What people said about reforming the Assembly

(Title Image: National Assembly of Wales)

Assembly Commission
Consultation on Creating a Parliament for Wales (pdf)
Published: 18th July 2018

Presiding Officer/Llywydd, Elin Jones (Plaid, Ceredigion)

“We now have the opportunity to make our parliament a more effective, accessible and diverse legislature; to forge the national parliament that the people of Wales deserve to champion their interests and hold the Welsh Government to account.”

Between February and April this year, the Assembly Commission – the body which runs the National Assembly – launched a consultation on possible reforms to the Senedd as a result of the McAllister Review. Around 3,200 people responded and here are the main findings.

1. There’s support for a bigger Assembly

56% of people supported increasing the number of AMs, compared to 39% who disagreed. There was broad consensus on the number of AMs there should be as well, with 95% of those who support enlargement agreeing there should be between 80-90 AMs.

Of the people who disagreed with enlargement, 68% didn’t suggest a number, though 13% supported keeping it at 60 AMs and 10% called for the Assembly to be abolished (3.8% of the total responses received).

2. There’s support for introducing a proportional electoral system and some diversity measures

54% supported the introduction of single transferable vote (STV) – where candidates are ranked by preference – for Assembly elections. 17% supported a flexible list, 16% supported the current system of first-past-the-post and proportionally-elected AMs.

An overwhelming 61% believed any change to the electoral system should support increased diversity in the Assembly, though there was disagreement on how to do this. 47% of those who supported increased diversity believed it should be voluntary, while 26% supported compulsory measures such as gender quotas.

There was also clear support for costs relating to bilingual translation and disability to be discounted from official electoral expenses.

A clear majority (52%) disagreed with the idea of AMs job-sharing, with just 34% supporting it.

3. There’s no clear preference on how many constituencies there should be

The McAllister Review proposed two possible constituency models – 20 constituencies formed by merging the 40 existing first-past-the-post constituencies, or 17 constituencies based on the existing 22 local councils. Each constituency would elect several AMs.

There was no clear preference. 40% supported the 20 constituency model, 29% preferred the 17 constituencies with 31% answering don’t know.

4. 16-year-olds should be allowed to vote in Assembly elections

86% of respondents supported the notion that anyone eligible to vote in a local election should be able to vote in an Assembly election and 68% thought all legal residents in Wales should have the right to elect AMs irrespective of nationality or citizenship.

54% also either agreed or strongly agreed that prisoners released on a license or under home detention/curfew should be able to vote in Assembly elections.

59% supported reducing the voting age for Assembly elections to 16 (39% opposed).

The Next Steps

The Assembly Commission proposes to introduce two separate laws.

The first Bill will legislate to formally change the name of the National Assembly to “Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru” and lower the voting age to 16 in Assembly elections. A number of organisational reforms will be introduced as well as changes to disqualification rules.

The second Bill – which would change the electoral system and increase the number of AMs – will be introduced after negotiations between the political parties, as any changes require a two-thirds majority to be passed. A law could be introduced before 2021, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

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