Votes at 16 in Senedd elections and conditional ban on double-jobbing by councillors as law clears next stage

(Title Image: Elliot Brown via Flickr)

At a Glance Guide

Stage 1 report (summary)

The Bill (in its original form):

  • Renames the National Assembly of Wales and changes the post-nominal letters of AMs.
  • Extends the requirement to hold the first plenary meeting following a Senedd election from seven to fourteen days (presumably to allow for detailed coalition negotiations).
  • Lowers the voting age at Senedd elections to 16.
  • Changes and amends the reasons why a prospective AM can be disqualified from standing.

Major Changes at Stage 2

While the Stage 1 report was drafted by the Constitutional Affairs Committee, Stage 2 was undertaken by a Committee of the Whole Assembly and was a marathon plenary session which went on beyond 10 pm.

Depressingly, most of the discussion (in public anyway) has revolved about what the Assembly calls itself, with a bilingual name “Senedd Cymru” and “Welsh Parliament” approved at Stage 2. A recent poll has suggested some level of public support for it to be known solely as “Senedd”.

Name change aside, there were a number of significant amendments at Stage 2 which didn’t get half as much attention:

  • Extends the right to vote in Senedd elections to qualifying foreign citizens.
  • Places a duty on the Senedd (Assembly) Commission and the Llywydd to fund and monitor Electoral Commission activities in relation to Senedd elections.
  • The Electoral Commission will be required to draft a code of practice for electoral observers at Senedd and local government elections.
  • Members of the House of Lords won’t be disqualified from being a member of the Senedd as long as they request a leave of absence from the House of Lords within eight days of being elected to the Senedd.
  • Local councillors will be disqualified from being a member of the Senedd at the same time (“double-jobbing”) except when they haven’t yet formally accepted an office, they’ve been elected to the Senedd within 372 days of the next scheduled local authority election or they’ve been elected to a council within 372 days of the next scheduled Senedd election (I understand there’s some flexibility here with regard to unscheduled/snap elections). In essence, this means newly-elected and re-elected councillors who double-job as a Senedd member will have a grace period of just over a year to stand down as one or the other.
  • People who’ve been declared bankrupt, are registered sex offenders, have been convicted of electoral fraud, have served a prison sentence of one year or longer or are members of a legislature outside the UK will be disqualified from standing for the Senedd.

 

The Key Amendments at Stage 3

Amendment 3 – David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central)
Places a duty on secondary schools to promote awareness of electoral registration and citizenship amongst 16-17-year-olds.
Vote: Rejected – 19 for, 36 against
Reason for Rejection: The new national curriculum is expected to include citizenship education.

Amendment 6 – David Melding AM
Places a duty on the Welsh Government to report on the effectiveness of extending the franchise at Senedd elections to qualifying foreign citizens.
Vote: Amendment Withdrawn
Reason for Withdrawal: Welsh Government committed to post-legislative scrutiny of the Bill’s impacts.

Amendment 127 – Carwyn Jones AM (Lab, Bridgend)
The plural name of the office and post-nominal letters will be “Members of the Senedd/MS” or “Aelodau o’r Senedd/AS”.
Vote: Approved – 37 for, 18 against

Amendment 160 – Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West)
Places a duty on the Welsh Government to report on the effectiveness of lowering the voting age to 16.
Vote: Amendment Withdrawn
Reason for Withdrawal: Welsh Government committed to post-legislative scrutiny of the Bill’s impacts.

Amendment 162 – Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn), with support from 5 Labour AMs
Changes the National Assembly’s official name to “Senedd Cymru” (monolingual).
Vote: Rejected – 16 for, 39 against
Reason for Rejection: For the sake of accessibility of law and the principle of bilingualism, there needs to be a Welsh and English name.

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