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Labour and Plaid Cymru reveal plans for 36 extra Senedd members

The two parties also want to ditch the first past the post voting system and see gender quotas introduced.

Tess de La Mare
Tuesday 10 May 2022 13:52 BST
First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price at the Senedd, Cardiff in November (Bronwen Weatherby/PA)
First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price at the Senedd, Cardiff in November (Bronwen Weatherby/PA) (PA Wire)

Wales’ Labour-led Government and nationalist party Plaid Cymru have unveiled plans to reform the Senedd that would see its numbers boosted from 60 to 96 and gender quotas introduced.

The two parties, who have a formal agreement to work together in some areas of government, want the proposals to be implemented before the next election in 2026.

As well as the boost in Senedd numbers, they want to see a closed list system.

Electoral reform was one of the foundations of the two parties’ cooperation agreement, which was announced in November last year.

Under this system, seats are allocated in order to the candidates on a party’s list, rather than voters voting specifically for the person they want to represent them.

It would also introduce a “zipping” format, whereby parties alternate between men and women on their list.

The seats would be allocated under the D’Hondt formula.

The formula is currently used in Senedd elections and aims to ensure that the number of seats allocated to each party are as proportionate as possible to the votes cast.

If the measures are adopted, it would see Wales become the first country in the UK to drop the first-past-the-post voting system at parliamentary level, the two parties said.

Labour and Plaid Cymru want to see the 32 Welsh UK Parliamentary constituencies currently proposed by the Boundary Commission for Wales to form the basis of Senedd elections.

These 32 constituencies would be paired to create 16 Senedd constituencies, with each constituency electing six members.

The plans are set out in a joint position statement to Huw Irranca-Davies, chair of the cross-party Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform.

The committee is due to publish its report by May 31 before the reforms are debated and voted on by the Senedd.

Labour and Plaid Cymru said the proposals should be adopted before the 2026 elections, even if it is only on an interim basis.

First Minister for Wales Mark Drakeford said: “The case for Senedd reform has been made. We now need to get on with the hard work to create a modern Senedd, which reflects the Wales we live in today. A Parliament that truly works for Wales.

“The joint position statement we are publishing today will help support the important work of the cross-party Special Purpose Committee to move Senedd reform forwards.”

Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru, said: “These reforms will lay the foundations for a stronger Welsh democracy and a fairer, more representative Senedd that will look entirely different to the outdated political system at Westminster.

“A stronger, more diverse, more representative Senedd will have a greater capacity to perform its primary purpose of making a positive difference to the lives of the people of Wales.”

But Secretary of State for Wales and MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Simon Hart, criticised the proposals, and the fact the announcement coincided with the Queen’s Speech.

He estimated that the extra 36 politicians would cost an extra £12 million.

In a tweet, he said: “On a day when the UK Government is laying out its new programme, including creating more jobs, making streets safer & even more NHS support, Welsh Labour & Plaid Cymru announce plans for another £12 million worth (at least) of more politicians …”

Andrew RT Davies has criticised the plans, saying they will cost £75 million over the next five years (Matthew Horwood/PA) (PA Media)

The Welsh Conservatives pegged the cost of Senedd expansion at £75 million over the next five years.

Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative leader, said: “Wales does not need more politicians in Cardiff Bay – we need more teachers, doctors, dentists, and nurses.

“With residents across the country facing cost-of-living pressures, the last thing they need is to be footing the bill – expected to be more than £75 million over five years at least – for Labour and Plaid’s pet project.”

He continued: “Ministers should be spending that money on tackling the big issues facing Wales, not wasting time and cash looking at upping the number of Senedd members.

“Now is the time to fix our broken NHS, get the economy fired up, and boost our education system, but sadly Labour and Plaid have got their priorities completely skewed.”

Shadow Minister for the Constitution, Conservative MS Darren Millar, accused Labour and Plaid Cymru of undermining the work of the Committee on Senedd Reform.

“It is disappointing that the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have sought to thwart the work of the Welsh Parliament’s Senedd Reform Committee by issuing this statement today,” he said.

“While the Welsh Conservatives have always been clear that we oppose plans to increase the number of politicians in Wales, we have accepted that there is a mandate for change and, for that reason, we have played a constructive role in the work of the Senedd Reform Committee to date.

“Today’s statement suggests that the Labour and Plaid leaders want to strongarm the committee and dictate its conclusions rather than to allow the committee to complete its independent work.

“We joined this process in good faith, but it looks like that was misplaced.”

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