Senedd Members welcome plans for Welsh Parliament return
News | Gareth Axenderrie | Published: 12:43, Thursday June 25th, 2020.
Last updated: 12:43, Thursday June 25th, 2020
Members of the Senedd have welcomed plans for the Welsh Parliament to return to physical sessions in July.
Plenary sessions, where Senedd Members can scrutinise the Welsh Government, have been replaced by virtual sessions on Zoom since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown.
Since then however, a number of national parliaments have returned to physical sessions, including the Scottish and UK Parliaments.
A spokeswoman for the Senedd confirmed that the Llywydd – the Welsh Parliament’s presiding officer – and the Business Committee are currently working on a hybrid Senedd model which will include remote electronic voting for each member.
“A hybrid Senedd would have to work within the social distancing restrictions as long as they remain in place. In the meantime, all key elements of the Senedd’s work are being fulfilled by the Senedd and its committees on Zoom.”
Wales was one of the first countries in the world to move their parliamentary sessions online, but recently the Senedd has received criticism for not reopening while schools and businesses are being told they can.
Hefin David, MS for Caerphilly, has spearheaded calls for a return to physical plenary sessions, often criticising the inability to perform effective scrutiny during Zoom sessions.
Dr David told Caerphilly Observer: “It is very much time for the Senedd to meet in a hybrid format. While the sessions have continued throughout the crisis using video conferencing technology, this method is disjointed and does not allow for consistent and fully effective scrutiny of Welsh Government ministers.
“Public safety is the most important factor in deciding when to meet, but as schools open more widely and non-essential businesses begin to reopen, it is time for the Senedd chamber to be used to hold the Government to account.
“I believe that this will take place from July and I have asked to be present in the chamber for the first hybrid session. My job is to make sure that the voices of the people of the Caerphilly constituency are heard and I will best be able to do that in a proper parliamentary session.”
Delyth Jewell, MS for South Wales East, said: “It has been welcome that the Senedd has been able to conduct so much of its business online during the lockdown, at a time when public health has been paramount, and in line with advice given to the public.
“Our Senedd should also be praised for how it led the way by setting up digital plenary sessions before Westminster.
“I support the decision to pilot a hybrid Senedd next month.”
Senedd Members from the Welsh Conservatives and the Brexit Party have also called for a physical return.
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