With only 60 MSs Welsh democracy is overstretched and reform is desperately needed
With only 60 MSs, Welsh democracy is overstretched. Due to Cabinet and official appointments, the Welsh Parliament/ Senedd Cymru has barely 42 backbenchers available to scrutinise the government. There are simply not enough backbench MSs to fill all the committee seats and develop the specialist knowledge they need to do the job properly. We need more Members of the Senedd so our Parliament can better deliver for the people of Wales.
ERS has long been campaigning to increase the size of the Senedd. We published Size Matters, jointly with the UK’s Changing Union project (a partnership including Cardiff University Wales Governance Centre and the Institute of Welsh Affairs) in 2013, which set out the case for increasing the number of MSs from 60 to 100.
Our 2016 report, Reshaping the Senedd, looked at how these additional members might be elected. It recommended that the Single Transferable Vote or a particular version of Open List would best provide the basis for a stable and lasting electoral system for the Welsh Parliament.
Since then calls for reform have gathered steam, with an Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform Recommending 80-90 members, elected through the Single Transferable Vote, with strong diversity measures in place.
A Committee of politicians also endorsed this in 2020, publishing their report Senedd Reform: the Next Steps.
It now looks like reform is more likely than ever. Following the 2021 Senedd elections, Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru announced a commitment on Senedd reform as part of their Cooperation Agreement.
A separate cross party Senedd committee was also established to look at how the Senedd could be reformed.
In May 2022, Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, and Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, confirmed they had agreed a way forward on Senedd reform.
The Special Purpose Committee endorsed this agreement just weeks later in their final report, “Reforming our Senedd: a stronger voice for the people of Wales”.
That report recommended:
- An increase in the size of the Senedd to 96 members
- A change to electoral systems to Closed List Proportional Representation
- Integrated gender quotas
- 16 new multi-member constituencies, each electing 6 members.
Ahead of this report being debated in the Senedd, ERS drafted a briefing to Members of the Senedd. The report passed the Senedd with over a two thirds majority, and Welsh Government have confirmed they are currently drafting legislation to reform the Senedd by 2026.