the 50 per cent threshold. So, have you considered this? What is your response to this? Is this something that is going to be discussed?

I think it's a really valid point. We're looking again at the evidence that's come forward. I think what's interesting, which is very encouraging, is the way that there's been so much evidence that, if we create the demand through the provisions in the Bill, the supply will follow. I've mentioned one forum I attended, with huge enthusiasm. I know that there's enthusiasm from men as well as women in terms of this forthcoming 2026 election, and from people of many different protected characteristics. But, as far as women are concerned, we have got to deal with all of the other quota-plus issues and see this as about gender parity. I hope that the diversity and inclusion guidance that political parties are going to have to produce under the Members and elections Bill will include guidance particularly addressing the issues that have made it difficult to attract women to stand for election. Again, I was very taken by what Joyce Watson said from the caucus, and others who gave evidence there, that voluntary quotas mean there's no consistency across parties, there's no consistent message, there's no consistent call, if you like. So, I hope that we'd be able, with all of the things that we need to do, and we've mentioned them and I won't go over them again, to support women—. There's a duty in the elections and elected bodies Bill to put in place arrangements—I won't repeat it all again—structures and schemes, remove barriers to participation, that will address that issue.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Os caf i jest ofyn am un elfen sydd wedi dod drosodd yn y dystiolaeth hefyd o ran cam-drin ac aflonyddu a'r dystiolaeth efallai sydd wedi'i gyflwyno i ni, jest y bygythiad fyddai'n gallu dod o gwotâu o ran trais yn erbyn menywod yn benodol, pa ystyriaeth sydd wedi'i roi o ran yr ochr addysgu'r boblogaeth ynglŷn â pham y bydden ni'n mynd lawr y llwybr hwn, ond hefyd o ran diogelu ymgeisyddion a gweithredu os byddai yna fygythiadau yna, oherwydd, yn amlwg, rydyn ni eisiau i bawb deimlo'n ddiogel os ydyn nhw'n rhoi eu hunain ymlaen mewn etholiad? Felly, dwi jest eisiau gweld pa ystyriaeth rydych chi wedi'i roi i'r dystiolaeth yna rŷn ni wedi'i chlywed, oherwydd, yn amlwg, rydyn ni eisiau i bobl, os ydyn nhw'n cael eu hethol, hefyd i aros mewn gwleidyddiaeth, ac, yn anffodus, rydyn ni wedi gweld, yn y gorffennol, rhai menywod blaenllaw yn sefyll lawr o fod yn Aelod etholedig oherwydd bygythiadau. Felly, oes yna unrhyw ystyriaeth wedi'i roi o ran yr elfen ddiogelwch ymgeisyddion, yn enwedig yng nghyd-destun peth o'r dystiolaeth efo, weithiau, adwaith yn erbyn cwotâu?

Thank you very much. If I could just ask about one element that's come across in the evidence, and that's in terms of harassment and abuse, and the evidence perhaps that's been presented to us on the threat that could arise from quotas in terms of violence against women specifically, what consideration has been given in terms of educating the population about why we'd be going down this path, but also in terms of protecting candidates and taking action if there were threats, because, clearly, we want everybody to feel safe if they put themselves forward for election? So, I just wanted to see what consideration you'd given to that evidence we've heard, because, clearly, we want people, if they're elected, also to stay in politics, and, unfortunately, we have seen in the past some women standing down from being elected Members because of threats. So, has any consideration been given to that safety element for candidates, particularly in the context of some of the evidence in terms of reacting against quotas?


Diolch yn fawr. We know how toxic politics can be, and intrusive, particularly facing women. The women here in this room know what that has meant, and what it means to them. We also know that we have—. I think I would bring in here our violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence legislation and, indeed, strategy, which, actually, is now extending beyond domestic violence to violence in the home and the workplace, which I would include as this Senedd, and, indeed, dignity and respect, the work that the Senedd Commission has done, and all our groups have undertaken the dignity and respect training, and also further training on sexual harassment, which I'm sure groups have undertaken as well. The standards committee is really important to this, as well as the Senedd Commission.

I think it is important that we acknowledge this today, but we know that we will not make progress in terms of an effective Senedd unless we have gender parity, unless we have women in those positions who are able to stand up and support and speak up with their male colleagues against this kind of abuse of women in politics. This, of course, includes online abuse, which I think is perhaps the hardest for us to handle. It's really important that we recognise that this is about gender quota plus, which has come through the evidence. I'm very conscious of the fact that much of the evidence, including the academics', said this can't be just about quotas; this has got to be about the wider cultural issues.

And then, of course, we do know that we can learn from other parts of the world, can't we, in terms of how they've addressed this. I'm very conscious of the fact that this is—. We've got 130 countries worldwide who've got similar proportional electoral systems, with a closed list proportional system, which is going through the Members and elections Bill. We know that we can be part of that cohort globally of countries to take this forward and address these issues.

We'll move on now to questions on cost, and Darren.

Before I come on to costs, if I may, Minister, I just wondered what consideration the Welsh Government has given to public attitudes towards gender quotas. There was some YouGov polling undertaken on behalf of the committee, and it suggested that support for gender quotas is outnumbered by those people who oppose gender quotas by 3:1 amongst the public at large across Wales. What consideration have you given to that in bringing forward these measures?

Well, clearly, we hope to take the public with us, don't we, Darren, in terms of this development. Actually, I have had sight of—I know it's just come through, hasn't it—these YouGov survey findings. Of 1,000 adults in Wales aged 16 plus, 14 per cent strongly support, but 43 per cent neither support nor oppose. I'm interested in that 43 per cent, particularly in terms of their demographics. It's interesting, as it says, that 40 per cent or higher in 16 out of the 23 demographics—. We have got—. This is why we have manifestos, we have party and political programmes, we have programmes for government to take this forward. I’m very minded to look at the work of the cross-party group here on women, which really sees that gender quotas are the most effective—from Jennifer Piscopo’s work, and I think she came to you—tool to increase the number of women in office, with parity being seen as a permanent expression of a just, fair democracy. I think that’s the message that we would want to put out to women.

But I think if you have been elected as a woman—and there are women elected Members here—we can only say that the response from the public, as, I’m sure, for you, Darren, as the elected Member in your constituency, is very forthcoming. We need that kind of parity. We need—. Fifty-one per cent of the population are women and only 31 per cent of the candidates, because we didn’t have quotas—we did have voluntary in some parties, obviously, but only 31 per cent at the last election. We’re not at parity. We haven’t got gender parity in Wales, and that’s the message we put out to the public. So, thank you for asking me the question.


But, just to be clear, regardless of the public's position at present—and I appreciate things can change in terms of public attitudes, but—regardless of the public position being 3:1 against gender quotas, you're going to press ahead anyway.

Well, this is about change, isn't it, and how you take people with you—

—and how you promote the change, and what the change will mean. Doesn't this go back to the purpose of the Bill, which—? Of course, the message has to come over very clearly and strongly: 130 countries are already implementing this. Wales is leading the way, groundbreaking legislation; I won’t repeat again what I’ve said about the importance. But it is about a more effective legislature, a more effective Senedd. That is the purpose: a more effective Senedd and legislature. I think if you, again, go back to the evidence, the findings of the studies by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership have found that women legislators see representing women as part of their role and legislate more than men on women’s priority issues. 

I'm not disputing that evidence, Minister, but I'm just asking you about—

A positive effect on culture, on legislation. But, anyway, the fact is, the purpose of the Bill is as it is, and the support for us to be here today is because it's part of our programme for government and co-operation agreement, and there's a lot of strong support for it. 

Not amongst the population there's not a lot of strong support for it, including women, who by 2:1 disagree that there should be gender quotas.

But if I can just move on to costs, Minister, you obviously have an indication of costs, which you’ve set out in the explanatory memorandum, but, because we can’t see the conduct Order, and we know it’s going to be substantial, it’s very difficult for us to determine what the actual costs of the implementation of this Bill might be. How have you managed to make such an estimate in the explanatory memorandum, given that you haven’t published the conduct Order yet and you don’t know what’s going to be in it?

Well, I was very pleased to appear before the Finance Committee last week, and was able to answer these questions there. As I said to them at the time, the Finance Committee, the total costs are estimated in the regulatory impact assessment, and estimated to be £21,000, which is a very modest cost. But I can go through the elements that we know. We know these costs are estimated, but £21,000—£18,000 for IT systems to facilitate the running of elections, £1,500 at each election in relation to the designation of the national nominations compliance officer; that’s £3,000 over the eight-year appraisal period. But we have—. Since the RIA was published, I think it’s important, Darren, that the Electoral Commission has identified a cost in the region of £6,000 for work undertaken by their new legislation team to prepare for the implementation of the Bill—that’s staff costs—and guidance. In total, we now estimate a cost of £27,000 to implement the Bill, which includes all of that and the NNCO fees at two elections. 


So, you're allowing for an increased cost and you'll be publishing a revised addendum to the explanatory memorandum. I'm grateful for that. And in terms of costs to local authorities, you're content that there are no additional costs to local authorities as a result of the Bill. You didn't reference any there, in particular. 

I think the statement of policy intent makes it clear that we fund the local authorities for the administration of Senedd elections, but actually, what happens is they pay the upfront payments because initially it falls on them. It says that in the regulatory impact assessment. They've got the contracts with the companies to do the work, but we reimburse the local authorities for the costs incurred. 

So, you pay them whatever they claim back, effectively, regardless of the costs. Is that right? 

There's a fees and charges Order, as there was for the 2021 Senedd election, and that sets out limits within which returning officers can claim back the costs. I'd probably just say in addition to what the Trefnydd has said that in the preparation of the regulatory impact assessment, we engaged with electoral administrators via the Welsh Local Government Association. Obviously, it needs to be seen in the context of the wider Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, but the feedback that we had from electoral administrators, returning officers, as well as the electoral management teams, was that they would deal with the implications of the electoral candidate lists Bill, bearing in mind it is a very narrow application in terms of the overall electoral system within the parameters of their current responsibilities, obviously accounting for the costs that we've identified.

We all know that there's potential risk of this Bill not being within the Senedd's competence, and you've already alluded to the fact that this can be introduced by Order at a later date perhaps than the other package of reforms. If it were not to be commenced—if this Bill went through its passage here in the Senedd, but it was not to be commenced in time for the 2026 Senedd elections—what would the implications for the costs be then? Would you be having to revise them again further, or do you still feel that the estimates are appropriate? 

I think so. This is the sort of thing that could happen to any piece of legislation on its travels through to Royal Assent. 

Just to say that the costs identified in the RIA are relatively distinct from those that are within the Members and elections Bill. So, there isn't a huge sensitivity around implementing this at the same time as those wider reforms. Obviously, there would be implications in terms of inflation. The affordability assessment in the explanatory memorandum sets that out on the basis of two elections in 2026 and 2030. If that rolled forward by an electoral cycle, that would have an implication, but we could update that, obviously, as part of the regulatory impact assessment.

And obviously, given the likelihood of legal challenges, either from a UK Government or individuals who may want to challenge the competency issues and take the matter to the Supreme Court, why haven't you included any costs in respect of a potential Supreme Court challenge? 

We wouldn't do that with any Bill, even if we thought there was a possibility of challenge. In no Bill do we anticipate what could happen in the future. So, this would not be appropriate for any financial estimation. Obviously, we're taking this Bill forward in good faith that it is in competence, as I've already outlined to this committee. 

But you already recognise the risk as a Welsh Government; that's why you've hived off this part of the reform package into a separate Bill. So, why wouldn't you make provision? Any person in an organisation or within their family, if they knew there was likely to be a potential cost, would surely try to estimate those costs before taking something forward.

I would be very surprised—and perhaps our lawyer or others could say something—if any Government would take forward a Bill and start estimating costs of not being able to progress. What is important is that you are scrutinising this Bill, alongside our colleagues in the Finance Committee and in the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee. But I think it's just important to say, in terms of this Bill, that we did take this Bill forward as a separate Bill, which enabled the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill to progress at pace. We are mindful of the timetables for Senedd reform. But it has meant that this Bill has had its detailed scrutiny, specific separate consultation, which I think has been important, in parallel to the passage of the main reforms.


You said it's had detailed scrutiny, but you've curtailed the scrutiny, haven't you? We've got a shorter period to scrutinise. There was a suggestion that the reason this had been delayed was to improve the scrutiny process, but that's clearly not been the case, Minister, if I might say so, because we've had a shorter time to be able to scrutinise this Bill than any usual Bill that comes before the Senedd. So, I'm sorry, I would not accept the point that you've made about this having the benefit of detailed public scrutiny, because it hasn't.

If I can just turn to this issue of terminology of sex and gender, if that's okay. We've had a number of witnesses that have raised the inconsistency, if you like, between references to women in the Equality Act 2010, for example, where it's clearly defined in terms of biological sex, and what appears to be the much broader definition and the intent of this Bill, particularly in the explanatory memorandum, where it refers to gender. It doesn't define what 'woman' is—I can see that that is not defined on the face of the Bill. But isn't that a problem? The Equality and Human Rights Commission seems to think it is a potential problem, and that there ought to be a definition on the Bill of what the Welsh Government means when it refers to 'woman', given that there is a clear inconsistency between what you seem to be implying in the explanatory memorandum and the definition of 'woman' under the Equality Act.

Thank you for that question. You know, of course, that the purpose of this Bill is a more effective Senedd, and this is to be sought and achieved through greater gender balance. The legislation doesn't include a definition of 'woman', and the Bill is not about defining a woman. It's not uncommon, in fact, Darren, for pieces of legislation to use but not define the term 'woman'. If you want an example, an example is the Lords Spiritual (Women) Act 2015; the legislation requires a bishop who is a woman to fill a vacancy where, under seniority rules, it would otherwise be a man. The term 'woman' is not defined in this legislation either.

But also, as I've said, the Bill does not refer to gender at all. And 'gender' is commonly used across the world in the context of such quotas. It was the terminology of the special purpose committee, and earlier reports on Senedd reform, and it's against that background that the term is used in the explanatory memorandum. We've fully considered and we've noted the Equality and Human Rights Commission's evidence to the Reform Bill Committee, and they were fully considered in developing the Bill. So, just again for the record, the requirements of this Bill would not lead to parties or candidates being required to act unlawfully under the Equality Act 2010, or any other enactment. And we don't consider that the use of the term 'gender' in the explanatory memorandum would lead to confusion as to the meaning of 'woman' in the Bill.

We all accept, don't we, that the term 'gender' may have had a different meaning 20 years ago to most people, where it would have been interchangeable with 'sex'. That's clearly not the case now, and therefore wouldn't it be helpful to put a definition of what you mean by 'woman' on the face of the Bill? And if you don't think so, why wouldn't you? What do you have to fear by defining a woman on the face of the Bill?

I think I've given my explanation, Cadeirydd, about this. The Bill is not about defining 'woman'. I've given an example where legislation has used but hasn't defined the term 'woman'. Obviously, this is an issue where it's been important to receive all the Senedd Reform Committee's evidence on this point, but we must go back to the fact that the Bill doesn't refer to gender at all, and the term 'gender', as I said, is commonly used across the world in the context of quotas, and it's the terminology of the special purpose committee. The special purpose committee's recommendations were supported by this Senedd. It reported in June 2022, and then it was backed by the Senedd, and that's why the term's used in the explanatory memorandum. But I think there may be something that might be useful just in terms of looking at the way this has happened in other countries, like Ireland. Would you like to say something about that, Anna?


Obviously, I'm not an expert in Irish law, but the Irish electoral law has quotas in it—different quotas to these, but quotas nonetheless—and that primary legislation uses the term 'man', 'woman' and 'gender' in the primary legislation. I can't give you a definitive view of the wider legal landscape of what they define, but those pieces of legislation use those terms and they don't define them. So, I think, as the Trefnydd has said, the term 'gender' is used in this context commonly.

So, why are you reluctant to use the word 'gender' on the face of the Bill, then, just as a matter of interest, if it's not a problematic term?

I think this was the way we saw that this was appropriate for the actual legislation, and then the explanatory memorandum explains how we would deliver that in terms of the quotas.

I think it just wasn't necessary to use the term 'gender' on the face of the Bill, because, obviously, our Bill talks about the proportion and placement of women, and so we don't need to use the term 'gender'. But obviously, then, in the explanatory memorandum, when we talk about the statement that will be made, we talk about the gender statement.

Let's be straight about this: to most people, 'woman' means a female human being. When we come to gender, that's a completely different matter, isn't it? Because people can describe themselves as 'gender fluid', regardless of their biological sex. So, it seems to me, and many of the witnesses who've written in to us, that it's not helpful to have no definition of what the Welsh Government means a woman to be. Even if it's not on the face of the Bill, could you clarify, for the purpose of the committee's work, what the Welsh Government regards a woman to be?

I think, probably, again, we look to some of the evidence that you have had. I'm interested in looking back at the Electoral Reform Society Cymru's evidence and what they said. There is no concern coming from that robust organisation, nor from WEN Wales, about how we have drafted this in terms of needing to recognise this in terms of the explanatory memorandum in terms of 'gender', and 'woman' on the face of the Bill. I think it is important to recognise that over 130 countries use quotas and they use this terminology. Obviously, we're learning from those countries, aren't we. So, we don't agree that this is needed. It does what it does, the legislation—I think that's what WEN Wales says—and it recognises all identities in Wales.

As we understand it, the other quota examples that you refer to, when they refer to 'women', it means biological sex—you know, female—rather than people being able to self-identify. And in fact, where they have been able to self-identify as women, we understand that there was one legal challenge, because some men decided to identify themselves as women, even though they weren't living as women, in Mexico. The result of that, of course, was a legal challenge that was eventually resolved, but, clearly, that could potentially be a risk here. Even if you're not defining it on the face of the Bill, I find it difficult to understand why the Welsh Government doesn't want to define it, even in the explanatory memorandum.

I think the Minister has already given an answer to that. 

Well, perhaps she'd like to define what a woman is today. I think that might be helpful. Are you able to define a woman, for the Welsh Government's purposes?

Can I perhaps comment on what you said about the only case, the one and only case, the only example? One hundred and thirty countries, Darren—


I know how committed you are to the Commonwealth, which includes some of those countries. Mexico is the only example where the system was abused by a group of men claiming to be women. It was dealt with by the election tribunal. The system is now working well. One example in over 130 countries.

But I think what's important is that we go back to the earlier questions about compliance. This is about our political parties getting this right. This is about the purpose of this Bill, which is what, I know, you're scrutinising—the purpose of the Bill. A returning officer can reject a nomination if the candidate's particulars are not as required by the law. Ultimately, of course, it could go to the courts, but parties and candidates will want to ensure that accurate statements are made, and this is about the reputation of the political parties and the candidates themselves. And I do think that if you have an organisation like WEN Wales, which represents thousands of women in Wales, amongst many organisations, like the Women’s Institute, the Soroptimists and many others, who say that they feel this legislation does what's needed to get gender quotas, that's what we should be focusing on today.

I think the reason that there haven't been more legal challenges in other countries, though, Minister, with respect, is because they've defined what a woman is. It's a biological issue. It's not an issue that is defined by an individual being able to present themselves with a gender that they have chosen. It's a biological issue, therefore it's not going to pose a problem because it's easy to interpret. The term 'woman' on the face of this Bill isn't defined. You're unable to give us a definition this morning. I've asked you a few times what the Welsh Government's definition of a woman is in order to help us scrutinise the Bill. And that, I don't think, is particularly helpful.

I'd still like to know. We have time, Chair. I'd like to know why there's a reluctance, that's all.

—in terms of the development of this legislation?

Darren, there's no reluctance in this sense. The Minister has given her answer in response to the question. We need to move on to other questions. And I do know we have time, but we do have some questions we do have to clarify.

We do, although I don't think we've had that question answered. Can I just ask about this issue of candidates making false statements? We've been told by witnesses that returning officers must accept on face value any declarations that are made by candidates at the point of nomination. And they can't usually challenge those unless they are, frankly, ridiculous assertions and they're making up clearly fictitious names and clearly fictitious addresses, for example. Why are you not giving returning officers more clout in terms of being able to reject what might clearly come forward as nonsense assertions about people's gender at the time that they may be nominated?

Well, I think this is an important question. The quota rules have been designed to accord with our electoral system proposed in the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, and also existing rules with regard to nominations. That, of course, as I've said, involves candidates providing that accurate personal information in nomination papers and returning offices accepting that information at face value. I've said, and it goes back to compliance, there's no criminal offence of making a false or incorrect statement. It won't be a correct practice. But it's back to the parties and the candidates—they'll have an interest in showing that accurate statements are made. All of us who've actually stood for election, how nervous we all are, aren't we, including himself, I'm sure, to make sure everything is done appropriately. There's not going to be any change in the way that means people who put themselves forward for public office will start thinking that this is some way that they can escape the rules. It's going to be, for them, personally and politically, and for their party, important that accurate statements are made.

We've gone back to this point about the abuse that women face, and many people face, in terms of putting themselves forward for public office. Are you seriously thinking that people aren't going to come forward and make those accurate statements? And can I say also, Darren, that, actually, what we say in this committee, and what I say, is really important to what people are listening to out there. Do we want women to come forward? Yes, we do, and they will be making accurate statements, and their parties will make sure that they do.

I'd just say that two parties—not yours—gave evidence to the committee, as you know—


Actually, my party did give evidence to the committee.

—but I was going to say two parties gave evidence who'd operated voluntary quotas in the past. And those parties, Labour and Plaid Cymru, noted that they don't ask candidates for evidence of their gender currently—and this goes back to your earlier point—and they don't envisage this being a problem. So, I think we've got to take this forward in the spirit of groundbreaking legislation, due care, appropriate checks. There is a route of challenge to elections, as you know, Darren, through the election petition, and there's no change to the grounds or process for bringing a petition to challenge an election.

Election petitions, of course, are a very expensive route to being able to challenge the outcome of a candidate statement being false, aren't they, though, Minister? You're talking many tens of thousands of pounds if a private individual or a political party wants to challenge an election outcome because they believe that somebody's made a false statement. Why haven't you simply gone down the election fraud route, where, if somebody can simply report a matter to the police, they get on and they prosecute with the Crown Prosecution Service?

Well, I think it might be worth just mentioning the other point about false statements, Chair, which is the role of the returning officer. So, the returning officer's role is to check that a nomination paper is correct on its face. They're not investigating the accuracy of any of the information provided by candidates during the nomination process, but they are checking that the nomination paper is correct on its face. Now, that's what happens in Ireland, and it's really important to recognise the whole system that operates as it does. We don't anticipate election petitions. It's a route of challenge to elections—of course it is—through an election petition. I don't think we've had any election petitions during the last 25 years of our Senedd, and we don't anticipate that there will be, but, obviously, we will address this in section 13, in terms of the conduct Order, in terms of timescales when a petition could be presented. But, I think, just in terms of what that could mean, it relates to all our elections, presumably, in terms of the process, et cetera—

I want to move on, because we've got 15 minutes left, and we haven't discussed the very important aspect of competence. 

Yes. Can I just ask one final question, if I may? It's on this particular issue of engagement with women's organisations, if I might ask. I noticed that you referred that you'd engaged with the Women's Equality Network and a number of other organisations. Can I ask whether you've engaged with some of the women's organisations that oppose this gender quota Bill, in order to bring some balance to the consultations that you've had—so, the Women's Rights Network, Merched Cymru, some of those organisations—and if not, why not?

Well, we haven't been approached by those organisations for a meeting. Obviously, we ought to be engaged with them. We've engaged with established networks, and I've given some indication of the sort of representation of those, and the basis of the membership of those networks that we have engaged with—but, obviously, full consultation.

And can I just go back to one point you made, Darren, about this time of scrutiny? Can I congratulate the Senedd reform committee on the way that you have undertaken and reached out to get all of that evidence, from all opinions? I think it's been exemplary.

We'll move on to competence, and we'll start off with Heledd. 

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Fe fyddwch chi'n ymwybodol o'r dystiolaeth sydd wedi bod gerbron y pwyllgor o ran cymhwysedd deddfwriaethol. Mae'r farn gyfreithiol dŷn ni wedi'i dderbyn yn sôn am amwysedd o ran y maes hwn. Gaf i ofyn, felly, ydych chi wedi adlewyrchu ar beth o'r dystiolaeth sydd wedi ei darparu i ni, ac a oes gennych chi farn bellach o ran y cymhwysedd deddfwriaethol, o ran y Bil hwn?

Thank you very much. You'll be aware of the evidence that's been before the committee in terms of legislative competence. The legal view that we've received talks about ambiguity in this area. Could I ask, therefore, if you have reflected on some of the evidence that's been provided to us, and do you have a further view with regard to the legislative competence, in terms of this Bill?


Diolch yn fawr. Well, I think I've said fully what I wanted to say on this matter in terms of the Bill being in competence. I've noted with interest the various legal views on competence that have been presented, noting, of course, that there are differences of opinion between them, just as the Llywydd and I have reached different views, and we respect all the legal opinions that have been given. I remain of the view that the Bill is within the legislative competence of the Senedd, and I look forward to your consideration of those views.

I watched carefully the session you had with the Legislation and Justice Committee on Monday, and some of the evidence you referred to was from some of the evidence we've received from legal people, and particularly Thomas Glyn Watkin, who you mentioned a couple of times, and who, for our evidence, was the only one who clearly said that he thought it was, on balance, within competence. But he also highlighted the challenges that might come as a consequence of the Bill going through. He highlighted the fact that the case for avoiding such possibilities of challenges, and possible disruptions to elections, would be a definitive ruling on the validity of the Bill's provisions prior to the enactment and implementation of the Bill. And as I think we talked about in the very first session, the supreme arbitrator would be the Supreme Court. Has the Welsh Government, therefore, taken a view that, perhaps, to resolve all matters, to avoid any problematic areas during an election, it might well itself take the matter to the Supreme Court, to ensure that, when it comes to 2026, there is no possibility of challenge, because it's clear—it's all done and dusted?

Diolch yn fawr. Obviously, I have seen and quoted, as you said, the eminent Professor Thomas Glyn Watkin KC's views on this. And, as I've said, the scrutiny process has revealed a range of opinions on legislative competence, and we have to be mindful of the possibility of a challenge. But, obviously, it remains the case it is only the Attorney-General or the Counsel General who can refer the Bill to the Supreme Court, and that has to be done at a time after a Bill has been passed by the Senedd, when the final provisions of the Bill are settled. So, we don't need to speculate about what that view would be until the relevant time. But I think it is important, perhaps, to say that, in terms of timescale, it's about the main provision coming into force by Order, rather than provision in the Bill, and that gives scope for providing for a later coming into force, should there be a delay, whatever the cause of that may be. Is that correct, Will?

I appreciate that. Because you said that there's a tight timescale in which either the Attorney-General or the Counsel General can refer it, I just wondered whether you would be looking to do that as quickly as possible so that, by the time the Order would come into place, you would already have a definitive position from the Supreme Court on this, so that, in the 2026 election, there would be no likelihood of a challenge, because it had been resolved.

I think, in terms of looking at the timing, do you want to answer that, Anna?

Yes. Obviously, as the Trefnydd just said, and as you are already aware, it's only the Attorney-General and the Counsel General who can do it, but even the Counsel General exercises this particular function independently of Government, so it really just isn't the time or place for us to speculate about what his view will be. He will need to take a view, when this Bill has passed, when he sees precisely what the provisions look like, because, obviously, they could change throughout the scrutiny process, and that, obviously, could have an impact on the competence assessment, going forward. And so, whilst, obviously, as the Trefnydd said, we've been mindful of recognising that there is a range of opinions, we can't at this moment say what we would do, because it isn't something that the Government can tell the Counsel General to do; he exercises that independently of Government.

Okay. I understand that, that it's independent from you. But, at this point in time, there is no position of the Government to seek the advice of the Counsel General to actually review that, as to whether it goes or not. There is no plan to say to the Counsel General, 'We think you should take this away.'


No, I'm not sure it would be appropriate for the Government to do so.

Yes, can I just ask about the impact of this Bill on section 104 of the Equality Act 2010? So, as we know, the provisions in section 104 give some permission for political parties to take some positive action in order to discriminate on the basis of the various protected characteristics, including sex. This Bill will, effectively, change the provisions to require some positive action to take place. Will political parties still be able to take other action in addition to the action, in the opinion of the Welsh Government, that's required by this Bill through the gender quota system it introduces?

Yes, I mean, that's a very helpful point, because we accept that section 104 will continue to apply in respect of voluntary action like it does now. And of course, the Bill's provisions operate separately from, but alongside, section 104 of the Equality Act. Again, for the record, of course, colleagues will be aware that section 104 prevents voluntary positive discrimination by political parties in particular circumstances from being unlawful under the Equality Act. So, it's important to confirm that, yes, it can continue to apply to terms of voluntary action.

Is there not a risk that any action by political parties, once this piece of legislation comes into force—is there not a risk that that might be regarded as disproportionate, given that the provisions of this Bill, effectively, are going to address the issue of proportionality of gender representation?

Well, I think the parties will have to consider how their selection arrangements comply with the quota rules and the Equality Act, and they'll be taking legal advice as they see fit, but there's no express modification of the Equality Act 2010. And anyway, any implied modification of section 104 would be permitted by paragraph 2 of Schedule 7B to the Government of Wales Act 2006. 

I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with that provision. Is there anyone who can help me and just give us a bit more information about that?

Yes, I can clarify that. So, Schedule 7B sets out the restrictions. It's the fourth test, fourth competence test, and Schedule 7B sets out the restrictions on competence—so, not things that relate to reserved matters, things that are within devolved competence. But there are other restrictions on top of that and one of those restrictions is modifying the law on reserved matters.

The law on reserved matters is enactments that relate to reserved matters. But paragraph 2—. Obviously, that comes under paragraph 1, that restriction. Paragraph 2 gives a kind of exemption from that in that it says that, if you do modify a provision of the law on reserved matters, provided that modification is ancillary to a provision that is devolved and has no greater effect on the law on reserved matters, then it will be within competence, so the restriction doesn't apply.

So, it's this minor and consequential effect issue that we've discussed in previous sessions.

So, we would say—. Obviously, our general view is that we don't modify the law on reserved matters, but, to any extent that we did, it would be justified because it would ancillary to the devolved purpose of a more effective Senedd.

Can I bring Jane in, because she wants to ask a supplementary?

Dyw e ddim ar y pwnc yna, os yw e'n iawn i gario ymlaen. Dwi jest eisiau mynd yn ôl, os yw'n iawn—mae gennym ni dipyn bach o amser—i jest gadarnhau'r sefyllfa pan fo yna fenyw sydd ar ben y rhestr ac mae hi'n gorfod sefyll i lawr am ryw reswm, ac wedyn, fel rŷn ni'n ei ddisgwyl, bydd dyn yn dod i fyny ar y rhestr. Dwi braidd yn ofnus fyddwn ni ddim yn gweld y pethau rydyn ni eu heisiau, os yw hynny’n digwydd. Jest i fynd yn ôl, os yw hynny'n iawn: oes yna amser i feddwl am hynny a thrio sicrhau bod menywod yn mynd i ben y rhestr pan fo menyw ar ben y rhestr ac mae hi'n gorfod sefyll i lawr? Achos fyddwn ni ddim yn cwblhau beth rydyn ni eisiau ei weld yn y dyfodol, os yw hynny'n iawn i'w ofyn. Diolch. 

It's not on this particular topic, but if it is okay I will ask it. I just wanted to return, if I may, because we do have some time, just to confirm the situation when there is a woman at the top of the list and she has to stand down for some reason, and then, as we'd anticipate, there would be a man next on that list. I'm slightly concerned that we won't see desired outcomes of this Bill, if that's the case. If I could just return, if I may: is there time to consider that issue and to try to ensure that women do replace women when a women has to stand down? Because we won't achieve the desired outcomes otherwise, if that's okay for me to ask. Thank you.


Well, I did respond to that. At this point in time, the position is, as in the existing legislation and the forthcoming legislation, that it would be the next on the list, and I made the point that there have only been three to five vacancies ever—people coming off out of elections. Of course, there is a point also that, once you have your name in to a certain extent, for a period of time, if you’re beyond the point where you can withdraw it, your name will stay. But, of course, it also depends on how parties actually develop their lists anyway. It’s useful again to look at the examples of the compliant lists as well to see that it’s not necessarily the case that it could not be a woman. I think that’s the point, isn’t it, Will?

Yes, obviously, the vertical rules do allow for consecutive women on lists, so it wouldn’t necessarily be the case that it would be a man that follows. I suppose just to reiterate the point that I think the Trefnydd made earlier, the quotas operate on a candidate basis, and I think the judgment that’s been made—at this point, at least—is that that would then get into a Member and almost a reserved seats model, but I’m sure that’s something the committee will consider.

I appreciate—and I'll come back to Darren in a second—I appreciate, and I've heard it twice, this Bill will focus on the candidates list, but the purpose—if I remember rightly; I've heard it several times—is to actually produce a balanced Senedd. So, the purpose is a balanced Senedd; the Bill works on the list. I appreciate that. Okay, Darren.

Obviously, we don’t have a great deal of time left, but can I just ask about the engagement that UK Government might have had with you over this Bill? Again, I watched the evidence session with the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee in respect of this, and I know that there has been some engagement with the UK Government over the provisions. Can you tell us where that engagement is at, for the benefit of this committee?

Yes, and I think I said at my previous appearance before the committee that there was engagement with relevant Government departments—the justice department, particularly—and the information commissioner as the Bill was being developed, but there’s now been an exchange of correspondence between the Secretary of State for Wales and the First Minister. I believe you’ve got copies of both letters, have you, Chair? Well, can we share those? Very happy—

—to share both those letters. And, in the First Minister’s reply to the Secretary of State, he offered for our officials to meet at an appropriate time after the committees have considered and reported on the Bill.

I think, actually, the Secretary of State himself said that that would be appropriate for officials to meet, and we’ve responded accordingly. I don’t know if—. Catrin, have you got the letter in sight, in front of you?

No, I haven’t got the letter in sight, but, yes, the First Minister has responded to indicate that officials would meet at the appropriate time, which is considered to be after the committees have reported.

Wouldn’t it be better to engage and have discussions before? I mean, you’ve had these discussions with other departments; why couldn’t you have a discussion with the Wales Office at the same time? Given that you’ve already been discussing with the UK Government in respect of two other departments, why not engage with the Wales Office? It's the obvious one, isn’t it, as the guardian of the Government of Wales Act.

Well, I think the most appropriate thing now, Chair, is to share the correspondence with you and you can see the points made by both the Secretary of State and the First Minister.

That would be helpful in the production of our report. Okay. We've come to the end of our time allocation. Can I thank you, Trefnydd, for your attendance and your evidence, and your colleagues? As you know, you will receive a copy of the transcript. If there are factual inaccuracies, please let the clerking team know as soon as possible.

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod, ac o’r cyfarfod ar 22 Mai 2024
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting, and from the meeting on 22 May 2024


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod, ac o'r cyfarfod ar 22 Mai 2024, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting, and from the meeting on 22 May 2024, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

For Members, I now propose, under Standing Order 17.42(ix), that we resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting and from our meeting on 22 May 2024. Agreed.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:14.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:14.