Y Pwyllgor ar Ddiwygio Etholiadol y Senedd - Y Pumed Cynulliad
Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform - Fifth Senedd02/12/2019
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Dai Lloyd AM||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Delyth Jewell|
|Substitute for Delyth Jewell|
|David J. Rowlands AM|
|Dawn Bowden AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AM|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Anna Daniel||Pennaeth Trawsnewid Strategol, Comisiwn y Cynulliad|
|Head of Strategic Transformation, Assembly Commission|
|Manon Antoniazzi||Prif Weithredwr a Chlerc y Cynulliad|
|Chief Executive and Clerk of the Assembly|
|Matthew Richards||Pennaeth y Gwasanaethau Cyfreithiol, Comisiwn y Cynulliad|
|Head of Legal Services, Assembly Commission|
|Y Llywydd / The Llywydd||Llywydd y Cynulliad (Elin Jones)|
|Llywydd of the Assembly (Elin Jones)|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Sian Giddins||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Stephen Aldhouse||Ail Glerc|
|Stephen Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
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 10:23.
The meeting began at 10:23.
Good morning everyone, and welcome to this meeting of the Committee on Assembly Electoral Reform. We've received apologies this morning from Delyth Jewell, but Dai Lloyd is attending as her substitute today. Just to advise you that the National Assembly operates through the medium of the Welsh and English languages. There are headsets for simultaneous translation on channel 1 and sound amplification on channel 2. And as this is a formal public meeting, Members do not need to operate the microphones themselves. In the event of an emergency, an alarm will sound, and ushers will direct everyone to the nearest safe exit and assembly point.
If I can move on, then, to item 2 on the agenda, which is the oral evidence session on the diversity and capacity of the Assembly. Can I welcome Elin Jones AM, Llywydd; Manon Antoniazzi, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Assembly; Anna Daniel, head of strategic transformation, Assembly Commission; and Matthew Richards, head of legal services for the Assembly Commission? So, unless you have anything that you wish to say in terms of opening remarks, we'll move straight into questions. I'll start, Llywydd, if I may, by asking you whether you believe that there've been any significant changes since the expert panel completed its work in 2017, which will affect the responsibilities and the capacity of the Assembly.
Bore da and thank you for the opportunity to give evidence to your committee this morning. I guess my initial response to that is to draw attention to the fact that, since the expert panel reported, this Assembly has been now charged with a different model of devolution, as a result of the Wales Act of 2017. So, the reserved-powers model has added both clarity and complexity at the same time to the devolution settlement and the powers that we have and issues around legislative competence and the scrutiny work as well. So, that's obviously something now that is being taken forward with the new legislation that's been introduced post the reserved-model framework, and, of course, there are additional taxation powers and taxation activity that Welsh Government and the National Assembly in its scrutiny role are undertaking as well with the activation of the Welsh rates of income tax.
And then there is the ever present, present before the 2017 expert panel report, but increasingly present since then—and that's the issue of Brexit and the work that our committees in particular have been leading on. I think there have been something like 20 committee reports on Brexit-related activity, and that's a significant area of work that, across the committees of the Assembly and the Plenary session itself, has had devoted to it a lot of time and effort since that. And that work and that time and effort is being spent by staff members and by Members themselves in particular.
So, yes, there has, I would say, even in that short period post 2017, been an intensification of the workload for Assembly Members and their support staff and Commission staff.
I'll bring Huw in in a moment, but have you thought as well about the implications of the fallout from the report on the commission on justice, because the First Minister has now set up a new committee there, hasn't he?
Yes, that's certainly a new area of work that I'm sure that the Assembly will want to interest itself in, both as a committee possibly with responsibility at some point to shadow and scrutinise the work that the Welsh Government is now undertaking as a result of the justice commission report, and the justice commission report itself referred to the need for the Assembly to undertake a role now in doing work with what's currently devolved in the context of the devolved settlement that we have, and doing more work with the justices that we have—the judges—in Wales already, but also probably in scrutinising the work that Welsh Government will be developing as a result of the many recommendations the committee report made to Welsh Government and UK Government as a means of preparing the way for a political decision at some point to devolve the full justice aspects of work.
Okay, thank you. Huw.
Thank you, Chair. On the issue of our scrutiny of current legislation, let alone taking forward potentially new powers in light of the recommendations of the Commission on Justice in Wales, I'm struck by the comparison between 660 Members of Parliament on a wide range of committees, including the Home Affairs Committee, some of which are 17 Members strong, and we've just shrunk our committee size here in order to accommodate the stretch that we have across the very limited Members.
So, can I put to you, or at least have your thoughts on (1) do we have the capacity, in light of what you were just saying, on the current body of Welsh law, so it's not just made-in-England-and-Wales law anymore, it's primary law that we are making here increasingly? Do we have the capacity to currently do that? And can I test your thoughts on, quite frankly, whether it is in any way valid to even consider at this moment devolution of further justice—no matter where I personally would stand on this—with the current number of Members?
Well, to address that last question first, when I gave evidence to the justice commission, and when they met, very possibly in this room, and I gave evidence to them about a year ago now, they were keen to press the exact question on the capacity, both in terms of our Commission staff capacity—and you gave evidence at the same time on that issue—and how able would the Assembly be in its current structure to probably set up a justice committee to have to scrutinise any new powers, or even the current powers that we have on justice.
My view on that is that we've done it before as 60 Members when we were stretched then, when there were new powers that came our way, and the taxation powers, for example, are an example of that, where the Finance Committee had to do, over the last Assembly and this Assembly, newer areas of work and had to sacrifice some other areas of work that it might've been interested in, and that's how I'd describe this. I'm sure it's possible, but it's not wholly desirable that a 60-Member Assembly would take on such additional powers. But it's doable, and then you're in the realm of prioritising work, then, and there would be other equally interesting work and equally necessary work that Members and committees would have to deprioritise in order to prioritise the work on justice devolution, preparing the way for that, and then putting it into action if needed.
But I'm certainly of the view that, leading up to the devolution of justice, whenever that would be—I think it's a matter of 'when' rather than 'if' now—but when that would be, we do need as an Assembly now to be thinking of how we use one of our committees, either current or a new committee, to start the work on preparing and responding to the justice commission work, which was a big piece of work that shouldn't be allowed to lie on a shelf somewhere.
And then, of course, Members sit on committees, but as you all know, as Members sitting on this committee at this point, the work that's required to prepare for committee work, for you as Members, but also in the means of preparing for almost a whole new subject area for the Commission staff to provide background and research and work to prepare for our discussions around the justice committee. That in itself, as well, is a matter of prioritisation, but also a matter of looking at resources or the redeploying of resources for that purpose.
I'll come back to that in a moment, but, Dai, you wanted to come in.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Wel, yr un math o gwestiwn, a dweud y gwir, achos fel mae profiad Huw o le arall yn un efo 600 o Aelodau, fy mhrofiad i ydy Cyngor Dinas a Sir Abertawe sydd efo 72 cynghorydd sir yn rhedeg y ddinas yn y fan hynny—72 o gymharu â’r 60 sydd gyda ni yn fan hyn. Ac, wrth gwrs, efo’r busnes argymhellion comisiwn cyfiawnder yma ac, wrth gwrs, yn rhagweld bod angen Gweinidog yn fan hyn yn benodol gyda chyfrifoldeb dros faterion cyfiawnder, a hefyd pwyllgor ychwanegol i graffu ar waith y Gweinidog hynny, dwi ddim yn gweld sut y gallem ni gario ymlaen fel ydyn ni efo’r nifer yr ydyn ni os ydyn ni'n gobeithio gweithredu’r argymhellion, yn lle bod yr adroddiad yma’n casglu llwch ar silff, fel gwnaethoch chi ei ddweud.
Felly, o gymryd y peth o ddifri, ac o gofio hefyd nad yw'r fater o gael Gweinidog ychwanegol yn fan hyn, ond ein bod ni’n sôn am ddatganoli plismona, y llysoedd, gwasanaeth prawf—popeth o dan argymhellion y comisiwn cyfiawnder yna. Ac ar hyn o bryd, mae’r pwyllgorau sydd gyda ni yn gwneud gwaith ddwy ffordd. Hynny yw, dŷn ni’n craffu ar beth sy'n digwydd rŵan, a hefyd dŷn ni i fod i graffu ar ddeddfwriaeth sydd wedi’i phasio yn y gorffennol—craffu ôl-ddeddfwriaethol, felly. Felly, mae ein pwyllgorau craffu ni gyda dwy swydd yn barod, a dŷn ni newydd dorri lawr ar y niferoedd, fel rydych chi wedi cyfeirio at y niferoedd o Aelodau sydd arnyn nhw. Felly, ydych chi’n rhagweld, os ydyn ni’n wirioneddol o ddifri ynglŷn â gweithredu argymhellion y comisiwn cyfiawnder, y bydd rhaid inni gael rhagor o Aelodau?
Thank you, Chair. Well, the same sort of questions, really, because just as Huw's experience was of another place with 600 Members, my experience is of the City and County of Swansea Council that has 72 county councillors running the city—72 compared to the 60 that we have here. And, of course, with the business of the recommendations of this justice commission, and, of course, in foreseeing that there will be a need for a Minister specifically here with responsibility for justice issues, and also an additional committee to scrutinise the work of that Minister, I don't see how we can continue as we are with the number of Members that we have if we're hoping to implement the recommendations of that commission report, rather than it collecting dust on a shelf.
So, in taking it seriously, and also given that it's not a matter of an additional Minister here, but we're talking about the devolution of policing, probation and courts—everything under the recommendations of that justice commission. And currently, the committees that we have are doing work on two aspects—we're scrutinising on what's happening now, and we're also supposed to be scrutinising legislation that's been passed previously—post-legislative scrutiny, therefore. So, our scrutiny committees have two functions already, and we've just cut down on the number of Members who are on committees. So, do you foresee, if we are really serious about implementing the recommendations of the justice commission, that we will have to have more Members?
Wel, dwi’n meddwl bod yr achos dros gynyddu nifer yr Aelodau a’r angen i wneud hynny wedi cael ei wneud gan o leiaf dau ddarn mawr o waith, dau gomisiwn mawr—comisiwn Richard a chomisiwn Silk hefyd wedi cyfeirio yn ystod yr 20 mlynedd ddiwethaf at yr angen am fwy o Aelodau. Felly, ar wahân i'r ffaith bod yna ddatganoli grymoedd ychwanegol naill ai wedi digwydd yn y ddwy flynedd ddiwethaf, neu ar fin digwydd yn y bum mlynedd nesaf, mae'r achos wedi ei wneud i gyfiawnhau'r angen am fwy o Aelodau beth bynnag.
Os ydych chi wedyn yn ychwanegu'r llwyth gwaith fyddai'n dod drwy ddatganoli'r pwerau—rydych chi wedi sôn am bwerau cyfiawnder i gyd ac wedyn plismona a'r gwasanaeth prawf—yna mae hwnna'n ddarn sylweddol o waith i Lywodraeth ymgymryd ag ef ond hefyd i'r Cynulliad yma. Ac mae e'n rhoi cyfiawnhad ychwanegol i'r angen am fwy o Aelodau er mwyn sgrwtineiddio a datblygu polisi sydd yn mynd i fod yn gyffrous iawn yn yr ardal yma, achos, wrth gwrs, y neges fwyaf pwysig oedd gan comisiwn John Thomas ar gyfiawnder i ddweud oedd taw nid datganoli er mwyn datganoli'r pwerau yma i wleidyddion fedru eu sgrwtineiddio nhw yw, ond y gwaith polisi a newid polisi diddorol a allai ddigwydd yng Nghymru yn sgil creu system newydd yng Nghymru fyddai o fudd yn y pen draw i'r bobl sydd yn ddefnyddwyr o'r system gyfiawnder ac efallai sydd ddim yn cael eu gwasanaethu gorau ar hyn o bryd a chymaint gwell y gallai hynny gael ei wneud yng Nghymru o gael yr holl bwerau o dan gyfrifoldeb y Cynulliad yma a'r Llywodraeth yma.
Well, I think the case for increasing the number of Members and the need to do that has been made by at least two other major pieces of work, two other major commissions—the Silk commission and the Richard commission have referred to the need for more Members over the past 20 years. So, apart from the fact that we are seeing additional powers devolved, either having happened over the past two years, or about to happen over the next five years, then the case has certainly been made to justify the need for more Members in any case.
If you then add the workload brought by the devolution of the powers that you've mentioned—powers over justice, policing and the probation service—then that is a significant piece of work for Government to undertake, but also significant for this Assembly. And it gives additional justification to the need for further Members in order to scrutinise and develop policy that will be hugely exciting in this area, because the most important message that the John Thomas justice commission had was that this wasn't devolution of powers for the sake of devolution, so that politicians could scrutinise them, but it's the policy work and the interesting change in policy that could emerge in Wales as a result of the creation of a new system here in Wales that would ultimately benefit those people who are users of the justice system and perhaps aren't being best served at the moment, and things could be so much better in Wales were all the powers under the remit of this Assembly and the Government here.
On that particular point, if we move to additional Assembly Members, the earliest that we can be looking to do that now is 2026, so we're still going to have another term of this Assembly with 60 Members. Have you and/or the Commission started to think about or given any consideration to some of the ways in which we might have to change the way in which Assembly business operates, at least in this interim stage, until we can get to a point of additional Members?
Well, I'm sure that the Business Committee, in how we do our legacy work in reflecting back on this Assembly and in preparing the way for the next Assembly, will want to look at the working week of the Assembly, the length of the working week. You've already stretched it by two or three hours—four hours, on average now—by this committee, for the first time, being a fully timetabled committee meeting on a Monday morning. So, the length of the working week of the Assembly has moved quite significantly during the last Assembly and this Assembly.
The number of weeks we sit now has increased as well, of late, so we are now at the same level as all Parliaments, and I would probably find a degree of reluctance amongst Members if I was to keep pushing for another week. It keeps being resisted, because there's important work that Members do in their constituencies and regions during that recess time as well, which is important in order to feed into the work that they then do in the Assembly.
It's very difficult to see that we could shrink the number of committees, but I'm sure that that's an area of work that may well be looked at. We increased the number of committees in this Assembly. We increased it to respond to a policy area where Members had not been happy in the fourth Assembly that there wasn't a culture committee in the fourth Assembly. So, we introduced a culture committee, and then the Brexit committee as well, an additional legislation committee, and now this committee as a—I don't know—task-and-finish committee, or—.
It's very difficult to know how to increase the capacity of Members when you can't increase the number of Members, because, already, as you know—you've probably looked at this yourself—18 Members are taken straight out of the complement of 60 by being members of Government or the Llywydd and Deputy Presiding Officer, and then 16 Members sit on one committee, 23 Members now sit on two committees, and three Members sit on three committees. And what that means, and I see it when I talk to Members, is that they're unable to focus, prioritise, develop the work that they could do as experts in particular policy areas when they are having to fill their time with going to different committees. Over the last 10 years, I'd say that there's been a significant development in supporting the low number of Members that we have by increasing the capacity that lies behind the Member—so, that has been in the context of increasing the support staff complement up to three members of staff for each Assembly Member, and then providing quite significant Commission resource in both research and committee work. That has been significantly enhanced during the last Assembly and this Assembly. I don't know, Manon, if you want to say something about the resource that lies behind the Members then.
Yes, certainly. We do provide a very high degree of tailored research and advisory support in many ways. Members' business services, I think, go beyond what some other parliaments provide. We recognise, though, fully that that isn't a substitute for direct scrutiny by Members at the end of the day. We do keep our support under constant review. During the last year we undertook a capacity review, which looked at various ways in which we could work in a more agile way, prioritising better, changing our own planning cycles so that we could make sure that the resource that we have is provided in the most cost-effective way for the public purse. But it's essentially demand-led, and, therefore, if Members wish to have services, we will provide them.
Okay, and would that include—? So, thank you for that, Manon. I think I'll go back to the Llywydd now. The way in which you've been talking about the committee structures and so on, and the inability, really, to extend the week any further beyond maybe a Monday morning—have you looked at possibly the way in which Plenary sessions are organised, and whether, with the limited capacity we have, and the very limited capacity we have to get through Government business, we should be addressing the business of Plenary to the extent that we maybe, say, shouldn't have as many opposition debates? Says she from the party of Government—but you know the point I'm making; it may not be my party in Government next time round. But the point I'm making is that, in Westminster, opposition debates are once a month, and they have 650 MPs, and have to get through Government business. Is that something that we ought to perhaps think about?
Well, there is non-Government time that happens during the Plenary timetable. Sometimes that is opposition debates, but, significantly, in the middle part of an Assembly, from year 2 to years 4 and 5, then committee reports take up quite a significant part of that non-Government time as well. So, the opposition debates fill in the time that's not taken up by committee work, and I'm sure that opposition Members, as you've hinted, wouldn't be too keen to lose too many of their opportunities to scrutinise.
The length of Plenary has already extended quite significantly. We did just a very quick analysis, and we could probably look at this in a bit more detail for you if you wanted, but, at the beginning of the third Assembly in 2007, 10 years ago, the average length of a Plenary session was under four hours, so, three hours 55 minutes, and by now, then, the second half of the fifth Assembly, the length has increased to five hours on average. That takes us almost beyond the family-friendly principle that we've championed from the very start of the Assembly, so we're already stretching Plenary quite a bit by Government and non-Government business, by questions as well to Ministers, and topical questions, as something that was introduced in this Assembly and extends that Wednesday afternoon as well and provides opportunities for Members to question Government on issues of the day.
I think one of the issues that we have looked at in terms of the Assembly week is to think about whether some committees could meet at the same time as Plenary, but that becomes very difficult when you're a Plenary of 60 Members, and timetabling that would be probably too difficult. What has amazed me—and it was highlighted in the Laura McAllister report, and Huw made reference to it—is the fact that there are over 600 MPs, but over 100 of those sit on no committees, take no part in Government or shadow Government, and—. I wouldn't know what they do. I wouldn't know what that life must be like, to turn up to the Parliament and then not have anything to do for the week. [Laughter.] But there are 100 plus of those in Westminster, apparently.
Okay. Thank you. David and then Huw.
You spoke earlier on, Llywydd, about prioritisation, and obviously—. Is there a way that you can organise Assembly business so that—and therefore help Members prioritise their committee work, their Plenary work and, obviously, the other responsibilities that come with being a Member?
I think one of the issues that has followed on from the shrinking of committee sizes is that it actually puts more pressure on those Members who are members of those committees to actually be there for the whole time of that committee now, which would be the expectation anyway, but, because some Members previously found themselves sitting on maybe two committees at the same time, that wasn't proving all that straightfoward. And it also means, by shrinking committees, that there's less diversity of Members with different backgrounds and bringing different things to the committee. So, it does weaken, possibly, the content of the committee.
I think that what I'd say in terms of helping Members to prioritise and to do their work is that providing excellent research support, excellent legal advice, excellent political support through your own support staff, can only take one Member that far and probably no further, because, if everything is funnelled through just the one channel, which that one channel of Member would always be, there's only so much you can squeeze into somebody's head on a Sunday night when they're reading their committee papers; there's only so much support you can give to one Member. And I think we're beyond the point, now, where we can give more support and for that to have an added value, then, because it's always channelled through the limited number of Members that we have.
Okay. Thank you. Huw.
Yes. Can I, first of all, come back to one point that Manon made a moment ago, the rise in the support and the numbers per AM? That's quite interesting, because that suggests to me that, because we've been unable to make a decision on increasing the number of Assembly Members, we have accepted that the hidden cost to that, both financially and otherwise, is the support that they have. So, actually, I'm interested in this concept that we are spending additional money because people like me are sitting on three committees. And people like me, no matter how many hours you put in on the weekend, beyond other constituency duties, have to prepare for three committees this week, so I rely on additional support. So, there is a financial cost in failing to increase. Am I right in that, or am I stretching it too far? Because certainly my experience at Westminster was not that we had the same level of support on committees.
Well, I would just say that we are properly and thoroughly scrutinised in terms of our budgets, as you will know, and we have made strenuous efforts, certainly in the last two years, to minimise increases but you're right, the cost of that support has risen over the last—well, certainly over the last 13 years since the Commission was separated.
And when Manon came into post at the start of this Assembly, there was quite a bit of criticism of the numbers of staff that this Assembly now had, the Commission now had. It was up to 490—
It depends on which way you calculate them, but we were very close to 500.
Of course, that criticism was a criticism of the increasing number of staff and a financial increase as a result of that, partly, I would say, as a deliberate attempt in the fourth Assembly to increase the capacity of research and support available to Members to enable them to do their work properly on committee.
So, I would say that, yes, there already has been a financial cost to the fact that we have so few Members, in that we have built up, deliberately, an excellent support system for the Members. And it's not just in research and in legal support, it's also in the amount of support Members are given to run their offices and do their own personal development and all of the administrative aspects that Members are supported with in this Parliament, where, in other Parliaments, they're not; their hands aren't held as well in other Parliaments.
So, in looking to increase the number of Members, I think the challenge for the Commission, then, is how you then adjust back or adjust to a point where the balance between support and the number of Members is a better balance, and redoes, then, some of the increase in capacity and support-staff capacity that's been done in the past to suit the low number of Members.
Okay. On this point, David.
So, is the corollary to that, then, that if we have extra Members, we don't necessarily have to increase the support staff and therefore, there is a saving, as Huw, I think, hinted at—there is a saving on that basis?
I think what I'd say to that is—. I wouldn't be able to say that at this point, there wouldn't be an increase in the numbers of staff, but we shouldn't automatically think that it has to be at the same level or pro rata as it currently is. We would need to adjust that kind of balance, then, I think, and do some quite extensive work as to where the new equilibrium lies.
I understand that the support staff per Member is higher than in the other legislatures. Is that right?
There are two issues, if I may. There are the support staff who work personally for the Members and then, in terms of the Commission staff, I would support strongly what Elin says. Part of the work that we've been undertaking during the last two years is to understand exactly how our resource is distributed. I think if there were an increase in the number of Members, there wouldn't be a corresponding increase, proportionally, in the number of Commission staff.
However, I don't think it's right to say that there would be no increase, because we've worked hard to make sure that we prioritise effectively on our side of the house as well. There would need to be negotiations with a new Commission and with a new Business Committee about how exactly they wanted services to be provided in future.
Yes. There's another aspect to this, as well, on this number making a difference. You've touched, Elin, already on the issue of the small size of our committees. They do incredible work, and considering, sometimes, there are four Members on a committee, it's remarkable what is achieved. But I would put to you that the benefit of having a larger committee, which depends on having a greater pool of Assembly Members to choose from is—. One of the committees I chaired was the Environmental Audit Committee. We had 17 Members on that. On that, we had one of the most climate change-sceptical Conservative Members of Parliament you'd ever seen, alongside Zac Goldsmith, one of the most pro-green ones. But, because of that breadth of experience, that breadth of viewpoint and the agenda they brought to the table, the deliberations of those committees were so much better—we had to argue through it.
If you only have three, four or five Members on a committee, quite frankly, with the best will in the world, even if those are the pick of the crop, you're not going to end up with the same level of policy scrutiny, interventions and development of ideas that you would otherwise do with a slightly larger committee. So, I have a worry, in the continuation as we are, that when we have increasing support for Members, sometimes sitting on three committees with smaller numbers, this leads to a situation where, in effect, the Members in this Senedd become led by—with the best will in the world—what's put in front of them, the quality of the briefing that they have, rather than a plethora of different views and different arguments to put. We are elected representatives that should be bringing strong views to the table, not simply relying on very good briefing material.
I completely agree. The briefing material is there to allow the Member to think creatively, but what that Member brings to the questioning in any session of a committee and in developing expertise on certain policy or subject areas, that should be what's leading the work of the committee. I think the fact that our Members here, those who serve on our committees, are so almost bogged down by the need to do every single item on every single committee they sit rather than start to free think on particular policy work that a committee's looking at and be able to do their own research work and go and visit interesting places in Wales and elsewhere in order to develop their own individual thinking on issues, I think that that's what we find our Members currently aren't able to do in the same way, because they just can't find the time to do it.
Okay, thank you, Elin. We'll move on now to the next section of questioning. We have some questions from Dai Lloyd on the increase in the number of Members.
Ie, wel, yn rhannol, dŷn ni wedi cyfeirio at hyn, so bydd y cwestiynau yma ddim yn hir, ond dwi'n mynd i athronyddu ychydig bach eto, gydag ymddiheuriadau i'r Cadeirydd, achos, wrth gwrs, mae—
Partly, we've referred to this, so these questions won't be long. I was going to philosophise a bit now, with apologies to the Chair, because, of course—
Ie, dyna ti. [Chwerthin.] Dŷn ni'n sôn yn fan hyn—i fod i sôn yn fan hyn—am fesur yr impact o gynyddu'r nifer o Aelodau o gymharu â'r nifer o Aelodau sydd gyda ni, rŵan, ond, wrth gwrs, mae hynny'n beth anodd iawn i'w wneud, onid ydy? Mae sôn yn fan hyn am nad oes yna ddim toreth o enghreifftiau o'r gwaith ymchwil sydd yna sydd yn gallu profi bod cynyddu'r nifer o Aelodau'n gwneud gwahaniaeth yn nhermau cael gwell polisïau a gwell Deddfau, er enghraifft. Mae'n anodd iawn profi hynna ar y pryd er mwyn gwneud yr achos rŵan, er enghraifft. Felly, sut dŷch chi, fel Comisiwn, felly, ac efallai fel Llywydd, yn mynd i ymgymryd efo'r ddadl yna, a trio mesur impact unrhyw gynnydd yn y nifer o Aelodau o'r ochr orau? Ac, wrth gwrs, mae yna her yn nhermau'r ystâd wedyn; os oes mwy o Aelodau, mae eisiau mwy o le ac ati, onid oes?
Ond, wrth gwrs, mae yna bethau eraill hefyd, dim jest y pwyllgorau, ond jest i daflu i mewn i'r peth, wrth gwrs, mae yna gyfarfodydd eraill sydd yn digwydd yn y Senedd yma efo aelodau'r cyhoedd. Mae yna grwpiau amlbleidiol; mae yna sawl un ohonyn nhw—dros 80, dwi'n credu. Dwi'n cadeirio ambell i un, dwi'n cyfaddef hynny nawr. Ond, wrth gwrs, mae o'n fodd gwerthfawr i gyfathrebu efo'r cyhoedd, ac mae'r cyhoedd yn mwynhau'r cyfarfodydd yna'n fawr iawn a'r gwahanol gyflwyniadau sydd yma fin nos ac amser cinio ac ati, a hyd yn oed amser brecwast. Dŷn ni yn llenwi'r amser mewn ffordd effeithlon iawn yn fan hyn. Ond, wrth gwrs, mae pobl weithiau'n dweud, 'Wel, Duw, dim ond un neu ddau Aelod o'r Cynulliad sydd yma. Ble mae'r lleill i gyd?'. Wel, mae'r lleill i gyd mewn cyfarfodydd sy'n digwydd ar yr un pryd. Mae hynny'n adlewyrchiad eto o'r ffaith bod yna ddim digon ohonom ni. Rŷch chi'n gwneud yn dda iawn i gael tri Aelod Cynulliad mewn grŵp amlbleidiol y dyddiau yma achos, fel rheol, mae yna grŵp amlbleidiol arall—o leiaf un— yn digwydd yr un pryd, neu ryw fath o gyflwyniad yn digwydd. Felly, mae Aelodau wedi eu gwasgaru dros yr ystâd yma i gyd. Dŷn ni gyd yn cyfarfod efo aelodau'r cyhoedd o hyd, ac, wrth gwrs, fel dwi'n ei ddweud, mae'r cyhoedd yn gwerthfawrogi hynna: dod i'r Senedd a gweld ein pobl ni sydd yn ein cynrychioli ni'n uniongyrchol. Ond, eto, weithiau, mae yna ambell i un yn dweud, 'Wel, Duw, dim ond tri ohonoch chi sydd yma. Mae yna 60 ohonoch chi', mae'r bobl yn ei ddweud, onid yw? A dwi'n dweud, 'Wel, ie, nid hwn ydy'r unig gyfarfod; mae yna o leiaf pedwar cyfarfod arall yn digwydd, ac wedyn, wrth gwrs, dŷch chi'n gwneud yn dda i gael tri Aelod o'r Cynulliad yma'.
Felly, mae'n bwysig, weithiau, i gael y ffactor yna i mewn i'r ddadl o beth sydd yn gwneud synnwyr i ni gael rhagor o Aelodau, achos mae hynna'n effeithio'n uniongyrchol ar y cyhoedd. Wrth gwrs, bydd pobl yn eu miloedd yn gwrando ar y trafodaethau yma'r bore yma, rŵan, ar eu sgrin deledu gartref ac yn meddwl, 'Wel, mae hyn ychydig bach yn fewnol, braidd—Aelodau Cynulliad, poor dabs, yn gorfod gweithio'n galetach'. Poor dabs, math o beth. Ond, rhywbeth sydd yn taro'n uniongyrchol ar y cyhoedd fel maen nhw'n troi lan o'r gogledd, dod i lawr i fan hyn, ac weithiau, mae yna gyfarfod pwysig ac un Aelod Cynulliad sydd yma ac mae hwnna'n taro nhw'n od, ond wedyn, dwi’n credu bod eisiau’r rhan yna i ddod allan hefyd. Diolch.
That's it. [Laughter.] Because we're talking here—or we're supposed to be talking here—about measuring and assessing the impact of increasing the number of Members compared to what we have now, but that is something that's quite difficult to do, isn't it? It talks here about the fact that there isn't a great deal of research work that can prove that increasing the number of Members does make a difference in terms of having improved policies and improved legislation. It's very difficult to prove that at the time to make the case now, for example. Therefore, as a Commission, and, perhaps, as a Llywydd, how are you going to address that argument and assess the impact of any increase in the number of Members, at best? And, of course, there's a challenge in terms of the estate; if there are more Members, there'll be a need for more space.
But, of course, there are other issues as well, not just the committees, but just to throw in to this, there are other meetings happening in this Senedd with members of the public. There are cross-party groups—over 80, I think. I chair some of them—I admit that. It's a very valuable means of communicating with the public and they enjoy those meetings very much, and the other presentations that we have at lunch times, in the evenings and at breakfast time. We do fill that time in an efficient way, but, of course, people sometimes say, 'Only one or two Members are here. Where are the others?'. The others are in other meetings that are happening at the same time. And that is a reflection, again, on the fact that there aren't enough of us. You do very well to have three Assembly Members in a cross-party group these days, because there's another cross-party group or another presentation happening at the same time and Members are spread out across the estate. We all meet with members of the public all the time, and members of the public enjoy that. They come to the Senedd, they meet those people who represent them directly, but sometimes, one or two will say, 'Oh, only three of you are here. There are 60 of you', people say. And I say, 'Yes, this isn't the only meeting that's happening. There are at least four other meetings occurring and you're doing well to have three Members here'.
So, it's important, sometimes, to include that factor into the argument regarding what makes sense in terms of increasing the numbers, because that has a direct effect on the public. Of course, people in their thousands will be listening to these proceedings now on their television screens at home and saying, 'This is quite inward-looking, is it not? Assembly Members, poor things, having to work harder', but it's something that directly affects the public. They turn up from north Wales, they come down here, and, perhaps, it's an important meeting and only one Assembly Member is here, and that strikes them as odd, and I think that needs to be brought out as well. Thank you.
Thank you, Dai.
Ie. Ac, wrth gwrs, oherwydd y nifer isel absoliwt o Aelodau sydd gennym ni, wedyn mae hwnna’n ymddangos yn broblem—tri Aelod yn troi lan i grŵp trawsbleidiol. Wrth gwrs, mae tri Aelod yn 5 y cant o Aelodau’r Cynulliad. Fe fyddai hynna, yng nghyd-destun San Steffan, yn golygu i unrhyw gyfarfod grŵp trawsbleidiol fod 30 o Aelodau Seneddol San Steffan yn troi lan i grŵp, a dwi ddim yn creu bod hynny’n digwydd chwaith yn y cyfarfodydd hynny. Felly, mae e'n 5 y cant o Aelodau’r Cynulliad yma, ond fel rŷch chi’n ei ddweud, mae tri Aelod yn teimlo’n nifer cyfyngedig iawn i unrhyw grŵp sydd yn ymwneud â’r Cynulliad yma.
Cwpwl o bethau y byddwn i’n eu dweud ar sail hynny: mae amserlen yr wythnos i'r Cynulliad wedi cael ei stretch-o fel rŷm ni wedi’i ddweud eisoes, ac yn llawn yn ei hamrywiol ffyrdd. Beth fyddwn i’n ei ddweud sydd hefyd yn rhwystredigaeth i bwyllgorau ac i rai Aelodau yw ffeindio amser i bwyllgorau i fynd i ymweld â llefydd eraill yng Nghymru neu’r tu allan i Gymru. Dwi’n credu byddwn i’n lico bod ein pwyllgorau ni’n gallu gwneud mwy o hynny, achos mae e’n rhoi'r cyfle iddyn nhw i ymweld ag ardaloedd eraill yng Nghymru sy’n bwysig i Aelodau unigol i fynd i wahanol ardaloedd yng Nghymru yn hytrach na dim ond eu hetholaethau eu hunain, ond hefyd, y tu allan i Gymru, y tu allan i’r Deyrnas Gyfunol, Ewrop, ac i ddysgu am bethau diddorol sydd yn digwydd mewn mannau eraill, ac i ddod â’r wybodaeth yna nôl i greu polisi yma yng Nghymru. A dŷn ni ddim yn gwneud digon o hynny, yn enwedig mewn ymweliadau tramor gan ein pwyllgorau ni.
Dwi’n meddwl, o feddwl amboutu sut y gellid asesu beth allai fwy o Aelodau ei gyflawni, mae e’n anodd gwneud hynny, achos mae rhyw fath o scenario planning yn gorfod digwydd o gwmpas hynny. Ond efallai taw un o’r ffyrdd gorau o feddwl amdano fe yw trwy feddwl, am y pwyllgorau’n enwedig, pa fath o waith yn ystod y pum mlynedd nawr o’r Cynulliad yma; pa fath o waith bydd y pwyllgorau yna ddim wedi gallu ei gyflawni y byddan nhw wedi medru ei gyflawni os byddai naill ai gyda nhw fwy o Aelodau neu lai o gyfrifoldebau fel pwyllgor. Ac felly, rhoi nôl i’r pwyllgorau i feddwl, ‘Reit, beth rŷm ni ddim wedi gallu ei wneud? Pa ymchwiliadau ŷm ni wedi methu â gwneud? Faint fwy o sgriwtini ar ddeddfwriaeth bydden ni wedi licio ei wneud?' A’r sgriwtini ôl-ddeddfwriaethol, dwi’n meddwl yn bendant iawn bod dim digon o amser yn ein calendr pwyllgorau ni i roi digon o amser ar sgriwtini ôl-ddeddfwraiethol.
Felly, dwi’n meddwl, yn hynny o beth, efallai byddai'n ddefnyddiol i’ch pwyllgor chi i fod yn gofyn i Gadeiryddion a chlercod pwyllgorau, o fod wedi ceisio amserlennu gwaith dros y pum mlynedd yma, beth sydd wedi cael ei hepgor o’r amserlen yna er y byddai Aelodau wedi dymuno â gwneud hynny.
And, of course, because of the low number of Members that we have in absolute terms, then that does appear to be problematic—having only three Members turning up to a cross-party group. Of course, three Members is 5 per cent of all Assembly Members. In a Westminster context, that would mean for any cross-party group that there would be 30 Members of Parliament in attendance for a cross-party group, and I don't think that that happens either in those meetings in Westminster. So, it is 5 per cent of all Members, but as you say, three Members does feel like a very small number for any group that is engaging with this Assembly.
Just a few points I'd like to make: the weekly timetable for the Assembly has been stretched, as we've already mentioned, and is full in many ways. What I would also say that's a frustration for committees and for some Members is finding time for committees to undertake visits elsewhere in Wales or outwith Wales. I would like our committees to have the opportunity to do more of that because it provides them with the opportunity to visit other parts of Wales, which is important for individual Members that they do visit various parts of Wales rather than focusing solely on their own constituencies, but also outside Wales, outside the UK, outside Europe, and to learn about interesting examples developed elsewhere and to bring that information back into policy creation here in Wales. And we don't do enough of that, particularly in terms of foreign visits for committees.
Now, in thinking as to how we could assess what more Members could achieve, well, it's difficult to do that, of course, because there's some sort of scenario planning that would have to happen around that. Perhaps one of the best ways of thinking about this is by thinking about the committees particularly, and what kind of work over this five-year Assembly term; what kind of work those committees could not have delivered that they could have delivered if they either had more Members or fewer responsibilities as a committee. And, therefore, to give it back to the committees and ask them, 'Well, what haven't you been able to do? What inquiries have we been unable to undertake? How much more legislative scrutiny would we have like to have done?' And also, that post-legislative scrutiny is certainly very important. There isn't enough time in our committee calendar to provide additional time to post-legislative scrutiny at the moment.
So, I think, in that regard, it might be useful for your committee to be asking committee Chairs and clerks, having sought to timetable their work over the five years, what has been omitted from that timetable, although Members would have wished to undertake that activity.
I'm saying this without—I'm playing devil's advocate here—but without any value judgment. In that period up to 2026, what thought have you given, if any, to that extending of the timetable, still within family-friendly hours, but going on the very traditional ethos that our primary role here is as legislators and scrutineers, in which case, a five-day working week, Monday to Friday? I'm saying it without any value judgment, but if needs be, up to 2026, when we already have additional powers on us, then we work at least four and a half days, maybe five days, even if committees, on a Friday, are taking place out in the regions of Wales in different localities. Have you thought about that at all? Now, I realise the pushback against that is we've got constituency duties, but a needs-must argument would say if we have to, we have to.
I think before eating into the Friday, I think that the full calendar of the four-day would need to be tested more significantly than it is at the moment, to the extent that Monday morning becomes a full part of the diary and it would require Members to travel on a Sunday from many parts of Wales—I made that mistake myself this morning—because it requires people to be here for the start of Monday in order to ensure that they can get here in time. So, I think that there is that.
An interesting aspect of work that we haven't looked at, but maybe the political parties may be interested in doing, is to move Plenary—to continue the Tuesday Plenary, but move Plenary to the Thursday, possibly even Thursday afternoon. That would keep Members here until the last thing on Thursday, and then fill the rest of the in-between time with committee work. So, there is a degree of stretching that can be done, but there will be reluctance from Members, especially those whose working week is already taken up by a lot of travel time in getting to Cardiff Bay.
Whichever way you cut this, there's going to be resistance somewhere along the way, but we're in stretched times. I'm loath to even mention this, but I just want to venture two other ideas. One is that one of the frustrations in the Chamber is the lack of opportunities, because it's so congested, to raise, if you like, in effect, private Members' business, local constituency issues. We have the short debates at the end of the day, and so on. Now, in Westminster, of course, they have a second hall, which was only introduced about eight or nine years ago—Westminster Hall. This is adding load upon load, but should we be considering things like that, to give an opportunity, while Plenary is not sitting, while people are not in committees, to have a second Chamber debate going on in the old Tŷ Hywel Chamber, or something like that? Should we be looking at different opportunities within this that could give better opportunity to Members' individual legislative proposals to be put forward? Everything seems to be constraining us, within the numbers and the time that we have. I'm interested in this 2026 one, and that's why I'm loath to mention adding anything else for the moment. But if we had capacity, I'd certainly be advocating more changes like that.
I haven't thought about a second hall at all, actually. It's not been raised with me until you mentioned it there. I think the fact that we are so few in absolute numbers, still, would really challenge even that model.
You mentioned the ability of Members to put forward individual Bills, and we need to provide more space in the calendar and resource that to happen in the next Assembly. I think in this Assembly, various factors—Brexit related mainly—have meant that there have been more limited opportunities for backbenchers to introduce individual Member Bills, and that's an area of work that more Members would certainly help with, but more time as well for that development would certainly be beneficial.
Thank you. Have you finished on that one now, yes? Okay. Can we move on then, Huw, because you're in for the next lot, anyway, so it's the public opinion, awareness and understanding? Huw.
We've covered a lot of the ground already. There's only one additional question I want to ask, which is the role of the Commission in engaging the public about these issues we've been discussing, the role, the capacity and so on. Can you tell us what you've been doing and perhaps what more you could be doing?
Well, certainly, we have a directorate that is concerned with engaging with the public, and we have a programme of activity that is being considered by the Commission now that will coincide with the introduction of the new name for this organisation and the extension of the franchise. So, that is a good opportunity for us to launch some engagement activity. But we do have a busy schedule already. We have workshops with schools and young people's organisations, we hold events around key dates like St David's Day, International Women's Day, Black History Month, and so on. We welcome visitors regularly, as you'll know, to the estate, and we organise tours for them. We organise workshops with community groups and so on, and that's on top of the bread-and-butter engagement through the media.
And then the clerks are also very active in our engagement and communications efforts, generally, because the clerks will help to engage the public in the work of committees, and that's a very important thing, that we have people who understand the potential of the work of the committee either to engage people directly in inquiries or just make public all the good work that the committees are doing.
One particular initiative that I might mention in this context has been the establishment of the Youth Parliament, which has been a striking success so far. We will be having elections next year, because the Youth Parliament has a two-year term, if you remember. We've certainly got an extremely enthusiastic and engaged cohort of young people, many of whom have been nominated by third sector partners and have done some fantastic work and contributed a lot, I think, to the work of the Assembly over the period so far. Of course, for each Member of the Youth Assembly, they're influencing their peers, they're influencing their families as well, to take a greater interest. So, there is much more that we would like to do. We are always mindful of the constraints of expense, and so on, and, to go back to the core point here, ideally we like to have Assembly Members with us, undertaking this engagement, but there is only so far that we can take that. We've just had family days—we had one in Carmarthen yesterday, Wrexham the week before, Caernarfon the week before that, and it's very difficult, especially in the circumstances that pertain now, to have availability from Assembly Members to come with us.
And it can't all fall on the Commission, as well, to do this, and there's always a time lag as well. I think most of the public are not, by and large, aware that we now have not just primary law-making powers but tax-varying powers, and that we're looking at devolution of justice and policing, and so on. There's always a slight delay there, and it can't all fall on you. But I just wonder whether there is anything that you haven't thought of as a Commission in the way that you could get the message out further. You've mentioned the Youth Parliament, but we have here Members of the Welsh Parliament. Now, I don’t have on my website—I have loads of stuff about what I'm doing and all the things I get involved with—if you like, to put it politely, an aide memoire, or, to put it more crudely, an idiot's guide to what we do. Now, should there be something that every Assembly Member should have on their site to say, 'When you go onto my site, this is what we do, by the way. We're now responsible for health and education and transport, and we make laws on this, and we have tax-varying powers'? Are we being underused? Is there something that the Commission can add value to out there?
I'm sure there is, and this is part of what we talk about. We have a relatively new director of communications and engagement, and certainly we are currently renewing our website. But we already do have a lot of this information on our website. We've taken full advantage of the twentieth anniversary of this institution this year to undertake a number of activities to try and raise the profile and explain these matters to the public at large. Yes, of course there's more we can do. We quite often support Members of the Assembly when they visit schools or host constituency groups or whatever it may be, but I'm very glad to have any further suggestions.
Thank you, Huw. If we could now move on to the areas around implementing a larger Assembly, I think some of these areas have probably been covered, Dai, but I'm sure in your inimitable style you'll find something to raise.
Yn sylfaenol, rwy'n credu eu bod nhw wedi, ond fe wnaf i achub ar y cyfle i athronyddu ychydig bach yn rhagor, efallai. Wrth gwrs, mae'n bwysig nodi wrth basio fod, yn yr arolwg yna sydd yn ein briff ni, 56 y cant o'r bobl yma yng Nghymu o blaid cynyddu nifer yr Aelodau Cynulliad. Mae eisiau dechrau o rywle positif, felly—hynny yw, mae'r boblogaeth, y mwyafrif ohonyn nhw, yn credu y dylai fod mwy o Aelodau i'r Senedd yma. Felly, mae'n rhaid gwneud yn siŵr bod pobl yn ymwybodol o hynny. Rydym ni newydd gael y drafodaeth ar enw'r Senedd, a chafodd hwn ei arwain gan beth oedd y cyhoedd y tu allan yn ei feddwl. Rwy'n credu y dylai'r drafodaeth yma hefyd gael ei harwain gan ganlyniadau'r arolwg yna, jest er mwyn gwneud yn siŵr ein bod ni'n gwneud pethau'r un peth bob tro.
Er mwyn cael y ddadl yn gyflawn, felly, i ba raddau mae trefniant a gweithgaredd busnes y Senedd ar hyn o bryd yn cael ei gyfyngu gan faint presennol y sefydliad? O'ch profiad chi fel Llywydd ac fel Comisiwn, beth sydd ddim yn gallu rŵan achos does dim digon o Aelodau'r Cynulliad?
Basically, I think they have, but I will take the opportunity to philosophise further. It's important to note in passing that the survey in our brief shows that 56 per cent of the people of Wales are in favour of increasing the number of Assembly Members. You have to start from a positive place, therefore—the population out there, the majority of them, believe that there should be more Members of this Senedd. So we have to make sure that people are aware of that. We had the recent discussion on the name of the Senedd, and that was led by what the public outside thought, and I think that this discussion should also be led by the outcomes of that survey, just to make sure that we do things in the same way every time.
Just to look at the whole argument, to what extent are the arrangements and activities of the Senedd currently being restricted by the size of the organisation? From your experience as Llywydd, and as the Commission, what cannot happen now because there aren't enough Assembly Members?
Os caf i jest fynd yn ôl yn gyntaf i'r ymgynghoriad cyhoeddus ar nifer yr Aelodau a'r ffaith bod 56 y cant o'r bobl wnaeth ymateb wedi dweud eu bod nhw'n gallu gweld y gwerth o gael cynnydd yn nifer yr Aelodau, fe wnes i hefyd gynnal pedwar, dwi'n meddwl, cyfarfod cyhoeddus mewn gwahanol fannau yng Nghymru—dau yn y gogledd, un yn Aberystwyth, ac un yn y de—yn ogystal â'r cyfarfodydd a oedd wedi digwydd fan hyn yng Nghaerdydd, i drafod gyda'r cyhoedd newid y system etholiadol a chynyddu'r nifer yn sgil adroddiad Laura McAllister. Ac roedd e'n hynod o ddiddorol a dweud y gwir. Dwi'n cofio'r cyfarfod yn Wrecsam, er enghraifft, lle roedd yna dipyn o gynulleidfa yna ar noson aeafol o Dachwedd, dwi'n meddwl oedd hi, ar nos Wener, ac fe oedd yna dipyn o amheuaeth, fyddwn i'n ei ddisgrifio, ar ddechrau'r cyfarfod. Ac wedyn, roedd pobl, wrth feddwl amboutu'r cyfleon ychwanegol fyddai yna i wneud gwaith mwy defnyddiol gyda nifer ychwanegol o Aelodau Cynulliad—. O gael y drafodaeth fanwl gyda phobl, maen nhw'n gallu gweld y gwerth o gynyddu nifer y cynrychiolwyr democrataidd sydd yn y Senedd genedlaethol.
Pa fath o waith ychwanegol, wedyn? Wel, rŷn ni wedi cyffwrdd ar rywfaint o hynny'n barod. Mae'r pwyllgorau'n gallu gwneud mwy o waith diddorol, mae mwy o gyfleon i Aelodau unigol ddatblygu arbenigedd, datblygu deddfwriaeth newydd, a hefyd mwy o gyfleon i Aelodau—drwy bwyllgorau neu drwy deithiau unigol—fynd i ddysgu o lefydd eraill yng Nghymru a thu hwnt i Gymru, ac i agor meddyliau'r Aelodau sydd gyda ni i syniadau newydd, achos dyna fel rŷn ni'n gweld gwir werth y Senedd fach yma sy'n gallu bod yn fwy agile, mwy cyflym oherwydd ein maint ni. Ond, mae yna rwystredigaeth, dwi'n meddwl, nawr ar gapasiti y 60 Aelod yma rhag gallu ymrymuso a rhyddhau eu hunain i feddwl yn greadigol ac i wneud pethau yn fwy creadigol—dwi'n licio'r gair 'creadigol' yna—ac i feddwl yn greadigol ynglŷn â sut mae datblygu polisi a syniadau newydd yng Nghymru er lles pobl Cymru.
If I could first of all return to the public consultation on the number of Members and the fact that 56 per cent of respondents said that they could see the value in having an increase in the number of Members, I also held four public meetings across Wales—two in north Wales, one in Aberystwyth, and one in south Wales—as well as the meetings held here in Cardiff, in order to have discussions with the public about the change to the electoral system and increasing the number of Assembly Members as a result of the Laura McAllister report. It was very interesting if truth be told. I remember the meeting in Wrexham, for example, where there was a large audience on a wintery November evening—I think it was a Friday evening—and there was some doubt, I would say, at the beginning of the meeting. And then, once people thought about the additional opportunities that would exist to undertake work that would be seen as more useful as a result of having more Assembly Members, and having had that detailed discussion with people, they could see the value of increasing the number of democratically elected representatives in the national Parliament.
What kind of additional work could be done? Well, we have touched on that to a degree already. The committees could do more interesting work, there would be more opportunities for individual Members to develop expertise, to develop new legislation or legislative proposals, and also further opportunities for Members, either through committee work or individual travel, to learn from other parts of Wales and beyond, and to open the minds of our Members to new ideas, because that's where we see the real value of this small Parliament, which can be more agile and flexible because of our size. But there is also some frustration in terms of the capacity of 60 Members here in empowering themselves and releasing themselves to think creatively and to work in a more creative manner—I do like the word 'creative'—and to think creatively too as to how to develop policy and new ideas in Wales for the benefit of the people of Wales.
Mae'n iawn; dwi wedi cael fy llorio gan yr ateb godidog yna, Cadeirydd.
It's all right; I've been floored by the marvellous response there.
That's fine. Can I ask you if you have any thoughts on the additional Members and what they would be utilised for? Is it your view that they should only be additional Members brought in for the purposes of improving scrutiny of Government, and not for the purpose of increasing the size of Welsh Government?
Well, the expert panel report and my own thinking on this is that, primarily, the biggest squeeze is on non-Government Members and, therefore, my view is that the priority would be outside of Government. There may well be a case to consider, with the area of justice in particular being devolved, that there may be a need for one more place in Government, but, with powers being as they are and remaining as they are, then certainly, the need is greatest in the non-Government side. And we haven't even touched on the issue that frustrates me sometimes, which is to see Chairs of committee that really should be pushing the work of their committee having to sit on other committees as well and not being able to be free enough in their time in developing and leading the work of their committee—having to sit on other committees. It would probably be unheard of in the House of Commons for Chairs of committees to have to undertake other areas of work for their political party or for committee work in the House of Commons.
Can I just explore your thoughts, and again I say this without any value judgment—? Some of the things that have been suggested in order to fill the gap, rather than additional Assembly Members, Senedd Members, would be to look at alternative ways of filling the capacity gap, and that could be by co-opted Members, that horrible phrase now that's much derided of 'experts' in certain areas, councillors stepping up, council leaders stepping up, or Members of Parliament stepping sideways—because I don't believe it's stepping down; it's stepping sideways into another legislature. I'm just really fascinated in your thoughts on this, particularly as we still have this up-to-2026 gap. Is there a moment to be innovative if we can't actually bite the bullet and go for additional Assembly Members right now?
I certainly like the idea, and it's already been used by committees, that they do bring experts in to work alongside committees on various policy areas. I've seen the benefit of that, as a member of the health committee myself in a previous Assembly. That certainly can add value to the Members sitting on that committee. I'm a bit old-fashioned in how I see Parliaments and democracy; I'm of the view that Members are elected to a Parliament or to local government and therefore they serve that, and that's how they do their work. We had a bit of a trial on MPs and AMs working together on various pieces of legislation in the third Assembly, when we had the—what were they called, those infamous LCOs, were they?
Yes, legislative competence Orders.
Yes, I remember those.
And we had combined committees scrutinising some of those LCOs. I certainly remember, I led the hugely-innovative red meat LCO as a Welsh Minister at the time, and being scrutinised by—
I was the Under-Secretary of State at the other end.
Yes, you were.
—a combination of MPs and AMs. And I think everybody felt the frustration of that model, in that it was duplicating, actually, what was necessary. So, I like a clarity of relationship between the electors and those they've elected to know that they've elected Huw Irranca-Davies to the Senedd in Wales to do a job of work, and they've elected somebody else to do the council work there, and somebody else to do another piece of work somewhere else.
Are there any European or other examples where a member would serve both on, let's say, a local authority and in a regional Assembly, or even in regional/national? Are there any examples that you've looked at that we're aware of?
I haven't looked at them myself, but I'm sure that there would be examples around that, maybe not just in the European context, but maybe in the commonwealth context.
Yes, that may be something—
Just to be clear, I'm not talking about somebody who happens to be a councillor and is also an Assembly Member or a Member of Parliament.
Which we've just decided to outlaw.
Yes, indeed. Or, as we used to have, somebody in the Northern Ireland legislature being there and in the European Parliament, and the council and—[Inaudible.]—but I'm talking about somebody who serves, actually, a combined function.
Yes, and then represents in another place.
Yes. I don't know off the top of my head. I guess that there are examples of—
We'll have a look at that, I think, to see if we can find any examples of that.
Yes. I'm just wondering whether you, as a Presiding Officer, would be, in any way, open to that idea, in the absence of going for biting the bullet.
I think my instinctive answer to that—and I speak only personally as a Presiding Officer, not representing the Commission or anything in this context—is that I do like the clarity that the electorate has of knowing who they've elected where and what they're doing. And we struggle with getting the electorate to be fully understanding of that. To further confuse it by getting some Members to sit in two places I think is probably unnecessary, and could lead to duplication as well.
Thank you. David Rowlands.
Could I, in the first instance, direct my questions to Manon and to Anna, if I may? Could you give us some sort of insight into the action that's been taken or would need to be taken to plan for the potential increase in the size of the Assembly in 2026?
There needs to be a number of decisions. In terms of the Commission, it would depend very much on the policy decisions made by the Business Committee and by the remuneration board, and then we would respond to that. As I've mentioned already, we provide a fairly high level of tailored support. We have reviewed that recently and we would be looking to review that, anyway, early in the new Assembly. And we would look to the access to specialist expertise. I was just looking at a figure just now. You will be aware that the remuneration board put in place a policy and research fund, which has been used increasingly well over the years, which shows that there's an appetite for using that. Nine projects were undertaken in 2013-14; by this year, it's 60. So, there's clearly demand for that sort of thing.
We would need to think about, obviously, accommodation; we would need to think about the ICT that goes hand in hand with that; and we would need to consider with the Business Committee, the committee Chairs and the Commission of the day in what way service to Assembly Members might evolve so that we weren't just scaling up from where we are now but, through discussion and consent with Members of the day, understanding what level of support is needed.
And how far in advance would you like to know the actual numbers? I know what you're going to say, you're going to say, 'As early as possible', but how far in advance would you like in order to plan the actual numbers of the increase?
I think it's true to say that the more notice we'd have, the more efficiently we would be able to plan. I think, in terms of accommodation, if we were looking for rented accommodation in Cardiff, there's an absolute minimum period of two years that we would need to have notice of what the requirements would be. As I say, for other considerations, the more time we had, then the better we could negotiate contracts, the more we could look to put provisions, for example, for sustainability requirements, and so on, into them. So, we would obviously do the best we can, but the more time at our disposal, the more efficient the outcome will be able to be.
And, obviously, outside the normal envelope that you would be looking at with the expansion, are there any other—for instance, the Commission's environmental and sustainability goals and the diversity and inclusion strategy—items like that that you would not normally address? Are there any other items that you think would have to be looked at with this expansion going on?
I think I've touched on the main ones. There are consequences flowing from those. We would have to think about security, for example, if the footprint of the estate was increased; I mentioned ICT, but in general, making sure that the voting arrangements are still robust, and that might require a whole new system, rather than trying to cobble together an addition to the current one; there may be a need for new committee rooms, depending on what decisions are made about the nature of business. I believe that, in terms of the Chamber itself, up to 90 Members could be accommodated within the Chamber, although that mean slightly less room for each individual Member, but it wouldn't mean building a new building there.
Can I now ask both you, Manon, and Elin: what legislative vehicle do you see would be necessary to process the developing Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill and taking it through the Assembly?
Well, it would really need a new piece of primary legislation to put in place the number of Members and the electoral system to elect that number of Members. So, it would be a Senedd and elections mark two Bill that would be introduced in the next Assembly, if there was a mandate to do that. On something of this nature, and we've just had the experience of the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill and the requirement for the supermajority at the end, it would require a very clear steer and mandate from the Assembly, from the 60 Members, to start that process so that we wouldn't risk getting to the end of a legislative process where the 40-plus Members couldn't be secured to support the Senedd and elections Bill. Is there anything in terms of the legislative process that you'd like to add, Matthew?
No, not especially, Llywydd. If the Assembly wants to proceed on that basis, it would, as far as the process is concerned, work largely in the same way as the Senedd and elections Bill that we've just seen the Assembly pass at Stage 4 last week, and the key point being that it would require a supermajority.
So, would you see that, then, as being a Commission Bill, a Llywydd's Bill, a Government Bill? What would your thoughts be?
A committee Bill.
A committee Bill, a private Member's Bill—[Laughter.]
What would your thoughts be on the most appropriate vehicle for that at this stage, or have you got a fairly open mind on that?
I've got an open mind on it. The value of it not being a Government Bill is that it has the opportunity to be seen as something that is more cross-party, or has the potential to be more cross-party and have a wider basis with a consensus, rather than it just being brought in by Government. The advantage of having it as a Government Bill—and this is something I've learnt over the past few months—is that Government walks into that Chamber with at least 30 Members, probably, wishing to support it as a starting point. I bring, as Llywydd, with a Member-in-charge Bill, I only bring myself as a vote. On most of the votes, I didn't even have a vote. Only at the last vote did I have a vote. So, there are different dynamics here.
Certainly, I think, on the whole, the fact that the mandate would come at the start from the Assembly, that it would then either be led by the Commission or a committee Chair, or by the Llywydd representing the Commission. That model lends itself to building cross-party consensus better, probably, than a Welsh Government Bill.
But, on this one, on a Bill to increase the size of the Assembly, with a different electoral system, I think, right from the start, it requires political buy-in by the majority of political groups, because it's not the kind of Bill to change as the scrutiny process goes through. There's got to be a very early decision by political groups in the next Assembly, or leading into the next Assembly, as to which model and where they would like the legislation to be created, so that there's an early decision that leads itself, then, into the legislation and the scrutiny process on the detail of it, but not the in-principle point of what the system should be and the numbers that would be elected.
That's helpful, thank you. David.
Of course, if it's not a Commission or a committee—or, if it is a Commission or a committee Bill, and let's assume that there's going to be a majority party in the Assembly, it allows the Government, then, to bring in amendments knowing that they can have those amendments passed on the back of that Bill, doesn't it?
Yes, but they would require the final supermajority. That takes me back to the initial point I made here, which is that I would see this next Bill being very different to the way the Senedd and elections Bill worked, which was a kind of work in progress along the way. Some in-principle decisions were taken at the start by the Assembly to rename into a Parliament, but no clear mandate as to what that name should be. That, of course, developed as the scrutiny process went on, as did some elements of the franchise as well.
I would give an early—. From my experience of taking the Senedd and elections Bill through, and thinking about a new Bill on the number of Members, I'd want to give whoever's in charge of that Bill a clear steer to try to get the mandate in some detail from the first mandate to introduce the Bill. Because that will lead, then, to a kind of clarity from the start that the vast majority—the consensus of the Assembly—favours this number of elected Members and this system, and then the likelihood of it being amended—
So, we would only be passing what's on the face of the Bill, then. Is that what you're saying?
Well, I'd say the mandate from the Assembly to introduce the Bill should have clarity as to what the system should be and the numbers that would be elected, and it would be then for, say, the Llywydd in the next Assembly to then create the legislation that would be taken through scrutiny in terms of the detail of the scrutiny but not the—. The clear decision at the start was for a particular system with a particular number, and, of course, there would be an opportunity for political parties to change their mind as the process went on, probably, but hopefully not, if everybody was signed up—
If you'd set out a clear objective, yes.
If everybody was signed up at the start, 'This is what we want to do', we'll take the Bill forward, and we'll have less political changing of minds during the process then. I think that would be very useful because, in deciding at the start and then allowing the legislative process and getting an early final decision, then, to enable everybody by year 2 of the next Assembly to know what's coming in for 2026—. And the important part of that as well is for political parties to know, because, once you get into year 4, political parties have already started to select candidates for the next election. So, you really need to be passing this Bill in year 2 or start of year 3, you know, as a final decision.
Yes, and I think one of the clear objectives of this committee has been as far as possible to get consensus across the political spectrum in this Assembly, at least. So, that's what we've been looking at. Before we move on to the next section, can I just ask you one question around costs and whether—? We had in the expert panel's report set out estimated costs for additional Members and the associated costs that go along with that. Has that changed at all since the expert panel has reported, do you know?
Well, I think that, reflecting what we discussed earlier in this session, it may be useful for us to give you some analysis of how we would want to assess, because there's a way of looking at the costs which is that if you were to have another 20 Members and you were to replicate the services behind those Members entirely that would be the maximum, but if, reflecting the discussion we had earlier, we were to kind of precautionarily rebalance, then, the services behind the Member—. It's quite a difficult piece of work. I don't know whether we would be able to do that piece of work.
We did do some thinking around this as part of the preparation for the possibility that a second Bill would actually come forward during this Assembly, but it wasn't done to that degree of sophistication where we were considering the recalibration of services to Members. So, I think that we can certainly write to the committee, if that would be helpful, with our thinking to date, but with the important caveat that I think there is a lot more work to be done on this one and testing out of what models would be acceptable to Members.
I think that would be a helpful start, anyway, if we could have that information. Yes. That's lovely. Okay, thank you. I'm conscious of time. I was going to take a break at this stage, but, because of time, if it's okay with everybody, I think we'll just move on. We're moving to the next section on diversity within the Assembly, and some questions from Huw Irranca-Davies.
Thank you, Chair. Just an observation that you might want to look at as well is the ongoing discussions that we have with UK parliamentary colleagues on allowances for individual Members. I hate to even raise this, but, when I came down here to the Assembly, I'm one and a half members of staff down. Now, that's quite interesting because the support that you were talking about that increases to support Members who are on two or three committees, that's also—one of the constraints is that we have one and a half fewer staff than an MP does. Now, I cover education, transport, economic development, health and so on. MPs in Wales and Scotland don't do that—or Northern Ireland. So, there might be another way to unpeel this particular onion here in terms of the ongoing discussions about what the proportionate funding of individual Members beyond Commission funding behind the scenes for committees—. I'll just park that.
The diversity issues—gender, but also the wider diversity issues, as well, about how representative this institution is, have been taken up by the expert panel. They made it clear that it was the combination of the increase in Members that, also in combination with electoral reform, would be the thing that would enable, with some rules around it, us to actually increase that diversity of membership here within it. I just wonder, have you had, as a Commission, any concerns raised about groups, particular parts of society, not being represented here within the Assembly in sufficient numbers?
Well, I don't think it's—. Well, I'm not sure whether it's been raised formally with the Commission; I think it's raised as part of the political debate around representation generally through the electoral systems, both for the Assembly and for other Parliaments. We have done well in ensuring a reasonable reflection of gender diversity, men and women, and that's been done by particular contributions by two political parties—one in particular—from 1999 onwards. And we have a situation now where we are, as a result of that, and by some luck as well—. I think we're around 47 per cent women Members now.
There is—. Certainly, the Laura McAllister report and others are keen to suggest that we should be ensuring that that continues by means of legislating to ensure that it continues so that there is a responsibility through various systems that could be introduced to legislate to ensure gender equality on candidates' lists. So, that's an area of work that is reasonably well developed and was well developed by the Laura McAllister panel. And then there are other ways, of course, of ensuring that there are broader diversity issues—that we all don't look the same, come from the same place, are economically of the same background, or ethnically of the same background—. Political parties do some work on this. The Assembly and the remuneration board have done some work on ensuring that people aren't disadvantaged or their additional costs can be met as a result of whatever disability they may have or extra responsibilities that they have. But we haven't, to date, done anything in terms of legislation or developing ideas on legislation that would ensure better diversity of candidates and then Members elected to this place, and the opportunity of this committee now allows for some creative thinking, if you have the time, on that issue.
May I just then build on that? Apart from the work that the political parties do in terms of diversity of all kinds and remuneration board considerations that Anna is expert on, about removing barriers to people standing as candidates, we do also, as an Assembly Commission, have a diversity and inclusion strategy of our own relating to Commission staff, and that was established for the period of this Assembly. We have an annual report on that every year. That includes working to make sure that we have diversity within our own workforce, and we talked to a number of public bodies and third sector bodies about that. Some recent examples I've got in front of me: the North Wales Women's Centre, Chwarae Teg, Mind Cymru, National Autistic Society, Gingerbread, and Mantell Gwynedd. We also, as part of our strategy, are tasked, in our priority list here, with supporting Assembly Members and their staff to build diversity into their work. So, in terms of supporting you all to have diverse support staff working for you, we try and provide training and help and guidance with that.
Okay. Thank you. And could I just ask for your thoughts on the role of the Commission or the Business Committee particularly—you've touched on the Commission and the Business Committee—in encouraging diversity, or overcoming those barriers that you referred to?
I don't think the Business Committee would have a role in that. I think the remuneration board in particular may support some of the work to remove the barriers and financial support to enable that to happen. Anna, I don't know if you want to refer to some of that work.
Yes. The remuneration board has within its remit that it needs to provide financial support to Members to undertake their work in a way that doesn't deter any people from wanting to become Assembly Members. So, they have done quite a bit of work in looking at what some of those barriers are, and they commissioned an independent report from Cardiff University to set out some recommendations to the board. So, they have reflected on some of those recommendations and are currently consulting on the final determination—or preparing for the final consultation for the determination—for the next Assembly, where they have looked specifically at how to make that a more attractive package by making clearer what support there is for Members with disabilities. They have been considering as well what support might be needed for women who go on maternity leave, or for anybody taking paternity leave. So, clearly there's one—. There may be a crossover with the work the Business Committee has looked at recently in that area, in terms of allowing proxy voting for people who are on paternity leave. So, the Llywydd is right—the Business Committee has fewer levers to address diversity issues within the Assembly.
Okay. And just one final question: in taking forward this work, particularly focusing on diversity, to what extent should the Commission, and should we as a committee, be thinking about futureproofing this? It's evolving as we're here today—the nature of the discussion around identities, and how people self-identify and so on. Whilst the expert panel report focused mainly, but not exclusively, on gender issues, they recognised that there were wider issues around diversity as well. So, in our deliberations, in the Commission's work, what are you thinking about in terms of encompassing futureproofing this with the changing nature of the way people self-identify, and the changing nature of our discussion around diversity?
I think the question would be, for the committee and for any potential legislation, how and if we want to develop the thinking of ensuring that there's a diverse range of candidates that are put in front of the Welsh people, how that is done voluntarily by political parties, with a lot of support, possibly, from the Commission—not directly to the political parties, but to the Members currently serving those political groups, in terms of their own development of their thinking in having been involved in mentoring schemes with people from ethnic minorities or from different groups of people, where both sides of the equation benefit from that—or whether there is to be, as part of the legislation, a degree of developing lists and making political parties put on their lists a gender-balanced list of candidates, or particular percentage quotas on candidates from minority ethnic or disabled backgrounds. How far do we want legislation to go down this route and to make the political parties respond in their lists to various quotas? That's an area of work that is interesting, which doesn't have, with the exception of the gender equality, much evidence from other Parliaments, I suspect, although there may be some out there. I'd also caution, from my discussions with the political groups here, on the basis of how up for it are the political groups or political parties to support quotas of this nature in their party lists.
Just before I bring you in, David, Llywydd, I'm conscious of the time, and you were scheduled to be with us till 11.50 a.m. Are you okay for a few more minutes?
Yes, I'm fine.
Okay, thanks. David.
Just on the business of quotas, some legislatures have actually introduced quotas on gender numbers, but obviously that opens up a whole panoply of questions with regard to whether they would have quotas for disability and would they have quotas for ethnicity. And if, for instance, disability had a bigger quota actually elected than the quotas that they brought about—. So, what are your thoughts on actual quotas for—well, let's look at gender in the first instance?
Well, as I said, I think the issue of quotas for political parties on gender, and gender balance, is an issue—. Laura McAllister's report did some work on that and there are other Parliaments that have already enacted that, and it's a reasonably well developed area of work, where this Parliament could get interested and could take on board, reasonably easily, the way to legislate to make that happen. Whether political parties would want it to happen is another question.
There is less work that's been done on other quotas to work out how you would develop, for example, quotas on minority ethnic communities. There are men and women who live in every constituency in Wales at around the same numbers, around 50 per cent each. Wales is very diverse, then, in terms of its geography and demography on where, in an area—. Where we're sitting, here, in Cardiff Bay, the percentage of people from minority ethnic backgrounds is quite significant; if you go to more rural areas, like the one I represent, it's a much lower percentage. So, how you would develop quotas to reflect the differences in the communities in different parts of Wales is an interesting area of work to look at. And there may be experience elsewhere in the world of that, but I think it's not as well developed an area of work at this point. Hopefully, you'll be able to take some evidence on how people may want to see that area of work develop, but whether we're able to move directly into legislation on that is more challenging than the area of gender equality quotas.
Thank you. Are you finished, Huw?
Dai, do you want to pursue this any further, because this was—?
I'd like to ask a specific, slightly separate question, if I may.
Okay. Carry on.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Ie, achos mae'r materion hyn, gan fwyaf, wedi cael ymateb.
Jest ar ben hybu amrywiaeth, wrth gwrs, dŷn ni hefyd yn sôn am y potensial o newid y systemau pleidleisio i fod yn system gyfrannol—STV, neu beth bynnag. A ydych chi'n gweld bod system bleidleisio gyfrannol yn gallu hybu amrywiaeth o ba bynnag beth—rhywedd neu beth bynnag—neu ydyw'n haws i hybu amrywiaeth o dan system pleidleisio gyfrannol nag ydyw o dan system gyntaf heibio'r postyn?
Thank you, Chair. Yes, because these issues have been responded to, mostly.
Just on encouraging diversity, we're also talking, of course, about the potential of changing the electoral system to being proportional—STV, or whatever. Do you see that a proportional representation system is a means of encouraging diversity—gender or in whatever other terms—or is it easier to encourage diversity under that sort of system, rather than a first-past-the-post system?
Wel, dwi'n meddwl ei fod e'n haws i'w ddatblygu o dan system sydd â rhestrau o ryw fath sy'n cael eu paratoi ar gyfer yr etholwyr gan y pleidiau gwleidyddol, ac wedyn mae'n haws i roi'r cwotâu o fewn hynny yn hytrach nag un ymgeisydd i un etholaeth, er, wrth gwrs, mae yna ffyrdd gwirfoddol y mae'r pleidiau wedi eu datblygu ar hynny, ac mae gefeillio etholaethau yn un ffordd y mae'r Blaid Lafur yn enwedig wedi llwyddo i wneud hynny yng nghyd-destun etholiadau i'r Cynulliad yma. Felly, mae system newydd o bleidleisio yn cynnig mwy o gyfleon diddorol, dwi'n meddwl, i edrych ar rai o'r materion amrywiaeth yma.
Well, I do think it would be easier to develop that under a system based on lists of some kind, which are prepared for the electorate by the political parties, and then it is easier to include the quotas within that sort of approach, rather than having a single candidate for a single constituency, although, of course, there are ways and means that the parties have developed voluntarily, and twinning constituencies is one way in which the Labour Party in particular has managed to make progress in the context of Assembly elections. So, a new electoral system would provide interesting opportunities to look at some of these diversity issues.
Okay. Thank you, Dai. We move on, then, to some questions from David Rowlands on anonymised candidate diversity data.
Elin, have you had discussions with the Wales Office to clarify the competence of the Welsh Government in order to be able to bring in legislation to—[Interruption.]
I think the Llywydd is inviting me to talk about this, Chair. [Laughter.] Because a Bill hasn't actually emerged from this process at this point, we haven't had specific proposals to work on, so we can't give a definitive answer on this without having specific ideas to consider. But what I can tell the committee is that equal opportunities is a reservation under the current settlement, and equal opportunities is defined as preventing, eliminating or regulating discrimination. Now, in terms of whether or not a proposal falls within competence, the test is to look at the purpose and effect of that proposal, and if the purpose is preventing, eliminating or regulating discrimination, then we're into territory that falls outside of the Assembly's competence. There are some exceptions to that, but they are fairly small and limited. So, there are exceptions around the functions of devolved Welsh authorities, and given that electoral returning officers are likely, because of some other changes, to fall within the definition of devolved Welsh authorities, there have been some suggestions around things like reducing the cost of the deposit for parties that meet particular requirements, but those are fairly limited in scope. This is what the Assembly would be able to legislate on.
So, the door is not completely closed on this, but it's certainly very limited, and, of course, a lot of it in terms of diversity is down to political parties, and regulating those would certainly fall outside the competence of the Assembly. Competence can be extended, of course, but that would require discussions and agreement with the UK Government and ultimately the agreement of both Houses of the UK Parliament.
Yes, Llywydd, I'm not sure you could pass this one on, actually. [Laughter.] What sort of discussions have you had with the Welsh Government—obviously, these come under section 106 of the Equality Act 2010, basically—what discussions have you had with the Welsh Government about the representations they are making to the UK Government regarding the competence of—?
I don't think I've had any discussions with the Welsh Government on having discussions between the Welsh Government and the UK Government on competence issues around whether there should be legislation on this part. I think the point that Matthew made—because we haven't got a decision to legislate, it's all reasonably hypothetical at this point. We have to work with the legal views that we have around competence to show where the boundaries may lie, but that doesn't preclude, then, if there is a desire to do something on equal opportunities and quotas in this piece of legislation that could be proposed here. Those discussions can start, and there may well need to be a change of competence to meet that, but those kinds of discussions will require, I suspect, a lot of political buy-in, on both sides of the M4, to ensure that any changes required will have to be made in Westminster to allow for that to happen. It feels like a complex area on the competence issue.
It's complex, yes. We'll have to come back to that, I suspect. Okay, Huw.
Can I just ask your response to the recommendation from one of the other two committees that I sit on, the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee? In its recent report on local government, recommendation 22 recommended that Welsh Government assess the effectiveness of the provisions in local government in Wales, but also in relation to candidate data that could be collected within the current devolution framework. So, we explicitly said within that committee, in terms of local government—and the same thing applies here—this should be something now that Welsh Government should be testing out in anticipation of exactly the points that my colleague David was just making. Would you support that? It seems a no-brainer, as they say.
I don't know whether—
Not the whole recommendation, sorry, but the principle that Welsh Government should now be testing where the devolution settlement actually lies on these issues and how these things could be taken forward.
Collecting and collating data on—
Candidate data and where the responsibilities sit within the current devolution settlement—in effect, to come back to Matthew's point, actually ways in which this could be taken forward if we're committed to diversity, both in data collection and also mechanisms within the current devolved areas.
That's not done currently, then, is it for the Assembly election? It's something that, I guess, could be raised with Welsh Government as to whether there is a case that they'd be interested in doing this voluntarily—not voluntarily, but without a legislative requirement for it, in the context of the next election. I've no idea where data protection stuff intertwines into that, but it's certainly something that would be as useful in the context of national Parliament as it should be in the context of local government. So, I can see that it's an area of work that maybe Welsh Government would possibly want to do, if it's looking to do it, and respond positively to that committee report recommendation.
That's lovely. Okay, thank you very much.
I'm just going to move on to the last set of questions, which are around the issue of job sharing. I think we may need to come back to this, because I think this is as an issue that, as a committee, we're probably going to need to spend quite a bit of time on, which we don't have at the moment. But I'd welcome your thoughts and views on the suggestion that candidates could be able to stand for election on a job-sharing basis, and whether you've thought about what the practical or procedural consequences of doing that might be.
Certainly, it was an issue raised by the Laura McAllister report, and has attracted a degree of discussion as a result of Laura McAllister's report. My initial discussions with the political groups doesn't—. There is interest in some of them and there is opposition by others, I'd suggest, from the start. We're about to—. There's a paper, actually, being taken to the Business Committee tomorrow on proxy voting, which is a new area of work, possibly, of doing our work in the context of Members who are on extended periods of leave from the Assembly. That itself as a paper throws up some of the issues that are linked to who decides when that decision is taken to cast the proxy vote. There are issues then that come quite clearly, and would have to be very well scrutinised by a Business Committee in developing the idea of how a relationship of job sharing works in the context of representing people, how votes are cast, how decisions are taken on the basis of votes, let alone the complex area around remuneration, support staff, who works for who, and all the practicalities around that.
I'm not saying that any of this impossible—it's all possible—but it does require quite a significant piece of work to be done to identify how job sharing would work practically in a democratic Parliament. The most crucial part of it is how the electorate would relate and the relationship between the electorate and those two Members, then.
Okay. As I say, I think this is probably a piece of work that we are going to have to come back to, but it was interesting to get your initial thoughts and views on that. So, that's much appreciated.
That does bring this session to a close, and can I thank all of you—Elin, Matthew, Manon and Anna—for your time this morning? It's much appreciated. You will be sent a transcript of the proceedings to check for accuracy. We will also be sending the notes of the agreed action points for you to think about and to consider as well, just so that you're clear that anything we've agreed is what you have said. So, thank you all very much for your time.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) a (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
We will move now on to item 3, which is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting. Everybody in agreement? Good.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:05.
The public part of the meeting ended at 12:05.