|Carwyn Jones AM|
|Dai Lloyd AM|
|David Melding AM||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Suzy Davies|
|Substitute for Suzy Davies|
|Dawn Bowden AM|
|Mandy Jones AM|
|Mick Antoniw AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Amanda Bebb||Dirprwy Gadeirydd Cymru, Cymdeithas y Gweinyddwyr Etholiadol|
|Wales Deputy Chair, Association of Electoral Administrators|
|Bethan Roberts||Cyfreithiwr, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Lawyer, Welsh Government|
|Bob Posner||Prif Weithredwr y Comisiwn Etholiadol|
|Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission|
|Chris Warner||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Cyfansoddiad a Chyfiawnder, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Constitution and Justice, Welsh Government|
|Elan Closs Stephens||Comisiynydd Etholiadol Cymru|
|Electoral Commissioner for Wales|
|Jeremy Miles AM||Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol a'r Gweinidog Brexit|
|Counsel General and Brexit Minister|
|Lisa James||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Is-adran Democratiaeth Llywodraeth Leol, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Local Government Democracy Division, Welsh Government|
|Manon Antoniazzi||Prif Weithredwr a Chlerc y Cynulliad|
|Chief Executive and Clerk of the Assembly|
|Nia Morgan||Cyfarwyddwr Cyllid, Comisiwn y Cynulliad|
|Director of Finance, Assembly Commission|
|Peter Stanyon||Prif Weithredwr Cymdeithas y Gweinyddwyr Etholiadol|
|Chief Executive, Association of Electoral Administrators|
|Rhydian Thomas||Pennaeth y Comisiwn Etholiadol yng Nghymru|
|Head of the Electoral Commission in Wales|
|Rhys George||Rheolwr Gwasanaethau Etholiadol, Cymdeithas y Gweinyddwyr Etholiadol|
|Electoral Services Manager, Association of Electoral Administrators|
|Alex Hadley||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Ben Harris||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Gareth Howells||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|P Gareth Williams||Clerc|
|Stephen Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant||1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Bil Senedd ac Etholiadau (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 9||2. Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 9|
|3. Bil Senedd ac Etholiadau (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 10||3. Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 10|
|4. Offerynnau nad ydynt yn cynnwys unrhyw faterion i’w codi o dan Reol Sefydlog 21.2 neu 21.3||4. Instruments that raise no reporting issues under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3|
|5. Offerynnau sy’n cynnwys materion i gyflwyno adroddiad arnynt i'r Cynulliad o dan Reol Sefydlog 21.2 neu 21.3||5. Instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Assembly under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3|
|6. Offerynnau sy'n cynnwys materion i gyflwyno adroddiad arnynt i’r Cynulliad o dan Reol Sefydlog 21.2 neu 21.3 – offerynnau a drafodwyd yn flaenorol||6. Instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Assembly under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3 - previously considered|
|7. Offerynnau sy’n cynnwys materion i gyflwyno adroddiad arnynt i’r Cynulliad o dan Reol Sefydlog 21.7||7. Instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Assembly under Standing Order 21.7|
|8. Datganiadau ysgrifenedig o dan Reol Sefydlog 30C||8. Written statements under Standing Order 30C|
|9. Papurau i'w nodi||9. Papers to note|
|Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod||Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting|
|10. Bil Senedd ac Etholiadau (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 11||10. Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 11|
|11. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod||11. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 10:00.
The meeting began at 10:00.
Bore da. This is a meeting of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee. Just some housekeeping matters to start with, in the event of a fire alarm, Members should leave the room by the marked fire exits and follow instructions from the ushers and staff. There is no test forecast today. All mobile devices should be switched to silent. The National Assembly for Wales operates through the medium of both the Welsh and English languages. Headphones are provided, through which instantaneous translations may be received. For any that are hard of hearing, these may also be used to amplify sound. Do not touch any of the buttons on the microphones as this can disable the system, and ensure that the red light is showing before speaking. Interpretation is available on channel 1 and verbatim on channel 2. For this morning, I've had apologies from Suzy Davies. David Melding is attending in her place. I've had apologies from Dawn Bowden for the first part of the meeting. She will hopefully be attending after lunch. Are there any declarations of interest? If there aren't any, then we'll move straight on.
I welcome to the committee Amanda Bebb, Wales deputy chair, Association of Electoral Administrators; Peter Stanyon, chief executive, Association of Electoral Administrators; Rhys George, electoral services manager, Association of Electoral Administrators; Professor Elan Closs Stephens, electoral commissioner for Wales; and, from the Electoral Commission, Bob Posner; and Rhydian Thomas, head of the Electoral Commission in Wales. Thank you for attending. Thank you for the written evidence on this important and constitutional piece of legislation. If I might just open the questions we have for you—. We have quite a number of you and a relatively short period of time, so we will try and move quite quickly through the various areas that we need to cover as part of our scrutiny process of this legislation.
If I might ask you generally, what are the main implications of the Bill for electoral administrators in Wales?
Shall I start, then? Thank you. It's really just the number of changes, or the confusion that will come in, or the changes to the system that they're used to. There's an awful lot that has happened since 2001 in the world of electoral registration, with individual electoral registration being the biggest change to the system since. So, the things that we see are really ensuring that, for electoral administrators, they fully understand the implications, particularly of things such as the potential in introducing 16 and 17-year-olds to the franchise, learning the lessons from Scotland, and ensuring that the training they have, the systems they've got available to them, they're able to actually continue to administer the system for the needs of the electorate. So, it's really understanding the changes that are needed so that my colleagues are able to deliver that successfully for the electorate.
I wonder if you'd allow me just to contextualise a little bit of everything that we're doing. That would be very helpful. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
As you know, the groundwork for this new accountability was set by the Wales Act of 2017, in that the doors were opened, as it were, for accountability to be not so much the voluntary one, which we've subscribed to in the past, as the statutory one, where we are now devolved as far as the Welsh elections are concerned.
So, there are three things in particular within the Commission Bill that is before you that we are not—'concerned' is the wrong word, but which we are involved with and we seek to support. The first is the built-on franchise for those over 16, on which we don't have a view as a commission or as electoral officers, naturally, but we will strive to make it happen in the best possible way and to engender trust in the electoral system. To that end, I think we will have to have sufficient time for electoral registration officers to train their staff for the registration to happen, and that means at least six months to the annual canvass. So, just on that element, time, time, time, and sufficient education and raising awareness within the cohort. We've already started some of that work on the assumption that 16-year-olds will be within the ambit of this Bill.
The second one is the law about the point at which a person is disqualified. We have no argument with that. In fact, it's something that we have argued for in the past. But the third one—and this is where I would like to sort of differentiate a little bit, I think—is our accountability. Now, as I've said, we've always been willing to be accountable on a voluntary basis, but this changes the rules of the game. There are two elements, I think. One is the principle of accountability. To use an overused phrase at this time, this is, for us, a bit of a red line. The accountability of the commission should be to the Assembly Commission and to a committee made up of all political parties, rather than the accountability of the electoral system to a Government or to a Minister. I think we're absolutely firm on that—that that is the proper procedure, just as, at the moment, we are answerable to the Speaker's Committee, and I'm sure that Bob will say more about that.
The second one is more a matter of process. You have to be comfortable that the methodology we are using for looking at the way in which the money is spent on Welsh elections and on the general election has been properly scrutinised. And I should remind you, of course, that this is not new money called for from the Assembly; it is money that's coming down from the usual allocation for the Speaker's Committee. So, there are those two things: one, a matter of principle, and the other, I think more secondary, in terms of comfort with the process that we've achieved.
Okay. Well, in all those areas, I think there are questions that will be followed through by the members of this committee. Can I just go back to you, Peter, on a number of issues? The first thing is, obviously, your paper focuses to a high degree on the issues of resources. I wonder if you could perhaps outline what your concerns are and what the issues are on resources and also on the resources with regard to technological resources, and so on.
Absolutely. I think the key areas of concern that we've had are simply that everybody wants to get everybody on the electoral register and make sure that we've got complete and accurate registers running into elections. As we know, we've got the Europeans coming up on 23 May, and tomorrow is the deadline for registration—for individuals to register for that. The big concerns that we've had not just across Wales, but across the UK, are that the changes introduced by individual electoral registration have made it a far more—. It's a two-stage process. Prior to individual registration, it was a one-stage process where people got registered from one form. Now, we're moving into this process with additional responsibilities laid at the doors of registration officers, quite rightly, to encourage individuals to register, with the door knocks and the three forms on both sides. It's become quite a—forgive the word—bureaucratic process, and with bureaucracy comes the need to make sure that the individuals delivering that process are able to do so adequately. So, our concerns around particularly the extension of franchise and the changes are to make sure that the resources are there for my colleagues to be able to spend the necessary time and local resource on actually identifying those who aren't registered and give them the opportunity to register and dealing with the changes that come up from that sort of area.
The sort of areas we talked about around the technology are that there are four electoral management systems in the UK—there are three suppliers of four systems. What's worked well with things such as individual electoral registration is the ability for the UK Government, the Cabinet Office, to work directly with the suppliers to get the system that will work for all administrators. There's a fear that if there's not a lead taken on the sort of changes here, actually, then, there'll be a slightly different system rolling out from the same conversations being had with the same suppliers. So, it's about that co-ordinated approach. So, all that I think my colleagues really need is the resource to allow them to do their jobs quite correctly for the electorate and for those who are being elected, and, secondly, to make sure that a co-ordinated approach is taken so that across the whole of Wales it is actually the same access to the system being provided to every single elector.
Okay. Others will follow through with the issue of resource later on, but are you satisfied that if the resource issue is resolved satisfactorily, the capacity is not then an issue in terms of actually being able to make the sort of changes that need to be done, and the co-ordination of that?
Certainly, yes. Within the actual resource itself, the capacity of the industry to deliver—absolutely. It's about simply understanding what the changes to process are. It's the point that Elan makes about the training, the need to make sure it's early enough to allow my colleagues, such as Rhys and Amanda, to be able to work through what the necessary steps are that are needed. There is enough within the system to be able to deliver that; it's just ensuring that what's needed to provide that is there for them to do so.
I just wanted to add, really, that the Electoral Commission in Wales has done a lot of work in trying to help co-ordinate the system in Wales. Quite recently, within the last two years, the co-ordination board has been set up and is chaired by a returning officer. It's attended by all the ROs—it's attended by Rhys, here—and it seeks to find a single approach to potential problems. In Scotland, of course, there is a statutory co-ordinator of elections. In Wales, it's a voluntary body, but I have to say that it's worked very well so far.
We've also identified the fact that, in local authorities, there have been voluntary redundancies, which have affected some electoral registration officers, but also we've had a change of at least five chief executives of local authorities. And so we've also developed a scheme that is kind of mentoring—a buddy scheme, in a sense—to help those new chief executives, particularly those who've never encountered an election in the course of their previous career. So, that's just a description of some of the work we've been doing.
Can I just talk about the principle of the six months, as well, just to give you an example of what we're talking about and why we need that type of time? Two examples: guidance. The commission produces a huge amount of guidance, not just for colleagues within electoral administration, but also for political parties, for candidates, for third parties. All of that will take a huge amount of rewrite with the changes that we're talking about now. The second element: forms. We would need to carry out a pretty comprehensive redesign of all registration forms, and the resources relating to those registration forms—envelopes and guidance relating to the forms. You're talking about initial redesign, user testing, final redesign, sign-off by Ministers and publication. There's a huge amount of work attached to that, and those are two things, two small examples, that show why we really do need those six months to prepare, from the passing of the Bill to an Act to when we have an electoral event.
This is the second time this point has been raised. So, in terms of the calendar, the register for the 2021 election will have to be prepared when, and when would six months before that be, so we know how soon this Bill would have to progress if it's going to be effective?
Colleagues from the AEA may want to follow up on this, but the annual canvass process will kick off in the summer of 2020, so we would need the new legislation team to be in place six months ahead of that. So, we're talking around the end of 2019, beginning of 2020, to ensure that all of that work and more can be done. Obviously, there will be elements of that that we will probably need to kick off ahead of that time. If you're talking about votes at 16 and all of the work—I know we'll come on to that, Chair—that we'll need to do leading into votes at 16, we can't wait until January or February 2020 to kick that work off. But, generally, we would want six months to really get into the meat of preparation and planning work for the canvass in 2020.
Can I pick up on one point, just following on from clarification from you, Elan? Is it your preferred view that there should be a change to the Bill for statutory co-ordination, as in Scotland, within this legislation?
I wouldn't have—. Sorry—
This is a matter for legislators. I'm just saying that, in Scotland, there is a slightly different approach. I believe that, in Wales, the voluntary system, such as it is, is working very well—really well—at the moment. If that wasn't working as well, I might be tempted to have a view.
Okay. Can I ask, then, I think, Peter, within your evidence you refer to—? I think you suggest that Welsh Government should be taking the responsibility in terms of the scoping of the technological change and so on. Do you want to just make a point on that to clarify that?
It was purely to reinforce the point I made a second ago with regard to what's worked very well with the changes to individual electoral registration nationally and is working with canvass reform. It's the discussions—it's one voice going to the private suppliers of electoral management systems. So, whether that's Welsh Government, whether that's the commission, whether that's—
Absolutely. It's about someone taking the co-ordinated approach to be able to say, 'This is exactly what we're requiring', because there are three, four different systems that each of those systems need to be able to deliver exactly what it is that's required.
And to, obviously, take responsibility for the payment for the resource aspect as well, which is obviously a key point. Okay, thanks for that.
Again, part of the evidence refers to the issue of the canvass reform. There's been a consultation on that by, I think, Welsh Government and Scottish Government and, of course, UK Government and so on, and you have concerns about that. Could you perhaps just specify what your concerns are with that, and what may or may not happen around it?
Yes, certainly. I think the main thrust for canvass reform is that the fact that where there's evidence that shows there's no change to a property, then, as things stand, a response is required from every property every year, just to confirm no change. Now, the intent, as you're aware, with canvass reform is to have the effect of the lighter touch—'We believe there's no change; if there is, please come back to us'—or to fully canvass those properties where there is evidence of there being a potential change. With the changes, particularly with regard to the 14, 15, 16, 17-year-olds, there's the ability to make sure that we're picking up those younger people who will not necessarily be on the records that have been checked against as part of the canvass reform process.
So, as far as an electoral registration officer is concerned, there may well be a greater need to canvass properties that may well not have had a change because of the risk factor, compared to those in England where, effectively, the record will show there is no change, therefore we're going to have a light approach. That therefore means, in terms of the cost savings that will come through, because you're then into the cycle of the three forms and inviting people to register—are the full savings then coming through to Welsh authorities on that site? That's our greatest concern, because the biggest risk will be missing those individuals who, as part of canvass reform, will not necessarily be flagged on the database that's being checked against.
You refer to lighter touch and, of course, that's a fairly controversial area in terms of what approaches are adopted. But in terms of 16 to 17-year-olds and, of course, the need to actually register at an early stage to start preparing, as we do now with 16 and 17-year-olds for voting at 18, and then with 14 and 15-year-olds for voting at 16— one of the areas that's been canvassed, of course, is the idea of block registrations in schools. Is there a view on that in terms of the cost implication, the capability of doing it, or whether that would save time and resource, or be the most efficient way of doing this?
We don't necessarily have a view in terms of block registration, but there are clearly some big benefits to the fact that if a registration officer is being provided with information to register individuals, then that will be a far more efficient process. I think the crucial bit is about working with the educational establishments, working with departments of education—those types of organisations—to make sure that the data that is being held is shared with registration officers to be able to allow them to do their statutory processes. If that goes to the other end of the extreme of actually then automatically registering people in from certain sectors, including 16 and 17-year-olds, then that's a decision, obviously, that the Assembly needs to make in that respect. But, yes, the view will be that anything that makes sure that data is available to registration officers has got to be the way this one goes.
Would you say you have any particular concerns, perhaps—. Sorry, Rhydian, please.
Sorry, I was just going to add, in terms of block registration, automatic registration, we as a commission would welcome these new initiatives at reform and different ways of getting individuals, especially certain groups, perhaps, involved and integrated into the democratic process. There is a risk there—. Peter mentioned we have a system of individual electoral registration now that we've had since 2014 that places the emphasis on the individual—gives the individual the right to register themselves—whereas automatic block registration would move away somewhat from that. So, we do have to be a little careful around that, but we'd be very keen—and I know there's some work under way at the commission at the moment—but we'd be very keen to work with legislatures in terms of the introduction of those types of different methods of the form.
Okay, that's a very helpful comment. On the 14 to 15-year-olds, of course, there are other considerations, in terms of the availability of data and so on. Do you have any particular concerns there? Do you see any views as to how the Bill might be improved within that area, or any particular comments you wish to make on that?
Just a general view to start with, and then perhaps Bob would like to expand on it. We're very, very conscious of the sensitivity of this subject, because there will be young people of 15 whose data will be entered and whose data has got to be kept confidential. So, how to achieve that is really of great importance, and we did hold a seminar in the Eisteddfod on voting for young people with the children's commissioner. So, we're acutely aware of the need for a sensitive handling of this, but perhaps—.
Only to add—it is, of course, all doable and perfectly practically doable, but the use of data is obviously very, very topical these days and very key. As an organisation we're working closer than ever with the Information Commissioner's Office. So, I don't think it's—. There is existing legislation there that would apply, and it's about that crossover between electoral legislation and that legislation. But I think that's a practical workability issue, and we would look to make that work well and with electoral administrators.
Okay. And, Peter, one of the other things that you raise as well in your evidence, and I think in Elen's as well, is the issue of the programme of education. Now, we will be exploring the whole area of civic education or political education with a small 'p' et cetera, but you state that a programme of education with 13-year-olds on the importance of registering, how to register and how to vote should be undertaken. I'm just wondering if you could expand a little bit upon your view of that—what that programme might look like and how it might operate. Why is 13 the right year as opposed to the moment you start in secondary education? Why have you chosen that?
Purely at 13 because it's the year prior to being potentially added to the register as a 14 or 15-year-old at that stage. So, no particular reason why it would be 13, although that, as we state, is purely—. What we we're very keen—. It's not a new thing in the electoral community—it's about civic awareness, it's about the importance of the democratic institutions, the importance of elected members and the roles they play, the role of individuals in a democratic society. It's a reasonably piecemeal effect, I think, at the moment. In some local authority areas there's been great access into educational establishments; in others it's more difficult because of the difficulties of the time that's available for that sort of civic education. But it's something that we're quite passionate about in terms of making sure that at a very early age, you have these rights. We've seen the excellent news coverage with regard to the 100-year franchise change very recently, which has had a very positive effect. It's trying to provide the history of where we've come from, what it's all about, so that ultimately, when the individual has the opportunity to register, they take that opportunity, which actually has the added benefit of registration officers not having to chase individuals, but, secondly, they then participate in the electoral process when they get that chance. So, it's really just a drip-feed approach to make sure that when they get the opportunity to be able to cast their ballot, they understand the importance of doing so. So, that's really where we're coming from in terms of that.
If I could just add well, we're very keen to work in partnership with as wide a group of stakeholders as possible when it comes to this area. I think it's actually really, really important in this area, because, you know, whilst the commission has areas of expertise, and the AEA has areas of expertise, working with young people may not necessarily be one of those specific areas. So, we need to go out and talk to those groups that do work on a daily basis. Who are young people? We talk about young people—it's a big, big group and it's very, very different. At what age do we start, as you mentioned? I know of some schools up in north Wales that start at primary school age. Our work would focus very much on the specific group that will be able to vote at that specific time, but we can go a little bit wider than that. So, there's a huge amount of work that we need to do around votes at 16 and working with young people more specifically.
Can I just say that, with my other hat on as an administrator, years ago we used to be quite proactive in the schools? We'd go into primary schools to run their school council elections, and build that up into the comprehensive schools. But as has already been stated, we've become a smaller unit, and we've got a pattern of engagement that we had planned for this year, but, of course, now they've called the European election, that kind of takes a back burner at the moment, because we have to deliver that European election. So, we have to plan for these unexpected elections, which could throw out any engagement plans that we have, then, within the schools. When we're ready, then, when we have a quiet period, in August, they're on holiday—the school holidays. So, it's very much about timings as well.
Thank you. Your written evidence says that changes to the functionality of returning officers will be required as a result of the Bill. Can you provide some more detail on this?
It's just the fact that votes at 16, for example, are coming in; that will therefore mean the need to extend that franchise to postal voting, allowing them to vote in polling stations et cetera—the specific needs about ensuring they've got access to polling stations. So, it's just the knock-on effect from individuals being registered, extending that franchise in the way they did in Scotland. The challenges that will be introduced at different polls; in UK Parliament, where the franchise is different, it will be 18 years of age rather than it being the 16 for Assembly as it stands in this particular case. So, it's ROs understanding the same implications as registration officers. There will be somebody on the register. It's then about how does that roll out to the polling stations themselves.
Chair, if I may make a comment in support of returning officers, from the Electoral Commission's perspective. We support electoral developments and reform—it's absolutely the right thing to do in a modern democracy. But it's absolutely right—every added burden on returning officers and electoral administrators is just that, and we certainly welcome in the Bill that you've added a provision that actually picks up the Law Commission recommendations we're looking at in due course. We think that's key for well-run elections across the UK, but certainly in Wales. It is essential, at some point and at some point soon, that those reforms are picked up and looked at, otherwise, the burden—you know, at some stage it topples over and it becomes impossible to run elections well. So, we think that is absolutely imminent now. So, we would support the burden on returning officers.
In terms of the votes for 16 and 17-year-olds and the registration drive, you said in your written evidence that it's essential that the Bill makes statutory provision that relevant data is supplied to the relevant electoral registration officer on a regular basis in a suitable format. Can you further explain what you had in mind with the statutory provision?
It goes back to the point with regard to the effective sharing of data. Where there are changes, it allows the registration officer to then invite those individuals to register. If we go to block registration, it will make things slightly more straightforward, but, as I say, the register is a fluid thing. It's a fluid beast in terms of its—. People go on and come off that register, people move around, for example, so it's about—. The ideal situation for registration officers is the fact they are being told automatically of there being a potential for a change, whether that be from educational establishments or any other establishment in terms of where there are people being registered in that way. So, it's really trying to take the burden off registration officers of trying to find individuals. It's also the responsibility given to those who know of the individuals notifying so the registration officers can do their job and get them actually registered.
And, finally, what are your views about sharing data about electors who are under 16 with an educational establishment, or anybody else for that matter?
I refer across to what Bob said in terms of the work with the Information Commissioner, I think one thing I would reassure the committee of is the fact that there's already an awful lot of personal data held by registration officers. Now, this is obviously another level in terms of having 14 and 15-year-olds' data as well. There wouldn't be a concern with sharing that data for the responsibilities the registration officer has to run the actual electoral register, so long as the correct mechanisms for ensuring that that data is secure and is only used for the purpose it's required for are there. Now, that links back to—. There are already records, national insurance numbers, dates of birth held by registration officers—it's just ensuring that the responsibility is very clear on those officers and that the data that's held is secure.
We've seen those provisions being enacted in Scotland in previous electoral events, where they've been looking at data sharing for that particular age group. I know that some of those provisions have been included in this Bill, so I think that's sensible.
Thank you, Chair. Good morning, everybody. If I could start by asking a question, then, of the association. One of the issues we have been wrestling with is how to raise awareness of the changes—of the increase, I suppose—in the franchise. Do you have any ideas as to what the most effective ways might be of increasing that awareness?
I'd refer across to what Rhydian said a second ago. It's about involving the right people in the right areas. I used to be young, so I used to know what young people said. I have no idea now—they're in a completely different language. But there are other organisations, individuals, groups et cetera who are able to get the core message across in the correct language that's required: 'This is what it means to you'. And that applies equally across all parts of the franchise. We were talking at a previous committee about prisoner voting rights, for example—exactly the same thing, about getting the same message out there in the right terminology for those sorts of individuals. So, I think, to me, it's about making sure there's a joined-up approach that will led by the Electoral Commission. We will be there as far as delivering it locally on the ground. But it's making sure that there is that network of the right people to ask the right questions to get the right information out in the correct way.
Can I answer that? We've got an example of the work that was undertaken in Scotland, or has been undertaken in Scotland previously, where you've seen targeted campaigns with young people through the media. You've seen the commission producing, along with a number of its partners, an education pack for use in schools as part of a 'ready to vote' campaign, which was primarily aimed at introducing registration drives in high schools across Scotland. I think around 80 per cent of high schools in Scotland signed up to that. We have produced political literacy briefings for schools to use. It's just the start and we can build on what's happened in Scotland. Again, there's lots of talk here about schools and there's young people out there who will be able to vote in these elections who won't be in schools or in formal education and we need to focus on them. But I think the key will be, as we've talked about previously, working in partnership and building on what we know has worked in Scotland over previous years.
I think there's a tendency in this sort of forum to look at the difficulties, because we're all sharing how to overcome them, but I think it's also necessary to look at the very positive work that has been done. The commission, under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, has a current legislative duty to raise awareness and promote public awareness, which it takes very seriously. There's also some very, very good work being done by county councils all over Wales in engaging with youth—I mean, Carmarthen, Pembrokeshire, to name but two of them. The Assembly itself, of course, has its Youth Parliament. The problem, I think, for all of us, is engaging with those young people who don't feel the need to be in that kind of political space, and that's more difficult. In Scotland, they had a very high turnout of 16-year-olds, but they did have an existential question about the future of Scotland where there was huge public awareness on television, radio and every other media. We might not have the same sort of question in Wales, and, therefore, the task before us is, perhaps, slightly heavier. On the other hand, it's a more democratic process. It's a way of engaging people with the ongoing normal democratic process as opposed to a very dramatic episode. So, there are swings and roundabouts, but I think we're very much on top of trying to raise that awareness in that age group.
Thank you for that answer. I suppose one of the questions that I would have asked—but I suspect I know the answer anyway—is when should 16 and 17-year-olds be made aware of the changes to the voting age. I assume the answer to that is, 'As soon as possible after the Bill becomes law'.
Yes. Although we've had some interesting research findings in Scotland. For example, we have focused on running some form of public awareness campaign at the time of the canvas ahead of the election. So, that will be next year, in our case. In Scotland, for, I think, most of the electoral events, certainly for the parliamentary elections, that didn't work as well with young people. Young people weren't as interested in talking about registration and in talking about politics in the summer when there wasn't an electoral event immediately on the horizon. They were far more interested in the mini canvas at the beginning of the year just ahead of the—. Because then they could really get into it. So, I think we have to learn from what's happened previously and not just do what we've done because that's the way it's always been done.
Okay. Thank you for that. I'll come back to Scotland in a second, if I may. One more question before then. We've heard evidence this morning that local authorities take their responsibility seriously in terms of ensuring that information is out there for 16 and 17-year-olds and younger. Peter, you've already said, and I think rightly so, that we need to find people who can speak the language of younger people, in which I'm not particularly fluent, I must say, at times, with my own. But I think that's important. Also, the Electoral Commission—you've given, Rhydian, some examples there of what's been done in Scotland. How do we avoid duplication? Is there any thought being given to how everybody can be brought together to deliver a coherent campaign?
Yes. I think, at this time, colleagues at Welsh Government and the Assembly Commission are working to bring together all of the relevant groups to talk around the table, as we've previously done in Wales for other electoral events, to work out who needs to do what and when. So, I think that work is currently under way. That may be a question you'll want to pose to colleagues from Welsh Government, and yourselves as well.
Could I just add—? This is a relevant time, perhaps, to remind ourselves that, throughout the last two years, we've had constant discussions with the Llywydd, with the Commission, with the chief executive of the Commission. We've worked side by side in order to be of the utmost value to the Assembly as an Electoral Commission. I think that's one of the driving forces, really, behind the new legislation that gives us a new status, and I hope that we can be a very co-operative, supportive and useful partner in bringing people together.
Un cwestiwn arall, felly—yn Gymraeg y tro hwn. Rŷch chi wedi sôn sawl gwaith nawr am yr Alban, ac wrth gwrs mae'r Alban wedi mynd trwy'r broses hon yn barod ac wedi gorfod delio â threfniadau newydd. Ym mha ffordd allwn ni ddysgu o beth sydd wedi digwydd yn yr Alban? A yw hi'n bosib trosglwyddo'r model o'r Alban yn syth i Gymru? Rŷch chi'n sôn, wrth gwrs, am ddefnydd iaith—mae dwy iaith gyda ni—ond fyddai'n rhaid gwneud unrhyw fath o newidiadau i drefn neu strwythur yr Alban, neu ydyw e'n bosib jest i'w throsglwyddo hi'n gyfan gwbl?
One further question—in Welsh this time. You have mentioned Scotland many times, and, of course, Scotland has gone through this process already and has had to deal with new arrangements. In what way can we learn, therefore, from what's happened in Scotland? Is it possible to transfer the model from Scotland straight to Wales? You mention, of course, the use of language—and we have two languages—but would any changes need to be made to the arrangements in Scotland or is it possible to transfer them in their entirety?
Gwnaf i jest ddechrau ac wedyn gwnaf i ofyn i Rhydian ymateb. Dwi'n meddwl bod yna wersi i'w dysgu, ond mae'n rhaid inni fod yn ofalus, yn union fel ŷch chi newydd ei ddweud: dydy hi ddim yr un etholiad, dydy o ddim yr un digwyddiad. Hynny ydy, fel oeddwn i newydd gyfeirio, mi oedd yna ddigwyddiad mawr iawn yn yr Alban yr un pryd ag yr oedd y bobl ifanc 16 oed yn pleidleisio am y tro cyntaf. Felly, mae ein hamgylchiadau ni ychydig yn wahanol. Beth rydym ni wedi ei wneud ydy dod â swyddogion y comisiwn yn yr Alban i lawr i gyfarfod â phrif weithredwyr y pleidiau a dŷn ni hefyd wedi dod ag arweinydd Gwyrddion Ifanc yr Alban i siarad â bwrdd ymgynghorol y Cynulliad, sydd yn fwrdd ymgynghorol i ni fel comisiwn. Felly, dŷn ni wedi dechrau ar y daith o ofyn, ond mae yna bethau y gallwn ni eu dysgu oddi wrthyn nhw ynglŷn â sut roedd hyn yn gweithio mewn ysgolion. Mae yna argraff bod pob ysgol wedi bod yn addysgu pobl ifanc, ond roedd yna rai awdurdodau lleol lle'r oedd hynny ddim yn digwydd. Ac fel oedd Rhydian yn ei ddweud, mae yna wersi i'w dysgu o amseru gwybodaeth.
I'll just start on that and I'll ask Rhydian to respond as well. I think that there are lessons to be learned, but we have to be careful, exactly as you just said: it's not exactly the same election, it's not exactly the same event. As I already referred to, there was a major event in Scotland at the same time as the young people of 16 years of age were voting for the first time. So, our circumstances are slightly different. But what we have done is we've brought commission officials from Scotland down to meet with the chief executives of the parties and we've brought the leaders of the Scottish Young Greens down to speak with the advisory board of the Assembly, which is an advisory board for us as a commission. So, we have started on that route of asking, but there are certainly things that we can learn from them in terms of how this worked in schools. There is an impression that every school had been teaching young people, but there were some local authorities where that didn't happen. And as Rhydian said, there are lessons to be learned in terms of the timing of information.
Mae’r pwynt am yr awdurdodau lleol yn un dilys. Roedd yna broblem yn yr Alban o ran cael sign-up gan bob un awdurdod lleol i wneud y gwaith yma. Doedd rhai ohonyn nhw ddim eisiau gwneud y gwaith o gwbl achos rhesymau gwleidyddol—ag 'g' fach, hynny yw. Beth fyddwn i'n ei ddweud yw ei fod e fwy neu lai yn rhywbeth allwn ni ei drosglwyddo i Gymru. Yr un gwahaniaeth efallai yw bod y system o gofrestru etholiadol yn yr Alban yn wahanol. Mae'n eistedd tu allan i awdurdodau lleol, o fewn ei swyddfeydd eu hunan. Felly, mae hi rywfaint yn wahanol, ond dwi'n credu o ran y mesurau gwnaethon nhw eu cyflwyno, mae yna ddigon y gallwn ni hefyd ei wneud yng Nghymru. Ond dwi'n credu y gallwn ni hefyd, gobeithio, wneud mwy yng Nghymru. Mae digon o amser gyda ni i feddwl ac mae'r cyfarfodydd yma'n cymryd lle yn barod. Felly, ydy, mae e'n rhywbeth rŷn ni’n gweithio arno’n ddiwyd yn barod.
The point about local authorities is a valid one. There was a problem in Scotland in terms of getting sign-up from every local authority to do this work. Some of them didn't want to undertake it at all because of political reasons—with a small 'p', of course. What I would say is that it's more or less something that we could transfer to Wales. The only difference, perhaps, is that the system of electoral registration in Scotland is different. It sits outside local authorities within its own offices. So, it is slightly different, but I think in terms of the measures they introduced, there are plenty that we could introduce in Wales. But we could also do more in Wales, hopefully. We have sufficient time to think and these meetings are taking place already. So, yes, it's something that we're working diligently on already.
Mae hwnna’n ddiddorol. Doeddwn i ddim yn gwybod hwnna—fod yna drefn wahanol yn yr Alban a bod awdurdodau lleol ddim yn chwarae rôl ganolog ynglŷn â chofrestru etholwyr. Beth yw’r rheswm hanesyddol am hwnna, ac a yw e’n gweithio’n—? Wel, mae’n gweithio’n wahanol, yn amlwg, yn ymarferol, ond ym mha ffordd, felly—ddywedoch chi ddim o hwn, ond dyna beth oeddwn i’n ei glywed—ym mha ffordd oedd e’n rhwyddach, felly, yn yr Alban i gofrestru yn ystod y refferendwm i gymharu â’r system bresennol sydd gyda ni yng Nghymru?
That's interesting. I didn't know that there was a different regime in Scotland and that local authorities didn't play a central part in registering constituents. What's the historic reason for that? It works differently, clearly, in practical terms, but in what way—this is what I heard from your contribution—in what way was it easier in Scotland to register during the referendum as compared to the current system that we have in Wales?
Yr ateb cyflym a syml yw: dydw i ddim rili yn siŵr. Ond dwi’n siŵr y gallem ni gasglu bach o wybodaeth ar hynny trwy ein cydweithwyr ni yn yr Alban a’i rhoi i’r pwyllgor ar ryw bwynt yn yr wythnosau nesaf.
The quick and simple answer is: I'm not quite sure. But I'm sure we could collect some information on that from our colleagues in Scotland and provide it to the committee at some point in the next few weeks.
Rwy’n credu bod hwn yn mynd yn ôl ychydig bach i’r cwestiwn ofynnoch chi’n gynharach. Byddai fo’n fuddiol i fod â chydlynu statudol yng Nghymru. Wrth gwrs, mae yna fanteision i bawb i gydweithio, ond mae yna anfanteision, efallai, yn yr ystyr nad ydy llywodraeth leol mor ynghlwm wrth y system. Mae e’n rhywbeth y dylem ni ei archwilio.
I think this goes back to the question that you asked earlier on. I would be beneficial to have statutory co-ordination in Wales. There are advantages in collaboration, but there are also disadvantages in the sense that local government isn't at the heart of the system in the same way. It's something that we should look at.
Bob, did you want to come in?
I was just going to comment that, essentially, the Scottish administration is no easier or more difficult; it's just a separate office holder that does it in Scotland. But I was just thinking, listening to the discussion there, that, actually, the key here is not so much—and we talk about public awareness campaigns; you can spend a lot of money on paid public awareness campaigns—but it seems to me in a Welsh context, and particularly not in a lead-up to a major referendum, as in Scotland, it is more, actually, about unpaid public awareness. It is about the communication, it is through the education, the schools, local authorities, it is through partnership working, and it's all that that Rhydian is referring to. It is that co-ordination that'll make it work and work well. But I think it will be a slower burn here in Wales, inevitably; it would be difficult to imagine you're going to get a massive first hit at registration in the same way as happened in Scotland.
That information would be very, very helpful, actually, for us. David Melding.
Thank you, Chair. We've talked about some of the practical issues about collecting the data so that 14 and 15-year-olds can be registered as attainers and then the 16 and 17-year-olds on the register. Are there any particular issues around data protection and child protection, as well, that come into play, and how adequately do you think you are preparing to meet those challenges?
Would you like to expand on what you've said already?
Yes, absolutely. They do come into play, very much so, as we've been referring to. It has to be done really carefully and well and within existing data protection law and child protection law. So, these are real issues. We have the precedent of Scotland, which is helpful but not the same—not exactly the same, obviously—it needs to be applied in a Welsh context. So, it will take the relevant statutory bodies working together: of course, the electoral community, across local authorities, child protection responsibilities, statutory responsibilities and social services, and across, obviously, the Information Commissioner's Office as well. As organisations, we have the precedent of Scotland; we've done it there and that would apply here. I don't think it requires any specific or complex electoral legislation because, actually, the law is there already. It's the application of that in this context. So, it is more about practice and making sure that, for returning officers, electoral administrators, there's very, very clear guidance. And political parties as well, obviously, to make sure they don't put their foot wrong either and use the registers.
So, does this extend to training and preparing people who normally, perhaps, wouldn't certainly have experience of child protection issues, I would've thought?
'Yes' is the answer to that. That goes back to Rhydian's earlier point about a good lead-in time. When you get a significant change of legislation like this, you want to be confident that those who need to deliver have sufficient time to be trained, for there to be proper guidance out there and for it to work well in practice.
If I could go on to another issue for the Electoral Commission. We talked about the need to communicate and find new ways of communicating information to 14, 15 and 16-year-olds, and you talk about schools exclusively, really, it seems to me. So, in Scotland, they had this—I think you said it was an existential event, Elan. So, how do we replicate a wider communication strategy that can reach these groups? Because schools are very significant, but they also get associated with certain aspects of life, which are separate to being a citizen. You don't really want to see this as part of being a good pupil necessarily. I don't know—it could be a turn-off for some.
I know I'm saying the same thing, but I think it all comes back to working in partnership with those groups that know how to actually talk to young people, especially young people outside of formal education. That process has begun already, and we are bringing people together. Lots of that happened in Scotland. They did work in partnership with a variety of different organisations, primarily, I think it's fair to say, in terms of formal education, but there were other avenues there as well. So, I think that's something we would need to really focus on, and those conversations have begun already.
And do you think this should extend to parents and guardians as well? They are the key group here, aren't they, in terms of transmitting information and encouraging a culture that—
Yes. I guess it would depend on the types of information they would transmit in some ways. We've said already, and we've seen this, that we would like to see, because of the restrictions in place in terms of EROs getting the details of 14 and 15-year-olds—one of the things we've said, and I think it's been included, is that it's important that EROs have communication mechanisms with adults living within the same household so that they can talk to their children or the young people there about the importance of registering, which you would hope will happen already, but, yes, absolutely.
Could I just add there—? We're focusing—. Because of the particular nature of this legislation, we're focusing on the 16-year-olds, but engagement with younger voters, engagement that you hope will go on for life, is a really serious issue for all of us. When the 16-year-olds are no longer within the school, they are volatile in terms of changes of address. At 18, 19, do they think they have to reregister—if they're in the same address and they think they have to reregister for every election. There are all sorts of awareness issues that we have to engage with and promote.
I've got another question now, really on the sort of architecture of all this, these legislative changes. This Bill, if successful—or this part of the Bill, if successful—would reduce the voting age for Assembly elections to 16 but local government elections would remain where they are, unless a future Bill is successful also. Do you think this introduces an element of risk? And how would you respond if, in the end, we did actually have separate systems for a while or separate rights in terms of the franchise for a while?
I think—and it's not just an issue for 16-year-olds; I think we might see other elements of franchise change included in the local government Bill. We've seen some things in the pre-legislative consultation. From our perspective as a commission, the key thing will be effective public awareness ahead of any election that would explain to people who can and who can't take part in that election, and that doesn't just fall within any mass media work or campaign; it will also fall within political literacy and schools' formal education work as well. So, we will need to do what we can do through public information and public awareness, as well as the guidance that we would need to produce and provide to colleagues working on the elections themselves. We would manage it, but, certainly, there's a risk of voter confusion there, and indeed in terms of the divergence of the register. The local government register at the moment is one register that's used for both elections. If that were to be changed, that would make life far more difficult for colleagues on the other side of this table in terms of the running of the election and registration, and they may want to add to that.
It is purely—it is just that confusion. There's the danger that—. We're already seeing it, for example, with the European elections coming up on 23 May and the need for EU nationals to register; there will be confusion at polling stations, there's no doubt. In Scotland, there is already that difference between 16 for local government and Scottish Parliament and 18 for parliamentary. That's a clearer distinction than if there were three levels almost in Wales, and that would add, I believe, a degree of complexity. But, as long as it's communicated and as long as the electoral community are aware of those changes then it will be administered appropriately, but it will be confusing.
One thing we could do is commence the part of the Bill that's under consideration here to lower the vote to 16 when that's done for local government also. Do you think that type of approach—? Or, indeed, we could have had a single Bill to do all of this, but that's not where we are, for whatever reason. Or could you manage it and is the principle of lowering at least for one of these elections so enormous that we shouldn't endanger that, or should we co-ordinate to save this sort of voter confusion?
It's our current understanding—we may be wrong, but our current understanding, as laypeople looking at your legislative ambitions, is that the two Bills will allow for 16-year-old franchise. Therefore, as far as the two Welsh elections are concerned, there will be no confusion because the 16 franchise will be the same for both. Our concern is with confusion, rather than with are there two Bills or how things go through. It's the objective, and, if the objective is the same, then I think we're comfortable with trying to extend that public awareness.
Yes, and just to very quickly add to it, whilst there are clear risks, there are clear problems, if you were to have a different franchise in one election to the other election, if that's the will of this place then we will make it work in some way. That's what we're there to do. Whilst we might not always agree with some of the proposals that are introduced—not in this example—we would certainly work with everyone, with partners, with officials and everyone else, to try and make it work.
And then, finally, the parliamentary elections are likely to remain at 18. It seems likely. Perhaps reflecting on the experience in Scotland, does this cause any voter confusion or do you anticipate it's something that you just have to administer and live with and people would soon grasp it or not?
My feedback from Scottish colleagues is the latter. Certainly it's not ideal, but at the same time it's well recognised, I think, as the best way. There were certainly two polls reasonably close together where the franchise was significantly different and there will have been some issues but nothing that was insurmountable. So, it's workable as it stands at the moment.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Dwi yn ymwybodol o amser ac mae nifer helaeth o'r cwestiynau roeddwn i'n mynd i'w gofyn eisoes wedi'u hateb mewn modd bendigedig eisoes a chynhwysfawr. Felly, diolch yn fawr iawn i chi i gyd. Mae i gyd wedi bod yn hynod ddiddorol, mae'n rhaid i mi ddweud. Yn gyntaf oll wrth gwrs, fel Carwyn, doeddwn i ddim yn sylweddoli bod system gofrestru etholiadol wahanol yn yr Alban, felly, tu allan i reolaeth llywodraeth leol.
Wedyn, jest i geisio adeiladu ar gefn hynny, rydyn ni wedi cael pob math o dystiolaeth ysgrifenedig o bob man, ac—. Hynny yw, beth ŷch chi'n meddwl yn nhermau etholiadau Senedd, felly, fod cyfrifoldebau'r prif weithredwr, y swyddog canlyniadau, felly—? Etholiadau'r Senedd—ddylai cyfrifoldeb y prif weithredwr yn yr etholiadau yna fod felly y prif weithredwr statudol mewn awdurdod lleol?
Meddyliwch am hynny tra dwi'n gofyn hefyd am sut mae'r Comisiwn Etholiadol yn edrych ar gael ei ariannu gan y Cynulliad a'r holl gydweithredu sydd wedi bod yn mynd ymlaen ers 2017 ac yn gweithio ac yn cydweithio efo'r Cynulliad, ac eisiau cydweithio efo'r Cynulliad yn gyfan gwbl, ddim jest efo'r Llywodraeth fel y cyfryw. Beth ydych chi'n feddwl am y rhannau yna, cyn i ni ddod i bethau eraill sydd â dim cysylltiad efo beth dwi newydd ei ofyn?
Thank you very much, Chair. I am aware of time and a number of the questions I was going to ask have already been answered in a lovely way and in a comprehensive way. So, thank you very much to you all. This has been very interesting, I must say. First of all, of course, like Carwyn, I didn't realise that the electoral registration system is different in Scotland, and is outside of local government in Scotland.
Just to try and build on that, we've had all sorts of written evidence from many places, and—. What do you think of, in terms of the Senedd elections, that responsibilities of the chief executive, the returning officer—that the chief executive in those elections therefore should be the statutory chief executive in a local authority?
Think about that as I ask also about how the Electoral Commission looks at being funded by the Assembly and the joint working that's been going on since 2017 and working and collaborating with the Assembly, and wanting to collaborate with the Assembly, not just with the Government, in a sense. What do you think of those issues before we go on to things that aren't related at all to what I've already asked?
Wel, dŷn ni'n blês fod y cymalau fel y maen nhw wedi'u cynnwys yn y ddeddfwriaeth. Dŷn ni wedi bod yn gweithio'n agos iawn efo'r Llywydd a'i swyddogion a hefyd efo Llywodraeth Cymru, dros rhyw 18 mis i ddwy flynedd bron â bod nawr, i sicrhau bod y newidiadau sydd yn y ddeddfwriaeth seneddol, y Wales Act, yn cael eu cynnwys yn y ddeddfwriaeth yma.
Rwy'n credu beth sy'n bwysig o ran egwyddor ar ein hochr ni, ac efallai gwnaiff Elan siarad am atebolrwydd a'r egwyddor ynglŷn â hynny, ond, o ran amseriad a sut mae pethau'n mynd i weithio'n ymarferol, dŷn ni'n gweld bod y cyfrifoldebau yma i gyd yn cael eu trosglwyddo i'r Cynulliad erbyn 2021 ar gyfer etholiadau'r Cynulliad. Dwi'n credu, o safbwynt y comisiwn, mae ond yn iawn, a dyna'n lein ni ers y dechrau, fod ein dyletswyddau ni sy'n ymwneud â'r etholiadau hynny hefyd yn cael eu trosglwyddo ar yr un amser, i sicrhau bod y gwaith rŷn ni'n ei wneud ar gyfer yr etholiadau hynny—p'un ai bod e'n waith ynglŷn â public awareness neu guidance neu ta beth fyddai fe—ein bod ni'n atebol i'r Cynulliad am y gwaith hwnnw ar y pryd hwnnw.
We're pleased that the clauses as they stand are included in the legislation. We've been working very closely with the Llywydd and her officials and with the Welsh Government, over almost two years now, to ensure that the changes that are in the parliamentary legislation, the Wales Act, are included in this legislation.
I think what's important in terms of principle, and perhaps Elan will speak about this principle of accountability, but, in terms of how this is going to work in practical terms, we see that these responsibilities are all transferred to the Assembly by 2021 for Assembly elections. I think, from the point of view of the commission, it's only right, and this has been our line from the beginning, that our duties related to those elections should also be transferred according to the same timetable, to ensure that the work that we do for those elections—be it work on public awareness or guidance or whatever it might be—that we are then accountable to the Assembly for that work at that time.
Os caf i ategu hynny, dwi'n meddwl y byddai fo'n rhyfedd, yn od iawn, pe bai'r holl newidiadau yma'n mynd trwodd ar gyfer etholiadau Cymru ond eto bod atebolrwydd y comisiwn yng Nghymru am yr etholiadau hynny yn aros gyda'r pwyllgor yn San Steffan. Mae hynny yn edrych yn sefyllfa ryfedd ac efallai yn annerbyniol i chi. Felly, dŷn ni wedi bod yn gweithio gyda brwdfrydedd i gydweithio gyda'r Llywydd yn y materion yma. Dwi'n mynd nôl at beth ddywedais i ar y dechrau. Dwi'n meddwl ei fod o'n bwysig iawn bod yna bwyllgor comisiwn, sydd yn bwyllgor ar wahan i bwyllgorau'r Llywodraeth, yn edrych ar faterion etholiadol—bod o'n drawsbleidiol ac yn atebol i bob plaid yn hytrach nag i un blaid lywodraethol yn unig. Dwi'n meddwl bod hwnnw yn fater cwbl sylfaenol. Dydy hynna ddim yn golygu na fyddem ni bob amser yn barod i ddod i bwyllgorau eraill y comisiwn i ateb. Efallai y byddai'r prif weithredwr, Bob, fan hyn eisiau sôn ychydig bach mwy am y ffordd y byddai fo fel prif swyddog cyllidol, accounting officer, yn barod i ddod yma i ateb unrhyw gwestiynau cyllidol hefyd.
Ond gaf i jest ddweud bod swyddogaeth y comisiwn yng Nghymru yn gymaint mwy na jest o le mae'r arian yn dod ac i ba bwrs mae'r arian yn mynd? Mae'n swyddogaeth o gydweithio, o fod yn rhyngweithiol yn materion—byddech chi eisiau i ni, efallai, fonitro ambell i beilot neu ffordd newydd o weithio, felly mae e'n ehangach o lawer na materion ariannol.
If I could supplement that, I think it would be strange, very odd, if all these changes went through for elections in Wales but yet again accountability of the commission in Wales for those elections remained with the committee in Westminster. That would appear to be a very strange situation, and perhaps would be unacceptable to you. So, we have been working with enthusiasm to work with the Llywydd on these issues. I go back to what I said at the beginning. I think it's very important that there is a commission committee that is separate to the Government committees looking at electoral issues—that it is cross-party and accountable to every party rather than just one party in Government. I think that is a fundamental issue. That does not mean that we would not always be willing to come to other committees for the commission to be accountable. Perhaps the chief executive here, Bob, would like to talk a little bit more about the way he, as the chief finance officer, the accounting officer, would be willing to come here to answer any questions on finance.
But could I just say that the function of the commission in Wales is much more than just where the money is coming from and to what purse the funding is going? It is a function of collaborating, of being interactive on issues that you would want us perhaps to monitor—you might want us to monitor a pilot or look at new ways of working, so it is much broader than just funding issues.
Dyna chi. Diolch am hynny. Dwi'n dilyn y lein ac mae o'n gwneud perffaith synnwyr, yn naturiol. Beth ŷch chi'n ei wneud o awgrym, rwy'n credu, Comisiynydd y Gymraeg y dylai cyfrifoldeb y swyddog canlyniadau, fel y dywedais i eisoes, yn etholiadau'r Senedd gael ei drosglwyddo i fod yn rhan o gyfrifoldebau swydd y prif weithredwr statudol mewn awdurdod lleol—sydd ddim, efallai, yn cyd-fynd efo rhyw fath o syniad cynhwysfawr fel dŷch chi newydd ei amlinellu? Dwi'n cymryd hynny fel dŷch chi wedi ei ddweud e, a buaswn i'n cytuno, mae'n rhaid i mi ddweud.
Thank you for that. I follow the line and it makes perfect sense, naturally. But what do you make of the suggestion of the Welsh Language Commissioner that the responsibility of the returning officer in the Senedd elections should be transferred to be part of the responsibilities of the post of the statutory chief executive in local authorities, which might not correspond to the comprehensive idea that you've just outlined? I take that as you've said it, and I would have to say I agree.
Sori, ife Comisiynydd y Gymraeg ddywedoch chi?
Sorry, did you say the Welsh Language Commissioner?
Dwi ddim yn credu byddai barn gyda'r comisiwn yn gyffredinol ar y swyddogaeth ei hunan. Rwy'n credu beth fyddem ni'n ei weld sy'n bwysig yw bod yr unigolyn hwnnw yn cael yr hyfforddiant sydd ei eisiau i sicrhau bod yr etholiad neu'r canvass yn cael ei redeg mewn ffordd effeithiol.
I don't think the commission would have a view in general on that function. What we would see as important is that that individual has the training that's required to ensure that the election or the canvass is run in an effective way.
Grêt. Jest cwpwl o gwestiynau i orffen. Ar fater hollol wahanol, beth ydy'ch barn chi ar y ffaith nad yw'r Bil yn mynd i'r afael â hawliau pleidleisiau i garcharorion neu wladolion tramor cymwys? Yn fyr, achos dŷn ni bron â rhedeg allan o amser.
Great. Just a couple of questions to conclude. On an entirely different matter, what's your opinion on the fact that the Bill does not address the issue of voting rights for prisoners or qualifying foreign nationals? Briefly, because we're almost out of time.
Dwi'n meddwl mai mater i chi ydy beth dŷch chi'n ei gynnwys yn y Bil. Chi ydy'r bobl sydd wedi cael eich ethol, chi sydd yn penderfynu, ond mi fyddwn ni'n gwneud yn saff ein bod ni'n gweithredu.
I think it's a matter for you what you include in the Bill. You're the people who've been elected and you decide, and we would ensure that we would implement that.
Mae'r comisiwn wedi rhoi tystiolaeth eisoes i'r pwyllgor llywodraeth leol a hawliau dynol ar ein barn ni ar bleidleisio i garcharorion.
The commission has given evidence already to the local government committee on our opinion on votes for prisoners.
Dyna ni. Diolch. A'r cwestiwn olaf wrthyf i ydy hefyd ofyn eich barn—eto, dwi'n cymryd yn syniad efallai eich bod chi ddim eisiau gwyntyllu eich barn arno, neu fod yna farn yn rhywle arall, ond beth yn benodol ydy'ch barn chi ar y darpariaethau yn y Bil yma sy'n galluogi Gweinidogion Cymru yn fan hyn i wneud is-ddeddfwriaeth i weithredu argymhellion Comisiwn y Gyfraith mewn perthynas â diwygio cyfraith etholiadol?
That's it. Thank you very much. The final question from me, also asking your view—and I take it that perhaps you don't want to give us that view, or it's somewhere else, but what are your views on the provisions in the Bill enabling Welsh Ministers here to make secondary legislation to implement Law Commission recommendations relating to electoral law reform?
Dwi'n meddwl efallai bydd y prif weithredwr eisiau ehangu ar hyn.
I think the chief executive wants to expand on that.
We'd very much support that. What's needed across the UK is a really solid framework of rationalised and modernised electoral law. I think it would have been nicer if you had the Westminster—you could have undone that already before devolving, but it hasn't happened, so you're left, as across the UK, with the need for this to happen. The Law Comissions across the UK have produced a blueprint to do that. It is, effectively, a set of instructions to parliamentary counsel on how to simplify and rationalise electoral law. And that will provide a really solid base for you moving forward with Welsh elections. So, we would encourage you, as soon as opportunity arises, to look at that—for Ministers to do that by secondary legislation where they can. It's not a political thing, it's not a vote-catching thing, it's just something that, at some stage, legislatures across the UK have to do from time to time to keep electoral law modern and sensible and manageable.
And, of course, there needs to be a proper accountability framework within that, and, of course, there have been suggestions of amendments later on. Do you have any particular view on the nature of those amendments or what should happen, or—?
Well, in the sense of looking at the Law Commission's work and then reviewing that, yes, that would need to be done first. So, I think there's a blueprint there, consider what it is, consider which parts are important for you to take forward and then build that framework. That would be the thing to do.
Okay. Right. Well, thank you very much. I think that brings us exactly to the end of our allotted time. If there are any other items of urgency you would like to draw to our attention, then please feel free to submit those through and we'll do likewise. There will be a transcript of evidence in due course that will go to you to check for accuracy. I would just thank you for the time you've given today on this important area. I'm sure there may be further contact on this in due course.
Can I suggest we just go into a very short recess for the change-over of nameplates and a quick comfort break if it's required? Five minutes. Okay. Thank you very much.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng ac 11:01 ac 11:06.
The meeting adjourned between 11:01 and 11:06.
Welcome, Counsel General, to another session on this particular piece of legislation. Thank you for your attendance. We've got quite a long session and quite a wide range of questions. If I can also welcome Chris Warner, deputy director, constitution and justice, Bethan Roberts, lawyer, and Lisa James, deputy director, local government democracy division. Thank you for attending.
If I can just start off the process, of course, this piece of legislation is extracted from a broader policy framework of legislation, which was about increasing the size of the Assembly, and so on. And, of course, this has been taken out of that. Do you think that there are any particular problems with doing that, or are you happy with the fact that this has been taken as a stand-alone piece of legislation on a—well, I say, 'single issue', but on the franchise and one or two other areas?
Thank you, Chair. Well, as you say, the work of the panel really focused on three separate or related areas, but distinct areas and this Bill obviously addresses the question of the voting age. There are two other significant parts to the consultation and I do understand the instinct that, 'Might it not be better for these things to be dealt with in one Bill?'. What I would say, I suppose, on the other side is that even this piece of work is a significant piece of reform of electoral law, and it's obviously important that those sorts of changes are made in a way that is considered and allows as much time as possible for these things to bed in. And also, it's obviously important that matters of this sort are dealt with, wherever possible, by consensus. And obviously, at this point, the consensus exists in relation to the first of those three components, and the other two are under discussion, of course.
So, really, it's a fact of timing. We've got Assembly elections coming up and we've got a consensus in relation to part of that, but I do understand the instinct, of course, that, in an ideal world, perhaps one would deal with all of these things neatly in one place.
Okay. So, we are where we are as far as this legislation is concerned. Now, there are, of course, powers for the conduct of Assembly elections under section 13 of the Government of Wales Act 2006. Are there any provisions within that that could be used, or might be better placed, rather than in terms of some of this legislation and so on? Do you think there's scope there—that there are changes that could be made?
I think there's a distinction, which I draw in my own mind, between the constitutional provisions on one hand and conduct provisions on the other. And the powers to which you refer, which obviously have now become powers of Welsh Ministers after the Wales Act, which obviously I welcome—it's appropriate that they should be—those powers deal with the conduct issues, really, and sort of operational issues, if I can use that term loosely. And so, if you were to look at the range of things that the Bill deals with, I think in terms of the numbers, as it were, that's a much smaller part of it. The heavy lifting in the Bill is around the extension to 16 and 17. And I think, given that that is the case—and I think other witnesses may have said this to you—it is appropriate, because perhaps they're at the periphery of that core issue, that they're looked at together and given the same scrutiny, which they're now able to be given by being dealt with on the face of the Bill.
And of course it's a significant piece of constitutional legislation in terms of reform, so primary legislation, as you're presenting, is absolutely the way forward on this.
The Assembly Commission has produced a statement of policy intent for the exercise of powers by Welsh Ministers, and I wonder if you have any views on the proposals by the Llywydd as to how those powers should be used.
Yes. Obviously, Welsh Government officials have worked closely with Commission officials in relation to this, and so the statement of powers, I suppose, comes in two parts. One is in relation to section 3 powers, which are the sorts of things you've just been talking about, and we are content that those are reflected in the way they should be in the statement of policy intent. There's a separate provision in Part 5 of the Bill, which is around the Law Commission provisions, and you will know that we don't feel it is appropriate for Welsh Ministers to exercise those powers. We feel that those should be matters that are dealt with through the Assembly, perhaps on the basis of some kind of different procedure, but essentially those should be matters for primary law-making powers and consideration in the usual way.
Thank you. Yes, of course we've had your letter that set out those particular views, and we'll consider that further in due course. David Melding.
Thanks, Chair. I don't suppose there's anything more constitutionally important than who should be able to vote in elections, so do you think this Bill should have been published in draft?
Well, that’s a point the committee has made of Government Bills in the past, and I know continues to be a concern for the committee. I think, in an ideal world, publishing a draft Bill and consulting on that is a good way of engaging stakeholders. I think the substance of the changes that are being proposed in the Bill have been the subject of consultation, have been the subject of extensive reflection by the expert panel, and so I feel that has provided the opportunity for people to engage on the substance of the issue.
Okay. This Bill has been produced as a result of a memorandum of understanding between the Commission and the Government, and I just wonder how comfortable you were about that irregular process, I think it's fair to say.
I think that stems, as I'm sure the committee will have heard in evidence, from the request from the Llywydd to the Government for support, principally, of course, because of the coincidence of timing between the fact that the Welsh Government is working on franchise provisions in relation to local government, and obviously the principal task of this Bill relates to franchise for the Assembly elections. So, I think, in a sense, because of that fact it seemed to make sense in those circumstances.
I think, though, that if this is the beginning of a process, and if there is future legislation, there is absolutely a case to have a sort of lessons-learned approach from how it has worked in practice. I think it's working well, but there have been challenges in terms of resourcing and the additional governance that goes with having this sort of arrangement in place. So, I think we would need to reflect on that if there was going to be a Bill with a broader scope. This is a significant Bill, but when we come to Bills around the voting system and the number of Members, those are likely to lead to much bigger legislation. So, I think we need to look at that differently, perhaps, in that context.
That's a very interesting answer. I infer that, for the other parts of the reform that may come from the panel's report, this model may not be so appropriate.
You mentioned governance, because presumably your team has to brief the Presiding Officer on aspects of the public defence and, indeed, when she appeared before our committee. That's awkward, isn't it?
One of the practical outturns of the arrangements in place are the existence of ethical walls within departments to ensure that there are people dedicated to particular legislation that isn't then part of the mainstream of the work of the department at large, both from a policy point of view and from a legal services point of view. So, that exists, and that's how it should exist, but what that does mean, of course, is that there's an element of duplication that goes with that. Meetings perhaps have to happen with different individuals where ordinarily they might be happening with one individual. So, there are those sorts of challenges that go with the necessary ethical walls and conflict arrangements that we've put in place.
And, if I go into practicalities, Part 3 of the Bill deals with much of the guts of this legislation. Has that been drafted by you—or the Welsh Government, rather—or the Commission?
Happily, it's been drafted by Welsh Government lawyers, rather than me personally, but, yes, the franchise provisions are drafted by Welsh Government lawyers, really reflecting the fact that much of the work had been in hand in relation to the local government franchise, and so that's been part of the benefit of asking Welsh Government lawyers to engage on that.
And there have already been intimations—the Presiding Officer mentioned this—that that part of the Bill will require amendment at Stages 2 and 3. So, who is going to lead on that, in terms of the amendments that will be necessary, and who will—? Well, presumeably, you will be drafting them, or your department will.
Yes. They'll be drafted by Welsh Government lawyers, and they'll provide support to the Llywydd in relation to technical amendments, I envisage, but in relation to—. You'll know there are some policy questions on which the Welsh Government has a particular view, for example, in relation to extending the franchise to foreign nationals who have leave to enter and remain. So, there'll be policy questions that will lead to amendments, potentially, and those I would anticipate being brought forward by the Government. But, in terms of technical amendment, I think that's most likely to be brought forward by the Llywydd, I would think.
I'd like to go on to some important issues, but perhaps they are secondary. Was any thought given to creating a separate category for Assembly elections in terms of the legislation, under, for instance, the Representation of the People Act 1983, rather than—? It's been drawn, at the minute, from local government provisions, and this seems clunky, given that we now have an Assembly. Would it be a clearer system if we created a separate legal category for the Assembly elections?
Well, it has been the subject of consideration. The starting point is that the Assembly's franchise is linked to entitlement to vote and register on the local government register. So, that is the starting point. I suppose, if one were to wish to have a different kind of franchise for the Assembly than for local government, there might be some force, or more force, in the argument for having a separate Assembly franchise separately recorded, if you like. But since the policy objective—certainly of the Government in this regard—which is supported widely by the respondents to the consultation, of course, is to have as little as possible in terms of difference between those two franchises, I think having a separate Assembly franchise wouldn't serve a particular practical purpose and would, I think, in those circumstances, be duplicative.
Now, obviously, some of the proposals that the Government has indicated we would like to see in the Bill, in particular around the question of foreign nationals—and we don't know yet what the outcome will be in relation to prisoner voting, for example—. It's conceivable, obviously, that we will end up with different franchises for the Assembly and for local government at the end of the process. And I think, in those circumstances, clearly there are existing arrangements where entries can be marked on the local government register, and I think those can work practically in that way for those differences, if they should exist.
And should the reform of local government elections go ahead—and I know there's a clear intention for that, but there's still a risk element in presenting these changes under two Bills—will anything be reversed in this Bill in terms of lowering the franchise for 16-year-olds, in terms of the changes to the 2006 Act—the Government of Wales Act 2006—and the 1983 Representation of the People Act that are proposed in this Bill?
Not from a policy point of view. We don't envisage that the local government legislation would amend the Senedd Bill from a policy point of view. But, at this point in time, of course, we don't know what the outcome will be in terms of the amendments we've just been talking about. So, it's conceivable, it seems to me, that there might be technical changes that the future legislation may need to make, but not, I think, from a policy point of view.
Okay. But, in terms of clear lawmaking, it could be better than this, couldn't it, really? It seems quite a clunky approach. Could it go stronger than that?
Well, I mean, in a sense, back to the question that the Chair started the session with, if you were to design the most accessible version of any legislation in this area, plainly, without any other constraints, you would have one Bill that sets out all the provisions in accessible language, and consolidated all existing law. But that's not—. You have to, I think, set accessibility as an objective in the context of the other factors that apply and we have, again, as we touched on briefly at the start, the question of timing and the question of consensus, which are also relevant considerations here.
There are accessibility concerns that I've raised in relation to parts of the Bill, which perhaps we'll come on to talk about, and I also think it is fair to say—and we're all, I think, facing this challenge as we take on responsibility for electoral law at large, if you like—it is incredibly complicated. The Law Commission has said that on a number of occasions and, certainly, there's a task I think at some future point to look at whether that is most accessible. Clearly, it isn't, but I think that's probably a task for a future exercise.
Yes, I'm just going to finish the point, because it will get to the heart of the matter. In terms of this suite of really important constitutional changes, we have the franchise being lowered to 16 under two separate Bills—one a Government Bill, one a Commission Bill with a memorandum of understanding. And the Senedd Bill is one third or it only covers one part of the three parts of the panel recommendations on really important constitutional matters. Isn't the lesson here that all of this should have been dealt with by the Government? And, obviously, when the Government introduces constitutional legislation, there are set patterns in the Westminster model to do that—inclusive cross-party negotiations and such, and then the Government introduces the Bill and we all know where we are. And this is very murky and not really conducive to proper scrutiny and consideration.
Well, I think elsewhere, clearly, these matters are dealt with by Government Bills typically, as I understand it, so it is novel in that sense for it to be brought forward by the Commission, but I do think we ought to give weight to the factor of building a consensus around areas where some of these are more politically-charged areas than others, aren't they, for reasons that we perhaps all understand. And I think the Llywydd, if I may say, has a particular role in seeking to build that consensus. So, that, I think, tends to support that route, and I think that's why we find ourselves debating this kind of Bill.
I'm reluctant to give evidence on this point, because I was involved, of course—I agreed the memorandum of understanding, so I'll simply confine myself to asking some very leading questions of the Counsel General. It's the case, is it not, that the reason why the memorandum of understanding was agreed was in order to provide the Commission with the resource that the Commission had requested.
Yes, I think there's a question of—. You know, the Commission is embarking on a significant piece of legislation, isn't it, and it felt the need for additional resource and capability in this area, and I think that's part of the mix.
Sorry, one other, if I could. The question's been raised as to why one all-encompassing Bill has not been used to take this forward. I think it's correct to say that there are some, as you put it, politically-charged aspects of the Bill; let's not beat about the bush. We know that the issue of electoral reform in Assembly elections is the most politically-charged issue, on which there is no current consensus. It's the case, isn't it, that, if a single Bill had been proposed, there would have been no time to get such a Bill through this current Assembly, and, as a result of that, everything else would have been lost as well, including the name change and including the extension of the franchise, if it was the case that everything had been included in one single Bill on which there was no agreement.
Yes, I think that's very likely to be the case, and agreeing to do it on the basis of lowering the franchise, where there's a much broader agreement, I think enables that to be in place for the next elections, which otherwise might not have been the case.
Can I just ask, then, on this, of course, you've given evidence to this committee previously on another piece of legislation with regard to codification, and this approach does rather drive a coach and horses through that approach—do you have any view on how the codification aspect to it might be dealt with or recovered, bearing in mind that this isn't, probably, the most ideal way of legislating?
I would say that there are parts of the Bill, for example, the disqualification sections—part of the objective there is to consolidate and to clarify what is in existing law. It also reforms, of course, but a lot of it is about clarifying the existing law, which is pretty complex. So, the Bill does take steps in that direction. But if your question is: 'Is the consolidation and ultimate codification of electoral law something which would be of advantage?', I think the answer to that is plainly 'yes'. The question is when best to embark upon that. It's a hugely resource-intensive task, and I think it's the sort of thing that the Law Commission, classically, would drive, effectively. I think that's—. When to embark on that sort of task, I think, is a question for another day. But have we reached that destination in this Bill? We haven't, no.
Or something for further consideration or on another piece of legislation, possibly. Mandy Jones.
Thank you. I'd like to talk to you about the name change of the Welsh Assembly. The Welsh Government's original approach was that the name change should appear in a standalone Bill. Why has it changed its view?
That was the Government's original view, but you've seen the correspondence, I think, which the Llywydd has made available, between the Government and the Llywydd in the intervening period and I think as a consequence of that and the emerging policy positions of the Llywydd, we felt it was appropriate for it to be dealt with in this Bill.
Right. In a letter to the committee you said that the proposed name change could
'add to, rather than reduce, the confusion which already exists about the names of our institutions, which is extremely important given that the proposed amendments are to our key constitutional statute.'
Can you explain why you think the proposed change would add to the confusion?
Yes, I can. The proposed amendment to section 1 of the Government of Wales Act would read, effectively, 'There is to be an Assembly for Wales to be known as the Senedd, and the Senedd may also be known as the Welsh Parliament.' So, effectively, that stipulates in one of our key constitutional statues three different names, three different terms, for the same institution, and I think whatever one's view is of the legal analysis—and, plainly, there are different perspectives on that—everyone, I think, would accept that that isn't the most accessible and straightforward way to describe the institution. And since a fundamental part of the process was to ensure public understanding of what we do, we should set great store by achieving accessibility in relation to that. There is also a separate question about the drafting of the legislation, which both amends the Government of Wales Act and then creates a separate set of standalone provisions describing the institution, and I'm not clear why that's an advantage. That seems to me to increase the complexity rather than decrease it, without adding any particular benefit.
You just mentioned about the public. It's also a preferred option expressed by respondents to the Assembly Commission’s consultation on the name of the Assembly. What's your view on choosing a name that is not a preferred choice of the public?
You're referring here to the use of the term 'Senedd', I think, as opposed to 'Senedd Cymru', which is what the consultation suggested was the most popular form. That's also the Government's view as to the best form. I will say very clearly though that I think this is a matter for the Assembly to decide on the name of the institution. But, to echo the point I made, in relation to public understanding it's important that the public's view is given weight in relation to that. So, that tends to suggest that 'Senedd Cymru' and 'Welsh Parliament' might be preferable to the term 'Senedd'. I also recognise that it's the Llywydd's task to seek consensus across the Chamber in relation to this, and that's a very important part of the exercise. The Government's view is 'Senedd Cymru' reflects the territorial connection in the way that Scottish Parliament does and the Dáil Éireann does. And so I think that would be our preferred position, but, clearly, this is a matter for the Assembly.
You said that your preference would be to amend section 1 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 so that it would read: 'There is to be a parliament for Wales to be known as [x]'.
Are you confident that this change would be within the Assembly’s legislative competence?
I am confident of that. That point, as the committee will know, has been the subject of discussion between the Government and the Commission, and the Commission has taken a different view, but I note that the Secretary of State's view as well is that this would be within the Assembly's competence. Since everybody, I think, would accept that we should be seeking the most accessible form of words in this important piece of legislation, and I think since we also have the indication from the Secretary of State that he shares the view that the Assembly has competence to refer to itself as a Parliament, I think given that there is, in my view, a very good argument—but I think even Commission lawyers would say a respectable or a reasonable argument—that the analysis that we've put forward is the correct analysis, that would tend, to me, to suggest that the better route is to use a simpler form of language that I've proposed, the Government has proposed, and for which we think the Assembly has competence.
Yes, I know there are different views on the competence issue but, of course, another factor to consider is whether there's any real risk of challenge. If there is no issue as far as the UK Government is concerned, then who, in reality, is going to challenge in the first place, even if the competence issues can't be resolved? It would be right to say that, effectively, the Assembly can call itself what it wants, in practice. I remember the establishment of the 'Welsh Assembly Government'—not a name I would have chosen, but 'Welsh Assembly Government'—even though there was no actual Executive at that point; this was still a corporate body. The term became familiar to people and, of course, eventually, it became established by the 2006 Act, if I remember rightly. In 2011, I decided to drop the 'Assembly' bit, and it was 'Welsh Government', even though that wasn't changed formally until 2014. So, it would be fair to say, wouldn't it, that, in reality, the Assembly can call itself what it wants, although it does give rise potentially to the clunkiness that you've illustrated there of three different terms being used in one section. But, in practice, there's no obstacle to the Assembly calling itself whatever it wants.
If I may say, I think that's an important distinction. I think the Llywydd has also said, hasn't she, that she envisages the term of use generally becoming 'Senedd', and it's possible to draft that first section in a way that acknowledges that in the rest of the Act it's called the 'Senedd', for example. So, I think what it's called in statute and what it's called in common parlance may differ for reasons that are beyond our control anyway, if you like. But the point you make about risk, I think, is important, because if we set ourselves the objective of making this the most accessible version of the Bill it can be, and there is a strong—or at least respectable, some might say—argument for how we can achieve that, and the risk of challenge is low, I would hope that would get us to a position where we can set quite a high store and get the most accessible version of that clause.
Ie, ar hyd yr un llinellau, a dweud y gwir, ychydig bach o athronyddu ar 'Senedd', i'w gymharu ag unrhyw ffurf arall. Wrth gwrs, fel dŷch chi wedi dweud eisoes, a hefyd Carwyn, gall y Senedd alw ei hunain yn beth bynnag mae o eisiau, ac, wrth gwrs, mae yna nifer o Seneddau rownd y byd sydd yn galw eu hunain yn enw yn yr iaith frodorol yn unig ac, wrth gwrs, mae pobl yn gwybod beth mae hynny yn sefyll amdano fo. Ac, wrth gwrs, yn fan hyn, mae gyda ni'r Cwrt ac mae gyda ni'r Neuadd. Does yna ddim cyfieithiad o'r ddau beth yna, hyd yn oed o fewn y Senedd yma. A hefyd, wrth gwrs, i'r ochr arall, mae gyda ni adeilad y Pierhead, a does yna neb yn crybwyll bod angen cyfieithu hwnna i'r Gymraeg, er enghraifft—'Pen Pier' neu beth bynnag. Achos rwy'n cymryd y pwynt mai'r ffurf syml sydd yn bwysicach, ac wedyn, i'r perwyl yna, fuasech chi ddim jest yn cytuno mai'r enw ddylai fod yw Senedd?
Yes. Along the same lines really, some philosophising on 'Senedd', comparing it to any other form. You've referred already to the fact, as has Carwyn, that the Senedd can call itself whatever it wants, and of course, there are a number of Parliaments around the world that have a name in their indigenous language and people understand those names. And, of course, here we have the Cwrt and the Neuadd. There is no translation of those two areas, even within this Senedd. And, of course, on the other side, we have the Pierhead building, and nobody mentions that that needs to be translated to the Welsh—Pen Pier, for example. Because, I take the point that it's the simple form that's important and, to that extent, wouldn't you just agree that the name should be Senedd?
Rwy'n amlwg wedi clywed y ddadl honno, a dyna, wrth gwrs, farn y Llywydd, ond rwy'n credu bod y cysylltiad daearyddol hwnnw yn cael ei golli yn y ffurf hynny, a dyw hynny ddim wedi bod yn rhywbeth, er enghraifft, mae'r Senedd yn yr Alban a Senedd Gweriniaeth Iwerddon wedi dewis. Rwy'n credu ei bod hi'n bosib rhoi statws i'r iaith Gymraeg yn y cwestiwn hwn a sicrhau bod ffurf Gymraeg a ffurf Saesneg ar y sefydliad, ac mae hynny o bwys yn y cyd-destun deddfwriaethol, i sicrhau ein bod ni'n defnyddio termau mewn deddfwriaeth Gymraeg a deddfwriaeth Saesneg sydd yn glir ac yn gymwys. A dweud y gwir, mae'n fwy cymhleth mewn deddfwriaeth Gymraeg nag yw e yn y ddeddfwriaeth Saesneg oherwydd mae gyda chi'r un term—'Senedd'—am ddwy Senedd wahanol. Felly, mae cwestiwn sut fuasech chi'n delio gyda hynny petasech chi'n defnyddio'r un ffurf yna mewn deddfwriaeth. Ond, fel rŷch chi'n sôn, ac fel roedd Carwyn yn sôn nawr, mae'r cwestiwn yma o beth fydd y defnydd ar lawr gwlad, wrth gwrs, yn hollol wahanol ar un lefel.
I have heard that argument, clearly, and that's the Llywydd's opinion, but I think that the geographical link is lost in that particular form, and that's not something that the Parliaments in Scotland and in the Republic of Ireland have chosen. I think it's possible to give status to the Welsh language in this question and to ensure that there is a Welsh and English form of the name of the institution. That's important in the context of legislation, to ensure that we use terms in Welsh and English legislation that are clear and competent and qualified. It's more complex in Welsh legislation than it is in English legislation because you have the same term, namely 'Senedd'—or Parliament—for two different Parliaments. So, there's a question about how you would use that if you were using one form in legislation as opposed to another. But, as you mentioned, and as Carwyn mentioned just now, this question of what the use of the term will be in everyday parliance is entirely different on one level.
Okay. We'll move on to some questions on the extension of the franchise and then followed by electoral registration. Carwyn Jones.
Yes. We've received evidence that reforms to the franchise for Assembly elections should be managed in a way that's consistent with any reform to the local government franchise. Are you confident that the changes to the franchise for local government elections will be made by the time of the next local government elections?
Yes. I mean, obviously, that's not entirely in the Government's control. It'll be affected by the timing of Assembly scrutiny, but we are confident that that can be the case, yes.
Okay. Much has been made of the need to educate young people in advance of them taking the opportunity to vote between 16 and 17. We heard evidence earlier on this morning from the Association of Electoral Administrators and the Electoral Commission where they emphasised this point, but also I asked them what was being done in terms of them working together rather than duplicating work, and work is happening with the commission in terms of working through a coherent messaging programme for young people. Is the Welsh Government part of that? Indeed, is it a role for the Welsh Government or is it best left to others? What views are there within Welsh Government about (a) the participation of the Welsh Government in raising awareness, and (b) what then the Welsh Government might do to raise awareness?
Yes, okay. There have been and there continue to be extensive discussions between the Government and the commission in relation to ensuring that we work together in avoiding duplication and ensuring that this is complementary activity rather than working in a way that's in opposition, if you like. There are a number of dimensions to that. One relates to the creation of educational materials for pupils in school. Those of us who support the extension of the franchise to 16 and 17 think it's important that there's an opportunity in school to engage young people in how to understand their new rights, what sort of issues they might be able to influence by exercising them, and all those sorts of issues. So, there is a piece of work under way to ensure that by September of next year, 2020, there will be a suite of educational materials available to pupils in school who will be voting for the first time in the subsequent Assembly elections two years from now. What those look like is going to be—. There's a piece of research under way at the moment, or I think it's about to be commenced—
It's just commissioned.
Just commissioned, thank you. And there's also an expert panel that we're establishing with the commission to inform us on how best to approach this. So, that's a piece on educational materials, and there's a broader campaign of communications and awareness raising because, obviously, not everyone's at school at that age, so we want to make sure that everybody's informed of their position.
Some have argued that there should be something on the face of the Bill in terms of addressing the need for political or citizenship education. I don't think that's appropriate myself, but the second question that arises from that is whether there are any initial thoughts at this stage as to how we might ensure consistency across Wales in terms of the delivery of citizenship education.
Well, in terms of raising the profile of this particular piece of legislation, that's the task of the expert panel that's been established as a consequence of the discussions with the Assembly Commission. I'll ask Lisa to speak a little bit more about this. But in relation to the broader role of political education, obviously, with the curriculum reforms in school, one of the key outputs of that is for students to be engaged, active citizens of Wales and the world. So, there'll be an opportunity, I think, in meeting that objective, to deliver in a wide range of ways education about how the political system works. Do you want to speak a little bit more about the detail of that?
Yes. So, as the Counsel General said, Ministers will be forming a stakeholder group that will include the Assembly Commission, the Electoral Commission, representatives from local government—all of the key stakeholders who have the ability to work together to raise awareness, because we don't want to have duplication, and we want consistency of messaging. So, part of the role of this group will be to oversee the output of the research we've just commissioned into what goes into the materials both for schools and a wider communication campaign, because we want to take the opportunity of the extension of the franchise to try and interest other people in democracy who perhaps don't vote as well. We would like turnout to be greater overall, and the focus on 16 and 17-year-olds gives us the opportunity to do some more work in that area.
The curriculum will have an important role to play. Part of the ethos of the new curriculum is to give schools the opportunity to be more creative within the delivery of the curriculum and also build on some of the good work that's going on at the moment. So, for example, my team went to Pembrokeshire a week or so ago, where the local authority were working with schools and with the Assembly Commission outreach team, already engaging with their youth council and school pupils to look at how an election is run—have a mock polling booth, cast a vote, have a debate. So, there's lots of good work to build on in that area already.
Okay. So, the group that has been put together will have the task of how to implement the need to ensure citizenship education. Okay. If I can move on to electoral registration, then, Chair, unless anybody else has any questions on this point—
Okay. Well, we've had evidence from local authorities who tell us that it'll cost them to implement these changes. What discussions have taken place with local authorities, and is there any idea as to what those costs might be and how they might be met?
Clearly, obviously, the Welsh Government is happy to engage with stakeholders on the question of costs in any of these contexts, and there are discussions, obviously, in relation to what those costs might be. I think I'm right in saying there's an assessment of around £600,000 for the extension of 16 and 17.
Yes. For the changes needed to the electoral management system. Then they're around £3,800 per local authority.
Okay. In principle, how will that funding gap be met? Is it the intention of the Welsh Government to consider funding the extra money?
Well, that is a burden on local authorities—a financial burden on local authorities—and the usual discussion with local authorities around budgeting will take into account the range of statutory obligations that authorities have to discharge, and this is one of those.
Okay. One last question from me, then. On canvass reform, which is due to be introduced by the UK Government for the annual canvass in 2020, is the Welsh Government looking to follow the same route?
Yes. We're working very collaboratively both with the UK Government and the Scottish Government in relation to that. Obviously, we want that to be implemented in time for the next elections, which essentially means, effectively, commencing that in June or July 2020. I should say that it is obviously desirable to make sure that the next elections operate on the basis of a reformed canvass, but should that for some reason not be possible, the two things are actually separate. So, the current legislation can operate on either the base of the current canvass or a reformed canvass. And this Bill isn't required to give effect to the canvass reforms; they will operate under statutory instrument under separate primary legislation. The proposal is that we're working currently on an SI that would enable us to give effect to that reformed canvass in a way that is consistent across the UK and that that can happen in time for us to hit the deadline in the summer of next year for that canvass to be commenced.
If I can just come back to a couple of points, then, on those, and one on the finance aspect. Some of the evidence we heard this morning, and from what we've seen within the papers and within the explanatory memorandum—. I understand, of course, your answer that this will be subject to the usual discussions with local government, but implementing a significant piece of constitutional change—does that not require guarantees that the funding will be available to implement the things like technological change, digitisation change and the process change, change where we're talking about potentially around several million pounds-worth of expenditure, and, of course, issues raised this morning about co-ordination about the differential in software and so on? Isn't it a bit complacent to not have a clearer agreement or understanding in terms of who's going to fund these changes?
Well, I was hoping not to be sounding complacent about it. It's just that it's not necessarily for me, in this conversation, to make a specific commitment in relation to this particular budgeting item when it is part of a number of pressures that local government may face. I mean, one of the objectives, of course, in the legislation, is to introduce means of collecting canvass data and registration data, which might reduce costs over time. So, all of these things need to be looked at together with local authorities, obviously, but in the round, in that context. But I take the point that you're making—obviously it's a significant piece of constitutional legislation.
Well, you'd share the concern, of course, though, that in order to implement the legislation, there are obviously financial aspects to it. So, the fact that there probably isn't any clearer undertaking or guarantee and the best we have at the moment is, 'There will be discussions'—can you understand that that might cause a certain degree of concern as to the capacity to properly implement the changes in the legislation in due course?
We are very concerned to make sure that the legislation is properly rolled out and deployed. We will want to make sure that nothing stands in the way of that happening and obviously continue the discussions that we have with the registration officers, through the Wales Electoral Coordination Board and other fora, to make sure that there's a very clear understanding of what the implications are, both from a practical operational point of view and from a resource point of view.
Can I ask you, then, just a little bit to expand upon the political education side to it? I understand the point about the expert panel and the processes and people understanding, and of course we've had evidence this morning about the need for those engagement campaigns in terms of understanding, particularly with a new group of voters. But the issue of political education—I mean, as it's set out within the explanatory memorandum and within the 'A Parliament that works for Wales' document—we're quite a bit further to the actual nature of political education itself, that is about the philosophy, it's about principles, about ideas, and that aspect of education. Now, it seems to me that we're asking an awful lot within a short period of time and I'm just wondering what resource, what provision there would be for ensuring not only that that can happen adequately within the curriculum, but also the ability of the teachers in schools to be able to actually develop that consistently.
Well, I think the point you make about the weight that the report places on this is obviously very important, isn't it? I think Laura McAllister herself described it as important to help students not just understand the mechanics, but to evaluate the offer, if you like, so that people voting for the first time at 16 and 17 are able to engage not just with the mechanics of voting, but to make meaningful, informed choices. There isn't a plan to make political education mandatory in the curriculum, but you'll know that there's a different approach to curriculum going forward, but I think there is a significant opportunity, given the focus, as I mentioned briefly earlier, in relation to one of the outcomes being informed, engaged citizens, to find a range of ways to make sure that we are able to achieve that—the best way of achieving it. There are resource implications, obviously, in putting those educational materials and developing those educational materials and making sure that there's capacity to deliver that. And there are discussions under way between Government and commission in relation to that, as we speak.
I note that Julie James, as Minister for Housing and Local Government, and Kirsty Williams, as Minister for Education, themselves specifically wrote about this matter early in this year, raising issues in respect of developing teaching and learning resources et cetera, and a number of other issues, but again raised a figure of almost £1 million and so on. Do we know what the position is yet with that funding—who's going to pay for it, or whether it can be provided, or how it will come about?
That figure covers the education materials but also the comms campaign and the research project. So, that's the total figure—that's not, as it were, limited to the educational figure. I think those conversations are still ongoing. That's Welsh Government's—[Inaudible.]
So, those conversations are continuing to take place. And just one very final point before I move on to the next set of questions: of course, within the Laura McAllister and expert panel 'A Parliament that works for Wales' report, there was quite an insistence that recognised going beyond simply outlining democratic structures and processes, engaging, learning about a range of political opinions in a non-partisan way. If we're aiming for elections in 2021, that's quite a demand, because we're talking about, really, a whole range of teaching staff having to be themselves engaged within the training process and so on. Are you aware of any preparations for that to happen, or is that still under consideration?
The research project is designed to inform that. It's obviously vital that we have as much of this in place for the Assembly elections in 2021, but the change to the franchise to 16 to 17-year-olds obviously has a much broader implication than that. And this is the beginning of a process, I suppose, of informing and building capacity amongst our young voters to understand, as you say, the mechanics of how to vote, but also some of the fundamental choices that underlie it.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Rhai materion sydd yn rhannol—dŷch chi wedi'u hateb nhw eisoes, ond jest er mwyn y cofnod, i gael cadarnhad. Dŷch chi wedi dweud eisoes yr hoffech chi weld newid yn yr etholfraint i gynnwys gwladolion tramor sy'n breswylwyr cyfreithlon yma yng Nghymru. Felly, i'r perwyl yna, a fyddwch chi'n mynd i gyflwyno gwelliannau i hyn yng Nghyfnod 2?
Thank you, Chair. I have some issues that you have partly answered already, but just for the record and to have confirmation—you've already said that you would like to see a change in the franchise to include foreign nationals who are legal residents here in Wales. So, to that extent, are you going to be bringing forward amendments to this effect at Stage 2?
Rŷm ni'n gobeithio gwneud hynny. Rŷm ni'n credu bod hynny'n rhan bwysig o fod yn genedl sy'n groesawgar ac yn gynhwysol.
We do hope to do that. We think that that's an important part of being a welcoming nation and an inclusive nation.
Ac yn yr un un modd, dŷch chi hefyd, fel dŷch chi wedi lleisio eisoes, yn cefnogi'r egwyddor o garcharorion hefyd yn cael y bleidlais. Fyddech chi'n debygol o gyflwyno'r un math o welliant yng Nghyfnod 2 i'r Bil yma, gan gofio, wrth gwrs, fod hyn gerbron y Bil arfaethedig ar lywodraeth leol? Achos oni bai hynny, fydd yna beryg fydd yr un Bil ddim yn dweud yr un peth â'r Bil arall, a gallai fod yn ddryslyd ynglŷn â hawliau carcharorion i bleidleisio os ydy'r Bil llywodraeth leol yn dweud un peth a'r Bil yma'n dweud rhywbeth gwahanol, neu ddim yn dweud dim byd.
And in the same way, you have previously stated that you support the principle of prisoner voting. Will you be likely to introduce a similar amendment in Stage 2 on this, given the forthcoming Bill on local government? Because if you don't, there's a risk that the Bill won't say the same as the other Bill, and it could be confusing in terms of prisoner rights to vote if the local government Bill says something different to this Bill, or doesn't say anything.
Mae'r ffactor honno'n gyffredin yn y ddau gwestiwn o frodorion tramor sy'n byw yma a'r cwestiwn o'r bleidlais i garcharorion. O ran yr ail destun, wrth gwrs, rŷm ni fel Llywodraeth wedi datgan, mewn egwyddor, ein cefnogaeth i roi'r bleidlais i rai carcharorion. Ond rŷm ni hefyd yn gobeithio clywed wrth y pwyllgor llywodraeth leol a chymunedau ynglŷn â beth maen nhw'n credu yw’r ffordd ymlaen o ran newidiadau ymarferol yn y maes hwn. A dyna safbwynt y Llywydd hefyd, rwy'n credu. So, felly, gawn ni weld beth ddaw allan o'r pwyllgor, ac wedyn byddwn ni'n cysidro, fel Llywodraeth, sut byddwn ni eisiau delio gyda hynny. Ond mae'r egwyddor yn glir, o leiaf, o'n safbwynt ni.
The factor is held in common between both issues of the foreign nationals who are resident here and the question of giving the vote to prisoners. In terms of the second aspect, of course, we as a Government have stated, in principle, our support for giving the vote to some prisoners. But we also hope to hear from the local government and communities committee with regard to what they believe is the best way forward with regard to the practical changes in this regard. And that's the Llywydd's point of view as well, I believe. So, we will wait to see what emanates from the committee's findings, and then, as a Government, we'll consider how we want to deal with that issue. But the principle is clear from our point of view.
Ocê. A'r cwestiwn olaf—mater technegol, braidd, arall hefyd gennyf i—allaf i ofyn pam fod Rhan 3 o'r Bil yn diwygio nid yn unig deddfwriaeth sylfaenol, ond hefyd is-ddeddfwriaeth? A pham nad yw'r Bil yn gwneud mwy o ymdrech i gyfuno cyfraith etholiadol? Dŷn ni i mewn i gyfuno cyfreithiau y dyddiau yma yng nghyd-destun rhywbeth arall sy'n mynd ymlaen hefyd, felly pam ddim achub ar y cyfle?
Okay. And the final question—another technical matter from me—could I ask why Part 3 of the Bill amends not only primary, but also secondary legislation? And why does the Bill not make a greater attempt to consolidate electoral law? We're into the consolidation of laws these days in the context of something else that's going on, so why not take advantage of this opportunity?
Wel, o ran y newidiadau ar wyneb y Bil i newid deddfwriaeth sylfaenol ac eilradd, y prif reswm am hynny yw o ran amseru, dweud y gwir. Hynny yw, mae'n cymryd amser i allu gwneud y newidiadau yma ar lawr gwlad er mwyn cyrraedd y cycle etholiadol. Ac felly, petasem ni wedi gwneud newidiadau ar wyneb y Ddeddf, ac wedyn, mewn cam pellach yn y dyfodol, wneud y pethau yma drwy ddeddfwriaeth eilradd—a fuasai'n fwy cyffredin, efallai—fuasai hynny ddim yn caniatáu digon o amser inni allu sicrhau bod y newidiadau yn eu lle mewn da bryd ar gyfer etholiadau'r Senedd nesaf.
O ran cydgrynhoi ac ati, wel, mae ymgais yn y Bil i wneud hynny mewn rhai meysydd, ond fel soniais i, efallai, yn fras gynnau, mae'r dasg o wneud hynny ar lefel gyfan gwbl yn un sylweddol iawn. Felly, mae angen dod nôl at hynny rhywbryd yn y dyfodol, rwy'n credu.
Well, in terms of the changes on the face of the Bill to amend primary and secondary legislation, the main reason for that is in terms of the timing, truth be told. That is, it takes time to make these amendments on the ground to reach the electoral cycle. And so, if we had made changes on the face of the Bill, and then in a further step or stage in the future, made these changes through secondary legislation, that wouldn't give us enough time to ensure that the changes were in place in plenty of time for the next Senedd elections.
In terms of consolidation and so on, well, there is an attempt in the Bill to do that in some areas. But as I mentioned briefly earlier, the task of doing that on a more general level is a fundamental one, and then we have to come back to that in future, I believe.
Thank you, Chair. Counsel General, I'd like to look at the proposals relating to the Assembly's relationship with the Electoral Commission in future. I think everyone we've heard evidence from so far has said the current Bill is very weak, and it needs much more oomph—or formality, I suppose, would be a politer way of putting it. That's clearly the Government's view as well, and that some amendments will need to be brought in after Stage 1, so I'd just like to ask whether you can share anything at this stage as to how that relationship will be made more appropriate now that we have these powers and need this more formal relationship with the Electoral Commission.
Well, a fundamental constitutional principle, I think, is that it's unsatisfactory for Welsh Ministers to have executive competence over elections without the Assembly having legislative oversight of those arrangements through a direct relationship to the Electoral Commission, so we're in discussion currently both with the Electoral Commission and the Assembly Commission about how that amendment might look. But I think there's broad agreement that it's needed so that a direct relationship can be established with the institution.
Happily, we live in a stable democracy, though it is under certain challenge in terms of its general position in relation to international organisations at the moment. But anyway, we have a deep democratic culture. However, legislation needs to be very robust in terms of our relationship with the Electoral Commission—the principal adviser we have in terms of the probity of our political conduct through elections and such. So, is it appropriate not to present, at this crucial scrutiny stage, your actual intentions, or the intentions that are emerging from your discussions with the Assembly Commission and with the Electoral Commission?
Well, I think it's obviously less than ideal. I think the Llywydd has explained part of the reason why that has happened when she gave evidence, I believe. Clearly, there is agreement at this point that this should be dealt with on the face of the Bill in a way that is transparent and enables scrutiny. So, would it have been preferable for that to be on the original Bill that was introduced? Then, yes. But I think the important thing is to have that transparency on the face of the Bill. Of course, section 27 in a sense anticipates further discussion on this, so it's not as though the further development, if you like, has come out of the blue. The legislation, in a sense, anticipates change in this area, but as we are today, I think it's the right thing to do to amend the Bill.
Okay. Section 27 anticipates that because the Bill is so weak in this area. There is this very loose relationship that we would have in terms of direction and oversight of the Electoral Commission. But the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee in the fourth Assembly issued a report on 'Making Laws in Wales', and it said that significant amendments should not be made at Stages 2 and 3, when there isn't time for this type of deep scrutiny. We've not had a draft Bill, remember—so we will not have had a draft Bill, we will not have had Stage 1 scrutiny on the relationship that the Government and the Assembly has with the Electoral Commission. That's way beyond sub-optimal, isn't it? That is deficient.
Well, as I say, it's certainly not what we would like to see, but the question at this point is: is it appropriate to amend the Bill to reflect a direct constitutional relationship with the Assembly and an oversight relationship? And in a sense I think the electoral law, the control of elections, having been devolved—that's the last piece of the puzzle, if you like. So, it's important to take the opportunity in this Bill, I think, if we possibly can, to do that. I know you've taken evidence from the Electoral Commission, and they've engaged fully and publicly in this, so I think that, I hope, provides opportunity for scrutiny and challenge, even though, perhaps, it is an unorthodox way of proceeding.
You made reference to the arrangements under section 27 for this committee to develop policy. Has the committee met, and did it meet under your auspices or the commission's auspices? Where are we with that?
Well, the intention for section 27 is for that to happen if the Bill isn't amended to reflect the change, essentially. I think the discussion we're having now with the commission—with both commissions—and the subject of the discussion here in this committee, gives us a way of addressing the matter in this Bill. Section 27 envisages a universe where it's not addressed in this Bill, the Bill is passed, and there's a future discussion about how best to take this forward. Well, in a sense, we've short-circuited that time frame by bringing forward that discussion so it happens as part of the passage of the Bill.
I understand that, but—. So, in essence, the advice that's been formed through the current stakeholders meeting, presumably, will now be seen in the amendments. But I want to know: has that committee met? Obviously, it's not meeting formally under section 27, because we don't have an Act yet. But who is doing this work? Who is chairing that committee, that group, and how are these amendments being fashioned?
Well, it's a committee in the mechanism envisaged here, but it's a set of discussions between the Government and the two commissions in the mechanism that we're using to amend the Bill. And yes, those are ongoing discussions. They've been going on for some time.
Well, the next meeting of officials about this is tomorrow. So, I think we'll take stock of progress at that stage and then see what we might be able to share early on. But, as the process is continuing and we haven't looked in detail at the drafting yet, it may be challenging to get fully formed provisions during Stage 1. That's my feeling at the moment.
The Llywydd's letter to the committee indicated the sorts of things that would be considered as the subject of that discussion, so I think that hopefully provides a route map of the sorts of issues that we hope to be able to address.
Further to that, this must be an area of very serious concern here, because this is in the area of accountability, and so on; a very important area. And here we are, going through a Bill, as Members have said—there's no draft Bill and so on, and this is sort of working as we go along, et cetera. It's not really the way to deal with proper legislation, is it?
Well, I can do no more than reiterate my point earlier that this is obviously unorthodox. But perhaps you could leave that with me, Chair, to see what we can provide to the committee at the earliest practical opportunity.
That would be very helpful, because I think this is an area that is of real concern that we need to look at further.
Sorry, I do apologise—David.
You made more forcefully, as you could do it from the Chair, the point that I would have wanted to make, and I would urge some response to us whilst we're in Stage 1. I think that would be very helpful.
If the Electoral Commission is funded by the Assembly, it still needs to be impartial and independent, and that relationship is a very, very critical one to have that sort of balance in the democratic system. Do you have issues that are emerging that cause you concern in terms of how that relationship will be effective in terms of there needing to be a certain level of discomfort, I suppose, so that we get the messages sometimes that we need?
Well, in a sense, on the question of independence, it will be independent of Government, because the relationship will be with the legislature. So that's the basis on which it will be independent. And the budget will be controlled by the institution, not by the Government—by the Senedd. So those are the principal mechanisms by which we achieve that level of independence from Government.
And in terms of its budget, that will be set in the Assembly, but do you have any thoughts about what would be appropriate in terms of how that's conducted?
Well, there's a set of negotiations ongoing at the moment. At the moment, obviously, it's the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission in Parliament that is the controlling mechanism there. There are discussions under way at the moment about that, about the budget aspects, but the key point, I think, is that it's controlled by the Senedd.
We have already heard the slightly different arrangements that would apply for Westminster parliamentary elections. I think we've covered the other issues; they're like mega issues that—
Yes, I think the issue of finance is one we're going to want to explore further as well, isn't it? If we go on to Mandy Jones, on the issues of disqualification.
I'm very aware of time, so I've just got one question on disqualification for you. The Bill treats certain categories of persons differently. For example, offices/positions are disqualified at the point of nomination for candidacy. What's your view on this, and can the differential treatment be justified on the grounds of human rights? And also, is the law clear enough in this area?
The principle is correct that there should be a distinction made between eligibility to stand for election—i.e. to become a candidate—and then a separate set of considerations about who can actually become an Assembly Member. The principle ought to be that one should maximise the range of people capable of standing for election, but consistent with some conflicts, and we have to be clear about how we address those. That means that some people should not be entitled to stand for election—for example, judges and so on—because of the political dimension to that.
The convention provides a mechanism for evaluating these things in a proportionate way. I know the commission has described in the explanatory memorandum how those judgments have been reached in relation to disqualification for candidacy. And I think those are the principles to bear in mind: maximising participation, but ensuring that where there are conflicts of interest, then there's a disqualification at that point. Essentially, these are questions of balance, which—
Well, I think—. Sorry, forgive me; you did ask that. I think it's clearer, but I think there's work to be done in relation to this part of the Bill. There are some substantive questions in there as well, by the way—it's not just about drafting. For example, it doesn't provide for Assembly Commission staff to be disqualified. There are provisions in employment terms and conditions that provide for that, but you might say from an accessibility point of view that that sort of thing should be set out on the face of the legislation as well. So, there are substantive questions in there, but the principle is right, I think, to distinguish the two kinds of disqualification, and to try and clarify the law as far as we can.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Rydyn ni'n tynnu at y diwedd, rŵan. Yn nhermau argymhellion Comisiwn y Gyfraith, yn naturiol, rydan ni'n clywed beth rydach chi wedi'i ddweud, ac hefyd beth rydych chi wedi ysgrifennu yn y llythyr yna ar 13 Chwefror. Jest i gadarnhau rhai pethau, rydych chi wedi dweud nad yw Llywodraeth Cymru yn credu ei bod yn briodol bwrw ymlaen ag argymhellion Comisiwn y Gyfraith, na chreu disgwyliad amdanyn nhw. Allwch chi egluro beth rydych chi'n ei olygu efo hynna?
Thank you, Chair. We're coming to the end now. In terms of the recommendations of the Law Commission, naturally, we hear what you say and what you've written in that letter dated 13 February. Just to confirm some things, you've said that the Welsh Government does not believe it appropriate to take forward Law Commission recommendations, or to create an expectation about them. Can you further explain what you mean by this?
Mae'r cwestiwn o sut ddylai'r gyfraith gael ei newid yn gwestiwn—. Man cychwyn hynny yw beth yw barn y Cynulliad, beth yw barn y Senedd ar hynny. Wrth eich bod chi'n creu pŵer i Weinidogion i jest creu deddfwriaeth gynhwysfawr yn y meysydd yma ar sail gwaith Comisiwn y Gyfraith, mae'n creu disgwyliad bod hynny'n mynd i ddigwydd. Efallai nad yw'n addas i hynny ddigwydd; efallai bod angen trafodaeth ehangach ar hynny. Ac hefyd rwy'n credu bod y broses o graffu, ac ati, yn golygu bod angen trafod y pethau yma mewn cwmpas mwy eang. Rŷm ni wedi trafod eisoes pa mor bwysig yw'r ddeddfwriaeth gyfansoddiadol yma. Mae gwaith Comisiwn y Gyfraith, wrth gwrs, fel arfer yn dod gyda chyd-destun sydd ddim yn ddadleuol yn wleidyddol—hynny yw, o ran gwleidyddol bleidiol—ond nid yw hynny'n golygu nad oes gan bobl farn wahanol ar y pethau yma. Mae trafodaeth eisoes yn y Pwyllgor Busnes i sicrhau bod Rheolau Sefydlog y Cynulliad yn cael eu diwygio i ddelio gyda Biliau crynhoi mewn ffordd fwy streamlined, a gallech chi hefyd weld y math yna o Reol Sefydlog yn cael ei greu ar gyfer cynlluniau sy'n dod allan o Gomisiwn y Gyfraith. Mae hynny'n digwydd mewn Seneddau eraill, er enghraifft. Felly, mae hynny'n opsiwn. Dyw e ddim yn golygu bod unrhyw beth sy'n dod allan o'r comisiwn yn mynd drwy'r holl broses arferol eang o graffu. Efallai bod ffordd drwy'r canol. Ond mater i'r Cynulliad, wrth gwrs yw hwnnw; mater i'r Senedd yw hwnnw.
The question of how the law should be changed or amended is—. It begins with what the opinion of the Assembly is on that. And as you create a power for Ministers just to create comprehensive legislation in this area on the basis of the work of the Law Commission, it creates an expectation that that is going to happen. Perhaps it's not appropriate for that to happen; perhaps there needs to be a wider discussion on that. And I also believe that the process of scrutiny means that we need to discuss these issues in a wider arena. We've already heard this morning how important this constitutional law is. The Law Commission's work, of course, usually comes in the context that it isn't politically controversial in terms of party politics, but that doesn't mean that people don't have different opinions on this. There's already been discussion in the Business Committee to ensure that the Assembly Standing Orders should be amended to deal with consolidation Bills in a more streamlined manner, and you can also see that kind of Standing Order being created for plans emanating from the Law Commission. That happens in other Parliaments. So, that is an option. It doesn't mean that anything that emanates from the commission goes through the entire process of scrutiny. Perhaps there is middle ground in that regard. But that's an issue for this Senedd, for this Assembly.
Diolch. Ac ar gefn hynny, dŷch chi hefyd wedi dweud bod gyda chi bryderon ynghylch drafftio darpariaethau oherwydd eu rhyngweithiad, fel dŷch chi wedi dweud, gyda phwerau presennol a gyda phwerau sy'n ymwneud ag etholiadau llywodraeth leol. Allech chi bellach amlinellu rhai o'ch pryderon ynglŷn â hynny? Hefyd, a fydd Llywodraeth Cymru yn ceisio dileu unrhyw ddarpariaethau o'r Bil yng Nghyfnod 2?
Thank you. And on the back of that, you have also said that you have concerns about the drafting of the provisions due to their interaction with existing powers and with powers relating to local government elections. Can you further outline some of your concerns around that? Also, will the Welsh Government seek to remove provisions from the Bill at Stage 2?
O ran y rhyngberthynas rhwng yr hyn sy'n cael ei gynnig yn y Bil a'r pwerau sydd gan Weinidogion yn barod, y pwynt roeddwn i'n ei wneud ynglŷn â'r rhyngberthynas oedd bod y cymal presennol yn delio gyda phwerau yng nghyd-destun—. Mae cymal 36 yn delio gyda phwerau ynglŷn ag etholiadau Cynulliad, ac mae'r pŵer presennol yn delio gydag etholiadau llywodraeth leol. Mae un o'r diwygiadau yn awgrymu y dylai fod cydlyniad cyson rhwng y ddau franchise. Ac wrth gwrs dyna beth yw persbectif polisi y Llywodraeth—dyna yw'r nod—ond wrth gwrs efallai bod amgylchiadau lle nad yw hynny yn digwydd ac efallai nad yw hynny yn addas. Felly, mae'r math yna o beth yn clymu, efallai, y pwerau'n rhy agos. Mae angen ychydig fwy o hyblygrwydd yn y cymal penodol hwnnw, rwy’n credu.
In terms of the interaction between what is proposed in the Bill and the powers that we have as Ministers already, the point that I was making about that interaction is that the current clause deals with powers in the context—. Clause 36 deals with powers with regard to Assembly elections, and the current power deals with local government elections. One of the amendments suggests that there should be consistent alignment between the two franchises. And of course that's what the Government's policy perspective is—that's what the aim is—but perhaps there are circumstances where that doesn't happen and perhaps where that isn't appropriate. So, this kind of thing ties, perhaps, the powers too tightly. There needs to be more flexibility in that particular clause, perhaps.
Efallai y byddwch chi'n edrych i ddileu y darpariaethau yna yng Nghyfnod 2, felly.
You may be looking to remove those provisions in Stage 2, then.
Dyna beth yw'r bwriad. Dyna hoffwn i ei weld.
That's the intention. That's what I would like to see.
A'r cwestiwn olaf gennyf i ydy: a oes gan Lywodraeth Cymru unrhyw gynlluniau i gyflwyno unrhyw argymhellion gan Gomisiwn y Gyfraith ar ddiwygio cyfraith etholiadau o gwbl?
And the final question from me: does the Welsh Government have any plans to bring forward any Law Commission recommendations on electoral law reform?
Fe fyddwch chi'n gwybod o'r trafodaethau dŷn ni wedi cael mewn cyd-destun arall fod cydgrynhoi a chodeiddio y gyfraith yn un o amcanion deddfwriaethol y Llywodraeth. Mae'r Mesur yn mynd drwy'r Cynulliad ar hyn o bryd. Felly, mae'r cwestiwn o ddiwygio a chydgrynhoi a chodeiddio cyfraith etholiadol yn amlwg yn mynd i fod yn un o'r pethau sydd angen edrych arno fe dros y cyfnod. Fel popeth arall, mae cwestiynau ynglŷn ag adnoddau a blaenoriaethau, ac impact ac amseru y diwygio. Mae'n un o'r ystyriaethau yn y cyd-destun ehangach hynny. Felly, rhywbryd yn y dyfodol, byddwn i'n meddwl byddai hynny'n digwydd, ond mae'n rhaid edrych ar y cyd-destun ehangach o ran cydgrynhoi a chodeiddio, rwy'n credu.
You'll know from the discussions that we've had in another context that consolidation and codifying the law is one of the legislative objectives of this Government. There is a Bill going through the Assembly in this regard at the moment. But with regard to codifying and consolidation of electoral law, that clearly is going to be one of the questions that we will need to look at throughout this period. As with everything else there are questions with regard to resources and priorities and the impact and the timetable of reform. It's one of those considerations in the wider context. Sometime in future, I'm sure that will happen, but we will have to look at the wider context in terms of codifying and consolidation, I think.
Well, Counsel General, that brings us to the end of the key areas. Obviously, there are many issues that have arisen. Thank you for your evidence today and for the attendance of yourself and your officials. There will be a transcript in due course. If you feel there are any other areas that need to come through—and I think you promised one or two areas that you will submit further information on already. Other than that, thank you for your attendance today. Thank you.
Can I move that we go to private session for five minutes under 17.42?
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 12:13 a 14:00.
The meeting adjourned between 12:13 and 14:00.
This is the reconvened meeting of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee. On item 4 of the agenda: instruments that raise no reporting issues under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3—the Rural Affairs (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Wales) Regulations 2019. These are regulations that will make amendments to the Common Agricultural Policy Non-IACS Support Schemes (Appeals) (Wales) Regulations 2004 and the Trade in Animals and Related Products (Wales) Regulations 2011. These regulations update the 2004 regulations to align the schemes for which an appeals procedure may be established with current EU regulations and to remove individually listed schemes. The regulations also add a saving provision to provide for the 2004 regulations to continue to apply to schemes where an additional determination has been made by Welsh Ministers. Any comments or observations on those? No.
We move on to item 5. We move on to the Nitrate Pollution Prevention (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2019. You have before you a report, the regulations and an explanatory memorandum. These regulations amend the Nitrate Pollution Prevention (Wales) Regulations 2013 relating to the monitoring of nitrate pollution and designation of nitrate vulnerable zones. They include an update to the designation process for nitrate vulnerable zones. The current designation process has been reliant on the European Communities Act 1972 and amendments to introduce a definition of 'new holding' in light of the new designation process. I think there are some technical points for reporting.
There are two technical reporting points, starting on pack page 54. The first point notes some incorrect cross-references. The Welsh Government response, on pack page 55, accepts the error. They will seek to address it by correction slip.
The second point raises a question about the transitional arrangements being made by these regulations. These regulations introduce the concept of a 'new holding', and if you own a new holding, you'll have to ensure that polluting nitrates do not drain from your land into certain freshwaters. On the whole, these regulations simply drop the new holdings regime into the current holdings regime, so that if you have to do something under the current holding regime, you will also have to do it under the new holding regime. But in two places the regulations make express provisions that apply only to new holdings, and the draft report asked why couldn't those two new provisions simply have been swept up as part of dropping the new regime into the current holding regime. The Welsh Government response says it's making new provision for new holdings in those two specific areas in order to remove any doubt, but it isn't clear why those two areas have been singled out. By removing doubt in respect of those two obligations, does that mean there is doubt about whether all the other obligations will apply? The committee may wish to seek further clarification on that point.
They usually tell us, when we say, 'Oh, you should define that a bit more', 'That will mean all the ones we don't define will come into question.' So—.
Item 6: instruments that raise issues to be reported under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3—previously considered. We have the Animals and Animal Products (Examination for Residues and Maximum Residue Limits) (Wales) Regulations 2019. There's a report and there's a Government response. We considered the draft report for these regulations at our last meeting. The report was laid on 4 April in accordance with the reporting deadline, and the Government response was received following the meeting and is now available for consideration by Members. Any comments on that? There are no comments on that.
We move on to item 7: the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016 (Commencement No. 6, Savings and Transitional Provisions) Order 2019. Are there any comments on that?
It's a commencement Order, and they, as usual, do not have an Assembly procedure, so they're not subject to the negative procedure or the affirmative procedure. Usually, there's nothing to report on commencement Orders, but this commencement Order is 15 pages long and very complex. While there are no technical issues to raise, it's a good reminder that sometimes commencement Orders can do much more than simply commence certain sections of primary legislation. In this case, the commencement Order makes detailed transitional provisions, commencing certain sections of the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016 with detailed carve-outs in places. It's all perfectly lawful and within the powers given to the Welsh Ministers, but it is doing far more than just saying, 'This Act comes into force on day x.'
We move on to, now, the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium Enterprises (Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. These regulations revoke existing direct EU legislation that forms UK law relating to the programme for the competitiveness of enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises 2014-2020. Any comments or observations? We'll note that.
We now move on to the Common Agricultural Policy and Market Measures (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. The regulations to which this written statement relates amend a number of domestic instruments relating to the common agricultural policy, the common organisation of markets and market measures. Any comments or observations?
If not, we move on to item 8.3, the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (Amendment) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019. In the event that the UK withdraws from the EU without a deal, the UK would not have an agreement in place to continue participating in the EU emissions trading scheme. The greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme regulations revoke certain provisions that will cease to apply on exit day, and amend others to address inoperabilities created created in existing legislation. So, this instrument makes further amendments for the same purpose, following amendments to EU law. Any comments? Any observations? Okay.
We then can move on to papers to note. We have a number of items of correspondence. I'll go through these, and I'm going to, unless there are any particular comments, recommend that they be deferred for consideration in private session at the end of today's meeting.
So, we have the letter from Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. This relates to our letter to them of 22 March, where we raised a number of issues where there is disagreement between the Welsh Government and the UK Government as to the boundaries of devolution, and of course you'll note from the letter there is reference to a mechanism for trying to resolve these in due course. Defer that to private session?
We have a letter from the Llywydd on the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill—a letter of 2 April 2019 to be noted. Defer to private session, if there are any issues that arise there. Is that agreed?