Senedd Reform: What Is It? (And Other Questions!)

Published 30/05/2022   |   Last Updated 29/09/2023   |   Reading Time minutes

In May 2022, a Senedd Committee published its report outlining the changes it would like to see made to how the Senedd works.

The report, Reforming Our Senedd, was published by the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform. It highlights the changes that could be brought in to strengthen the role of the Senedd and give a stronger voice to the people of Wales.

The Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, introduced this month, proposes major reforms to the way the Senedd operates. So what is Senedd reform and why is it needed?

What is Senedd Reform?

Senedd Reform refers to proposals to change the make-up of the Senedd to better suit the needs of the people of Wales.

Is Senedd Reform needed?

Today’s Senedd is very different to the institution that was established over 20 years ago.

Its powers have increased considerably. It can make laws and set Welsh taxes - decisions which affect the lives of every single person in Wales.

Despite increased responsibilities, the current Senedd remains smaller than either the Scottish Parliament, with 129 Members, and the Northern Ireland Assembly, with 90. The Senedd currently has 60 Members.

Members hold the Welsh Government to account. They question its decisions, push it to make improvements, and make sure that public money is being spent wisely.

The Committee thinks that with greater powers must come greater accountability. It is argued that Wales needs a parliament that can effectively scrutinise the decisions taken by the Welsh Government, on behalf of the public it serves and that the current system doesn’t allow that to be done as well as it should be.

Previous work on Senedd reform was undertaken by the Expert Panel on Electoral Reform in 2017 and the Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform in 2020, both of which recommended the need for change.

The report from the Senedd Committee has said changes to strengthen the Senedd and better represent the people of Wales can and must be delivered by 2026.

What changes are being recommended?

Some of the key changes being recommended as part of Senedd Reform include:

Changes to the number of Members

The Senedd currently has 60 Members.

40 represent each constituency in Wales, while 20 represent the five regions of Wales.

The report recommends that a strengthened Senedd needs 96 Members, which is more in line with the number of representatives from other countries of a similar size to Wales.

Better gender equality in the Senedd

Wales has always had a great track record for gender equality in its parliament. In 2003, the Senedd became the first legislature in the world to achieve a perfect gender balance, with 30 men and 30 women representing the people of Wales.

While this has dropped in recent elections, Wales continues to maintain a high proportion of elected women.

The Senedd committee is recommending the introduction of a gender quota, which would give a guaranteed balance. If agreed, the Senedd would become the first parliament in the UK to do so.

When will Senedd Reform start?

It is strongly recommended that changes to the Senedd are in place by 2026, the year of the next Senedd election.

The Welsh Government laid the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill on 18 September 2023. The bill will now be scrutinised and must get a super majority (support from 40 of the 60 Members) to pass.

If the bill passes, it will become law.

How will the people of Wales benefit?

The Committee argue that under the current system, the Welsh Government’s plans and actions are not able to be examined and challenged as well as they should be.

It believes a strengthened Parliament, that has the right number of Members, will be better equipped to look in detail at Welsh Government’s plans, question its decisions and hold it to account.

The Committee say this will lead to better outcomes for the people of Wales.

Will the changes impact the way we vote?

The Committee has suggested 16 new constituencies are formed.

The recent review of the UK Parliamentary constituencies recommended 32 for Wales. It is proposed that these be paired to form 16 Senedd constituencies.

The Committee are also suggesting each constituency has six Senedd Members.

It recommends a closed proportional list – this means voters would be voting for a party rather than an individual. The party would have a proportional list – made up of equal men and women – and candidates are elected according to their order on the list.

So, if a party won three seats out of six in a certain constituency area, the first three people allocated on their list would be elected to the Senedd.

Where can I find out more information?

Read the full Senedd Reform report and follow the progress of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill.