Open letter from former Welsh Assembly Members responding to the National Assembly for Wales’ Expert Panel on Electoral Reform.
Wales needs an Assembly which has the resources to ensure that the financial, policy and legislative decisions taken by Welsh Government are robust.
As former AMs, we write to support the case for increasing the number of Members who serve in our National Assembly for the sake of our communities and the people of Wales.
The recently published report by the Expert Panel on Electoral Reform made the case for more Members both urgent and compelling. It concludes that because of its current size, “it is only a matter of time before the Assembly is unable to fulfil its responsibilities to work for and represent the people of Wales effectively”.
Our Members need more time available to them to scrutinise Ministers properly, and to deal with the challenges and opportunities they face in this changing constitutional and political environment.
The need for more Members was first highlighted with the publication of the Richard Commission report in 2004. Since then, over the last 13 years, our Assembly has become a parliament with greater areas of responsibility, including law-making and tax-varying powers.
Currently, most Members are expected to sit on so many committees that their time and ability to pursue matters with the depth and intensity required, is severely restricted.
Other avenues to increase capacity have not only been explored but have also been implemented – with the hours, the days and the weeks Assembly Members sit in session all extended.
When comparing the size of our National Assembly with other institutions in the UK and abroad, it is clear that our institution is unusually small, and that the people of Wales are far less well represented per head of population compared with equivalent legislatures across the world. In fact, our national parliament has fewer elected representatives than many local authorities in Wales.
In Wales, we need an effective, dynamic and strong institution which delivers for our communities, and we cannot afford too much delay before addressing this matter.
We understand and appreciate the public’s reluctance to see an increase in the number of politicians. We believe however that the overwhelming case for an increase in the numbers of AMs should overcome any such reluctance when explained clearly and honestly
We therefore call on the National Assembly to consult widely with the people of Wales to explain why an increase to the size of the institution is necessary, and then to legislate to create a parliament that delivers effectively for the whole nation.
Former Labour AM for Gower and former Minister for Business, Enterprise and Technology and former Health Minister
Former Labour AM for the Rhondda and former Minister for Education
Dame Rosemary Butler
Former Labour AM for Newport West and former Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales
Former Labour AM for Swansea West, former Minister for Enterprise, and former Minister for Finance and Public Service Delivery
Former Conservative AM for Cardiff North and former Chair of the Assembly’s Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee
Former Conservative AM for Mid and West Wales and 2007 Dods Assembly Woman of the Year Award winner
Former Conservative AM for South Wales East and former Chair of the Welsh Conservative Group in the National Assembly
Ieuan Wyn Jones
Former Plaid Cymru AM for Ynys Môn, former Plaid Cymru leader and former Deputy First Minister
The Right Honourable Lord Dafydd Wigley,
Former Plaid Cymru AM and MP for Caernarfon and former Leader of Plaid Cymru
Former Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East and former Minister for Housing and Regeneration
Baroness Jenny Randerson
Former Liberal Democrat AM for Cardiff Central, former Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport and former Minister of State for Wales
Former Liberal Democrat AM for North Wales and former Leader of Wrexham County Borough Council