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The number of Senedd Members could increase from 60 to 96 in time for the next Senedd Election in 2026 – if proposals announced on Tuesday are approved.
The proposals, put forward by First Minister Mark Drakeford and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, include reforms to the way Senedd Members are elected, as well as constituency boundaries.
Mr Drakeford and Mr Price set out their vision in a letter to Labour Senedd Member Huw Irranca-Davies, who is the chair of the cross-party Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform.
Huw Irranca-Davies MS
Chair, Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform
10 May 2022
As you will be aware, Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru recently voted to support Senedd reform at our respective party conferences and to enable further cross-party negotiations on the detail of Senedd reform proposals to progress.
The detailed work of your committee to date, the McAllister Report and the previous Senedd’s Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform has facilitated a number of discussions between our two parties to explore areas of common ground.
As a result of those discussions, we set out below our joint view on the package of proposals that is most likely to succeed in achieving the two-thirds Senedd majority that is required by law to deliver reform.
We are grateful for the hard work of your committee in exploring some of the core elements of Senedd reform. We are confident that the statement below will enable you to make recommendations on these fundamental issues.
We are mindful that there are a number of further matters that will need to be considered by the Government and by the Senedd once the work of preparing and scrutinising the proposed legislation gets underway. We have committed to undertake further detailed work on these matters.
Mark Drakeford MS – Prif Weinidog
Adam Price MS – Leader of Plaid Cymru
The committee will make recommendations which will go on to shape a Senedd Reform Bill. The committee must publish its report, which will be debated and voted on by Senedd Members, by the end of this month.
To be approved, the changes would need to be approved by two third of Senedd Members – something Labour and Plaid have at their disposal.
The two parties are in favour of increasing the number of MSs, but the Conservatives have long opposed it.
The proposals are part of the Co-operation Agreement signed by the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru last year.
Mr 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.”
Plaid leader Mr Price said the 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”.
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Mr Price added: “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.”
In contrast, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: “Wales does not need more politicians in Cardiff Bay – we need more teachers, doctors, dentists, and nurses.”
He continued: “Whilst we have consistently objected to more politicians, we recognise Labour and Plaid have enough votes to push ahead and that’s why we have engaged constructively with the Senedd Reform Committee – but sadly it appears both parties have completely undermined the committee’s work with today’s announcement.”
Meanwhile, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said the plans “fall short of what we need to create a Senedd and a democracy that’s fit for Wales”.
What exactly are the proposals being put forward?
The main proposal is to increase the number of Senedd Members to 96. Currently Wales has 60 Senedd Members – 40 of which are elected to represent Wales’ 40 constituencies, while the remaining 20 are elected to represent the five regions of Wales.
What’s a Regional Senedd Member and how are they elected?
At Senedd Elections, voters have two ballot papers. The first is to vote for a candidate to represent a constituency. Wales is divided into 40 constituencies, each electing one Senedd Member using a first past the post system.
The second ballot is to vote for a party to represent the region. Wales is divided into five regions, each electing four regional Senedd Members.
Each party submits a list of candidates for the regions, ranked in order.
The Caerphilly, Islwyn and Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituencies all form part of the South Wales East region.
The regional Senedd Members for South Wales East are Natasha Asgar (Conservatives); Peredur Owen Griffiths (Plaid Cymru); Laura Anne Jones (Conservatives); and Delyth Jewell (Plaid Cymru).
But which Senedd Members are elected through the regional vote isn’t necessarily a case of whoever gets the most votes. A formula is used to determine who is elected. This is the D’Hondt formula.
The system is designed to give more representation to parties who wouldn’t otherwise be elected through the first past the post system.
Each party’s total number of votes is divided by one, plus the number of constituency Senedd Members it has elected in the region.
The party with the highest total after this method then has its highest ranking candidate elected as a regional Senedd Member. The process is carried out again and again until four Senedd Members are elected.
But this would all change.
Firstly, the constituency boundaries in Wales would be redrawn. At the moment, the Boundary Commission for Wales is redrawing the constituency boundaries in Wales for UK Parliamentary elections. These changes would then be adopted for Senedd Elections too. The changes will see the number of constituencies reduced from 40 to 32.
With the number of Senedd constituencies also reducing to 32, each constituency would then be paired with a neighbouring constituency – making a total of 16 constituency pairings in Wales for Senedd elections.
Each new constituency pairing would then elect six Senedd Members – bringing the total in Wales to 96.
Under the new format, all Senedd Members would be elected using the D’Hondt method. The first past the post system would be scrapped.
The D’Hondt method is used in many countries across the globe, including Belgium, Brazil, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and many more. It is also used in European Union elections.
The method would see all parties submit a list of candidates in each constituency, ranked in order. The system is designed to give more representation to parties who wouldn’t otherwise be elected through the first past the post system.
The party with the highest total of votes would have its highest ranking candidate elected as a Senedd Member. That party then has their number of votes divided by the number of seats they have already won in that constituency.
The total votes cast for each party in the constituency is divided, first by one, then by two, then three, up to the total number of seats to be allocated for the constituency, which is six.
Whichever party is top after this then gets their highest ranking candidate elected. The process would be carried out again and again until six Senedd Members are elected.
Under this system, it would be highly unlikely that any one party would be able to win all six vacancies in any given constituency. It would likely be split between representatives from multiple parties.
It has been proposed that the candidate lists submitted by each party would be zipped, meaning there would be an equal gender split of candidates.
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