Y Pwyllgor ar Ddiwygio Etholiadol y Senedd
Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform27/01/2020
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Dai Lloyd AM|
|David J. Rowlands AM|
|Dawn Bowden AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AM|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Elaina Chamberlain||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Lisa James||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Rebecca Evans AM||Y Gweinidog Cyllid a’r Trefnydd|
|Minister for Finance and Trefnydd|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Gerallt Roberts||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Stephen Aldhouse||Ail Glerc|
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 09:15.
The meeting began at 09:15.
Good morning, everyone. Can I welcome you to this morning's meeting of the Committee on Assembly Electoral Reform? We've received apologies this morning from Delyth Jewell, and Dai Lloyd is attending as her substitute. The National Assembly operates through the medium of the Welsh and English languages. There are headsets for simultaneous translation on channel 1 and for sound amplification on channel 0. 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 we can move on, then, to item 2, which is the oral evidence session on diversity of the Assembly, can I welcome Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Trefnydd, Lisa James, deputy director, local government democracy with Welsh Government, and Elaina Chamberlain, head of democracy, diversity and remuneration?
We'll move straight into questions, Minister, if that's okay, and can I open by asking you why you think it's important to have a diverse range of political decision makers?
I think it's really important that our decision makers at every level in Wales represent and reflect the population that we have in Wales. I think that there's a broad and deep understanding in terms of the evidence that is out there—academic evidence, survey evidence and so on—which shows that, when you do have a broader group of people taking decisions that reflect those people the decisions are being taken on behalf of, the decisions that are taken are better.
I think that we can seek to do much more in Wales at the moment. If you look at the surveys that we have had over recent years, we do not have the level of diversity that we need right across the public sector at all levels, but we're certainly doing lots of work in that area to improve the situation, and we can see areas where we have improvements—diversity on boards, for example, is improving in terms of gender. But there's lots of work yet to do in terms of the black, Asian and minority ethnic community and disabled people as well.
Okay. Thank you. We'll explore that, I think, a little bit further in some of the questions, Minister, so thank you. David.
It's a fairly straightforward question: how does the appointment of a Cabinet with a 50:50 gender split improve the representation of women's interests in Government?
So, this was one of the manifesto commitments of our now First Minister, when he was seeking to be appointed to that post. He saw it very much as part of our wider commitment to being a feminist Government. I wasn't in the Cabinet prior to the current 50:50 blend, so I can't really reflect on how decisions have changed in that way, or how the atmosphere has changed, or anything like that. But what I can say from my own perspective is that I'm taking every opportunity that I can to bring that diversity lens to my own portfolio. So, in setting the budget, for example, we're looking to expand on our gender budgeting pilot, which we're undertaking. That looks at personal learning accounts, and particularly in fields of work that have been traditionally dominated by men—so, an example would be construction. And the personal learning accounts are aimed at ensuring that people who are on the bottom rung, if you like, of the career ladder have the opportunity to progress and to reach their full potential within their work area. So, the gender budgeting lens is trying to ensure that we don't almost by unconscious bias take decisions that disadvantage women, and that's a pilot that has been inspired by work in Iceland. They spent about seven years refining their approach to gender budgeting, so we're at the start of our journey, but I think it's going to be a really insightful piece of work.
I think it's hard to prove a negative as well in terms of what would have been different had the gender make-up of Cabinet been different. So, it's hard to say what decisions would not have been made or been made in another way. But the work that we're doing through the gender review, for example, is really important, and that spans right across Government as well.
Key to any analysis of the diversity in appointees in public life is obviously robust data. Have you had any challenges in collecting that sort of data? Could you outline—?
One of the challenges is to what extent you could compel people to give data in terms of their protected characteristics. We always invite data. So, for example, when we're looking at appointing to boards, we invite people to give information about their characteristics, but it's a fine line, really, in terms of then moving on to compelling people to provide that data, which I think we would be uncomfortable with. So, it's about providing an atmosphere that is welcoming to everyone.
I don't know if officials have any reflections on the work that we've done in terms of the local government survey.
Yes. So, we also conduct a survey of candidates and councillors in local government, and we are required to do that under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011. So, it's a statutory requirement. The first survey was in 2012, then we ran one in 2013 just for Anglesey, because they had a special election that year, and then we ran it again in 2017. It's very difficult, because there are 1,254 seats in local government in Wales, so you're talking about thousands of candidates.
We were disappointed with the return rate or response rate on the first survey, which was 35 per cent. Laura McAllister did the 'On Balance: Diversifying Democracy in Local Government in Wales' report for Lesley Griffiths, who was the local government Minister at the time, and made a number of suggestions about how we could improve the survey to try and increase the response rate. However, we did all that, and then the response rate went down to 20 per cent in 2017. Anecdotally, it's—. We'd made it electronic, made it more simple and we shortened it in 2017, but the response rate still went down. Anecdotally, that was because a lot of the same people were standing and they thought that, as they'd filled it in once, they didn't need to fill it in again. So, it's quite hard to collect that data.
What does that questionnaire cover?
It covers all the protected characteristics. So, we're trying to gather the data both about candidates and who is elected so that can inform both our work around encouraging more diversity in local government but also the Welsh Local Government Association are running a huge piece of work around that as well. So, the data is important, but it's quite difficult to get at.
Of course, if somebody has autism problems and that, they're not likely to want to declare it, because they may feel that it's a barrier to them, going forward. So, data is very difficult, that it's absolutely accurate, if people are not actually willing to give that sort of information, are they?
There are all kinds of reasons why people might want to keep information about themselves private, and we should completely respect that.
How have you been able to use the data that you've collected to improve the diversity of the post holders?
So, we can look, as an example, at the work we're doing on public appointments. We've managed to do quite a lot of in-depth analysis of the information that we have on public appointments, and that has led us, then, to the development of the Welsh Government public appointment, diversity and inclusion strategy, which we'll be publishing in February. That really seeks to set out some steps that we can take right across Government, in every portfolio, to improve the diversity that we have in terms of public appointments and, again, with a particular focus on those areas that we have not managed to see improvement in—so, BAME communities and disabled people particularly.
The Welsh Government's proposed equality objectives for 2020 to 2024 include increasing the diversity of political decision makers. What does that diversity mean? Is it only protected characteristics or a wider definition of diversity?
So, we would take the broadest definition of diversity, including understanding what we must do to support people through reasonable adjustments. We would look at definitions in legislation, looking at the Equality Act 2010, for example, the Welsh Language Act 1993, the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and seek to build on those. You mentioned people with autism, so looking at neurodiversity in its widest sense as well, as being extremely important in terms of ensuring that we have an inclusive approach and make those reasonable adjustments for individuals, both when they come to an interview but also then their experience within public life.
Do you have any idea how, perhaps, this neurodiversity—which is obviously a very, very complicated situation, isn't it—could be extended to political parties to increase representation?
I think there's a great deal of work to be done in terms of awareness raising at all levels, so within political parties but in society more widely. You'll see some of that work being done through the autism spectrum disorder strategic action plan; that has always had a really strong focus on awareness raising and challenging perceptions and so on. But then there's also work to do in terms of people with other neurodiversity; you see and hear much less about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette's and other conditions as well. So, I think that there's much more work to do in terms of raising awareness of both the conditions themselves and then relatively simple things that we can all do to improve communication between people.
Okay. How will the commencement of the socioeconomic duty affect the socioeconomic diversity of the Assembly, because this is one area that's not been covered extensively in the past, has it?
That involves the commitment, again, that the First Minister made in terms of bringing into force the socioeconomic duty, and the purpose of that duty is to ensure specified bodies, when making those strategic decisions about priorities and setting objectives or budgets, for example, consider how their decisions might reduce the inequalities associated with socioeconomic disadvantage. And that really builds on what we're already doing through the well-being of future generations Act, and it also strengthens and adds weight to the other approaches that we're seeking to develop; the social partnership Bill, for example, and all of the work that we're doing on fair work principles.
So, it's about really tackling inequality from every possible different angle. And this is important for your approach to equality in this particular inquiry, because we know that people who are in more disadvantaged communities, in deprived and socioeconomic terms, are often women or disabled people or members of minority ethnic communities, for example. So, that's why it's really important that we take every possible angle and put duties on those public bodies to make changes.
Thank you. That's fine, Chair.
Okay. Are you happy with that? Okay. Thank you for that, David. Some questions now from Dai Lloyd.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Yn dilyn ymlaen o'r ateb byr i'r pwynt diwethaf, a dweud y gwir, fe fyddwch chi'n ymwybodol fod y pwyllgor llywodraeth leol yma yn y Senedd wedi argymell sefydlu cronfa hygyrchedd i swydd etholedig, os mai dyna beth yw'r Gymraeg am access to elected office fund. Felly, mae'r pwyllgor cydnabyddedig yn y fan hyn wedi argymell sefydlu y fath gronfa. Ar y pryd, dywedodd Llywodraeth Cymru eu bod nhw yn ffafrio ac yn cefnogi'r bwriad yna. Felly, y cwestiwn cyntaf ydy: ydy Llywodraeth Cymru dal yn cefnogi sefydlu'r gronfa hygyrchedd i swydd etholedig? Ac os ydych chi, a fydd y gronfa honno mewn lle gogyfer ymgeiswyr etholiad 2021?
Thank you very much, Chair. Following on from your response to the previous point, you will be aware that the ELGC committee here in the Senedd have recommended that you establish an access to elected office fund. So, the committee has recommended that you do establish this fund. At the time, the Government said that they were in favour of that and that they supported that idea. So, the first question is: does the Welsh Government still support the idea of establishing this fund for elected office? And if you do, will that fund be in place for candidates for the 2021 election?
The Welsh Government did accept that committee's recommendation in terms of the access to elected office fund, and that's being taken forward as part of phase 2 of the diversity in democracy project. So, there are several things that I think the Minister will need to do over the coming months in terms of working with others to agree the scope and the scale of those arrangements, and determining how they might be managed and administered. So, I think that there's still some work to be done there.
I don't think that there was a commitment to establish the fund in time for the Senedd elections, and I think that that would be challenging, given the fact that legislation would have to be commenced—or introduced, I should say—to do that. But certainly, it's the intention to do so ahead of the local government elections.
That would be secondary legislation, Rebecca, would it, and not primary? Yes. So, would that make a difference in terms of the time that it would take?
I think the challenge is that there are two pieces of secondary legislation that need to be made. So, one relates to the conduct Order, so this is the Order for both the Senedd—. Well, there are two: one to run the Senedd elections, and one to run local government elections in Wales. Those are both pieces of secondary legislation we are in the process of updating and changing because of other changes, including changes to the franchise. But in order for an access to an elected office fund to make any difference, in terms of the limits of candidates' expenditure, then any grant awarded from the fund needs to be excluded from the limit of the expenditure in the conduct Order as well. So, that piece of legislation needs to be made first, and then a piece of legislation needs to be made to establish the fund.
All right, thank you. Sorry, Dai.
Yn dilyn o hynny, mi rydych chi fel Llywodraeth yn edrych i symud ymlaen ar yr agenda yma, achos dwi yn credu ei fod e'n bwysig, a dweud y gwir, achos mae'r holl fusnes trefniadaeth ac ariannu ymgeisyddiaeth unigol yn gallu bod yn her, yn enwedig o feddwl, 'Arian: o lle dwi'n mynd i gael hwnna? Lle dwi'n mynd i gael yr amser bant o'r gwaith ar lefel llywodraeth leol? A pwy sy'n mynd i dalu am yr holl beth, achos dwi ddim yn gwybod dim byd?' Mae yna nifer o wahanol ffactorau. So, dŷch chi yn gweithredu ar ryw fath o fyrder. Dwi'n deall yr heriau ynglŷn ag etholiad 2021. Ond mae'r pwnc yma ar yr agenda; dyna beth dwi'n trio deall.
Following on from that, you as a Government are looking to move on with this agenda, because I do think it's important, because all this business about organisation and funding of individual candidates can be challenging, considering, 'Where will we get the money? How will we get time off work on a local government level? And who's going to pay for the entire thing, because we don't know anything?' There are a number of different factors. So, you are working on this now. I understand the challenge with the 2021 election. But this subject is on the agenda; that's what I'm trying to understand.
It is very complex legally as well, because of the way in which elections were devolved under the current settlement. So, we have to check, every time we want to do something in the elections field, that it is within the devolved competence of the Welsh Ministers, which means going through the amendments to GOWA and checking that we're not hitting a reservation or a reserved authority. So, it is very complex. And then, when you add that to the complexity of funding elections, in terms of candidates and political parties, that means it's quite challenging.
We have been talking to colleagues in Scotland and in UK Government, because they have already established funds. So, we are learning a lot from that. We'd hope that we'd be in a position to shortly make a significant move forward, with the local government Minister almost being at the point where she could possibly make some announcement for the 2022 local government elections, in that arena.
Diolch yn fawr. Symud ymlaen i'r adran nesaf, sydd ynglŷn â mentora a rhaglenni arweinyddiaeth ac ati. Felly, a gaf i jest ofyn yn gyntaf cwestiwn cyffredinol ar beth mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn meddwl am werth rhaglenni mentora ac arweinyddiaeth i wella amrywiaeth ymysg gwleidyddion Cymru yn y dyfodol—wel, y presennol a'r dyfodol. Achos, wrth gwrs, dŷn ni gyd yn rhan, dwi'n credu, o wahanol raglenni mentora ac ati fel Aelodau o'r Cynulliad, a weithiau dŷn ni'n cael adroddiadau cymysg ynglŷn â gwerth y gwahanol raglenni yma. Felly, yn gyffredinol, beth mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn ei feddwl o raglenni mentora ac arweinyddiaeth er mwyn hybu gwell amrywiaeth ymysg gwleidyddion y dyfodol?
Thank you very much. Moving on to the next section, which is to do with mentoring and leadership programmes. Can I just ask, first of all, a general question on what does the Welsh Government think of the value of mentoring and leadership programmes to improve the diversity of political representatives in Wales for the future—in the present and the future. Because, of course, we're all part, I think, of different mentoring programmes as Members of the Assembly, and sometimes we'll get mixed reviews regarding the value of these various programmes. So, in general, what does the Welsh Government think of mentoring and leadership programmes in order to promote diversity within the political sphere?
The mentoring and leadership programmes can certainly be very helpful in terms of nurturing talent, but I think you've reflected actually in your question what we've heard very much through our diversity in democracy events, and that is that, actually, some of the schemes perhaps don't work as well as they might, and that's for lots of reasons.
For example, one particular key concern that I believe was raised during the diversity in democracy events was that there are so many different schemes that cover different protected characteristics, whereas people's real lives don't fall quite so simply into just being one or other of a particular characteristic. So, there were suggestions there that perhaps schemes should be broader and more encompassing and look at the themes and the barriers that people face in common, rather than looking at particular strands of diversity in isolation.
Another thing that was raised was the question of mentors being self-selecting. So, we all put ourselves forward as mentors, but actually is that the best way to do it? Because none of us have had, I don't believe, any training in being a mentor, unless it's something that was done in work before we came to the Assembly. So, there's a keenness to ensure that that goodwill and that desire to help and nurture and support talent is done in a way that is actually informed from our side as well, which I don't think is necessarily always the case.
So, those are the two things that really stood out. I know that we'll all have been mentors ourselves and will have different reflections on how successful or otherwise that has been as well.
Yn dilyn o'ch ateb yn y fan yna, mae mentora, yn y bôn, yn dibynnu ar ysbrydoli'r genhedlaeth nesaf mewn modd sy'n anodd iawn i'w ddiffinio. Ond dwi'n cymryd y buasech chi'n cefnogi sefydlu canllawiau gweddol gadarn ynglŷn â mentora a sut i arwain ac ati, a ddim jest yn dibynnu ar bersonoliaeth yr unigolyn sydd yn mentora.
Following on from your response, mentoring is, essentially, dependent upon inspiring the next generation in a way that's very difficult to define. But I do take it that you would be supportive of creating quite clear guidelines regarding mentoring and how to lead, and not depend wholly on the personality of the individual mentoring.
This is something that we're looking at as part of phase 2 of the diversity in democracy work: exploring how to ensure that mentors are given the information and guidance that they need to be good mentors, and then that you're teamed up with the right person, and that both sides can really make the most of what should be an excellent opportunity.
Cyn i ni adael y pwynt yma, pwy ydych chi'n credu dylai fod yn darparu'r rhaglenni mentora ac arweinyddiaeth yma? Ife Llywodraeth Cymru? Ife'r gwahanol bleidiau gwleidyddol? Ife'r Senedd ei hun, neu wahanol fudiadau? Pwy ydych chi'n credu dylai fod yn darparu'r rhaglenni mentora yma?
Before we leave this particular point, can you tell us who you believe should be providing these mentoring and leadership programmes? Should it be Welsh Government? Should it be the various political parties? Should it be the Senedd itself, or various organisations? Who do you believe should be providing these mentoring programmes?
This is something that we're exploring again through the diversity in democracy phase 2 work, but I think that there's a case for any or all of those to work in partnership, potentially, to deliver schemes. Political parties delivering schemes have a really important and different perspective to offer, I think, because one thing that we will have all found with some of the schemes that we've been involved with—. So, reflecting on my own work as a mentor with the Ethnic Youth Support Team, for example, I obviously didn't invite the individual I was mentoring to party political things, which usually were on the weekends, and usually when that individual was more available, so that was more difficult. I obviously couldn't invite them to conferences, to political meetings, to campaign events, because that wouldn't be an appropriate way to mentor that individual. But, if it was within the context of a political party mentoring scheme, it would be an ideal scenario. So, again, it's about working out what's most appropriate and who has the skills and the ability to deliver.
Diolch. Symud ymlaen i faes arall rŵan. Mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi ymrwymo eu hunain i ysgrifennu at Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig i fynd ar ôl dechreuad adran 106 o Ddeddf Cydraddoldeb 2010. Felly, allaf i ofyn, ynglŷn â'r ymrwymiad yna i ysgrifennu at Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig ynglŷn â dechreuad adran 106, pa gysylltiad sydd wedi bod rhwng Llywodraeth Cymru a Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig ar y mater yma?
Thank you. We'll move on to another subject now. The Welsh Government has committed itself to writing to the UK Government to pursue the commencement of section 106 of the Equality Act 2010. So, may I ask, about that commitment to write to the UK Government about the commencement of section 106, what engagement has the Welsh Government had with the UK Government on this particular matter?
You're right to say that Welsh Government has committed to write to the UK Government in regard to the commencement of section 106 of the equality Act. I understand that it was the intention of the Minister for Housing and Local Government to do so following the diversity in democracy engagement events, which took place in November, to ensure that any specific issues that came to light with those events could be included in that letter. But, of course, then we had a general election, which has slowed down—
Did we? I missed that. [Laughter.]
—that engagement with the UK Government. I think that we're probably expecting a UK Government reshuffle almost imminently. So, hopefully, once that's happened, we can come to a period of more settled business with the UK Government and we can pursue that. But I don't know if officials have got any more reflection, because this is obviously something that the local government Minister is leading on.
I think you've outlined the position, really. We're absolutely committed to writing. We expect to write in the near future. A series of events have held that up, really. The diversity workshops have been quite helpful and have reinforced the position of political parties being quite clear and keen to do something in this area, but also other people from outside of political parties reinforced the need for that as well. I think that was one of the clearer things that came out of the workshops, that everybody needs to work together on this, actually, if we're to move the agenda forward.
And it throws up all those questions we talked earlier about in terms of to what extent you can require individuals to provide their data in terms of diversity and things, but, again, that would be for discussion, I think, between Julie James and the relevant UK Minister.
Yn dilyn ymlaen ar hynny, y cwestiwn nesaf ydy—ynghylch argaeledd data, a dweud y gwir, am amrywiaeth ymgeisyddion—pa fesurau deddfwriaethol neu bolisïau sydd ar gael, un ai i'r Senedd yma yn gyffredinol, neu i Lywodraeth Cymru, i wella argaeledd data am amrywiaeth ymgeisyddion ac ar gyfer etholiadau, un ai etholiadau Senedd neu etholiadau lleol? Pa fesurau sydd ar gael gennych chi—wel, dywedwch yn y lle cyntaf fel Llywodraeth Cymru, te—i wella'r data sydd ar gael?
Subsequent to that, the next question is—regarding the availability of data, truth be told, about the diversity of candidates—what legislative or policy levers are available either to the Senedd in general or to the Welsh Government to improve the availability of data about the diversity of candidates for elections, be they Assembly or local government elections? What levers are available to you—well, if you could speak initially as the Welsh Government—to improve the data that is available?
I don't think there are legislative means available to us at the moment to capture that data, again, for the reasons of respecting the individual's privacy, and not compelling people to provide personal information that they might not wish to provide, or be comfortable providing.
In terms of policy, I think that it's important to approach it in a way that seeks to make reasonable adjustments for people, so that they will feel comfortable coming forward with, for example, information that they might be a disabled person who needs some additional—or some adjustments made at interview, or for them to be able to participate on the board.
I know that both officials have had experience with the public appointments process, and, when an individual does indicate that they have additional needs that have to be taken into account, then those arrangements are put in place, and I think if a person feels confident that the information that they provide will lead to something that is of benefit, and which is something that they're entitled to, then that kind of confidence helps in terms of creating a climate where people feel more comfortable in sharing personal information.
Ie, a, fel rydych chi wedi ei grybwyll eisoes, does dim rhaid rhannu'r wybodaeth yna all fod yn sensitif efo'r byd a'r betws, oes e? Hynny yw, ei rannu yn naturiol o fewn beth sydd rhaid ei wneud yn fan hyn, ond does dim rhaid i bawb allan fanna wybod, a buaswn i'n gobeithio eich bod chi'n edrych ar y ffordd yna o hybu argaeledd y math yna o ddata heb ddweud wrth bawb ar Twitter a phopeth arall ynglŷn â beth yw'r wybodaeth gyfrinachol, sensitif, bersonol yna.
Yes, and, as you've already mentioned, that information that could be sensitive doesn't have to be shared very broadly, does it? It can be shared, of course, in terms of what needs to be done here, but there's no need for everyone out there to know. I would hope that you would look at promoting that availability of data without informing everyone on Twitter and so forth about what sensitive, confidential information like that is.
Yes. All of the confidential information that we do collect—so, reflecting on the local government surveys that Lisa referred to in terms of councillors and candidates—all that data, then, is anonymised to be able to give us a chance to undertake some analysis as best we can, even with a low level of return. And the same with the work that we've been doing on our public appointments process. Now, all of that data is anonymised in order to allow us to analyse that, to see what it tells us about what more needs to be done. But, equally, when we invite people to appointments, or when we give information about posts that are open to appointment, then it's very clear there that reasonable adjustments are absolutely available, and that we welcome applications from everybody.
Diolch am hynny. A'r cwestiwn olaf yn fy adran i, Cadeirydd, mi fyddwch chi'n falch o nodi: a allaf i ofyn, ydy Llywodraeth Cymru yn golygu edrych am estyniad i'r rheoliad machlud—sunset clause—yn y Ddeddf Gwahaniaethu ar Sail Rhyw (Ymgeisyddion Etholiad) 2002? Ydych chi'n golygu edrych am estyniad i'r rheoliad machlud yna?
Thank you for that. And then the final question in my section, Chair, you'll be glad to note: may I ask, does the Welsh Government and turned to seek an extension of the sunset clause to the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002? Do you mean to seek an extension of that particular sunset clause?
Yes, it is the intention to seek the extension to the sunset clause, but, again, within the context of the diversity and democracy workshop, so exploring whether or not that piece of legislation needs to be extended or amended to take into account other protected characteristics as well. But I know it is the intention, certainly in relation to the gender issues, for the Minister to seek that extension.
Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you very much.
Okay. Happy, Dai?
Okay, thank you very much. We'll move on to the next set of questions from Huw Irranca-Davies.
Thank you, Chair. Can we turn to the issue of campaigning expenditure? And we're just seeking clarity: back in 2018, September 2018, the First Minister wrote to the Llywydd, saying the Welsh Government would use secondary legislation to exempt two things—Welsh-English translation expenses, and disability-related expenses—from those candidates' campaigning expenditure limits. Are we safe to assume that that's going to be in place now for the 2021 Assembly elections?
Yes, I think that work is in hand. So, Lisa referred earlier to the work that we're currently undertaking on the draft conduct Order for the next Senedd elections, and this is one of those issues that is currently under consideration. I know that the Electoral Commission as well has recommended that we undertake that work you described in terms of English-Welsh translation, and also reasonable adjustments for disabled people. But that work is in hand—is that correct?
Yes, that work is being done at the moment, and we would hope to be in a position to consult on the draft Order shortly, to seek views on that amendment to the Order.
Brilliant. So, it's clear, with the work being done, with the consultation, that you're seeking to have it in place, subject to that consultation, prior to the 2021, in time for the 2021, election?
If I could turn to something that's been intriguing us as a committee, which is the issue of job sharing, both for executive roles, but also for standard candidate roles for election as well. I just wonder: what is the Welsh Government's thinking on this at the moment, for local authorities, for Assembly elections? What's the view of Welsh Government on job sharing?
So, for local government, our approach has been, through the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill, to enable job sharing at executive level, so including leaders. And we know that there's probably some more thinking to be done in terms of whether or not that should also be extended to other senior posts within local government, for example, chairs of various committees. So, what the legislation will require is for local authorities to make changes locally to their constitutions and to their standing orders in order to provide clarity as to how things would work within their own authorities. And we've made two things clear in the primary legislation: the first being that, regardless of the number of people sharing that role, the vote counts as one, and also the people count as one person when it comes to a meeting being quorate.
We've set up a working group, which Elaina is leading on, with local government, to look through some of the practical implications of authorities in terms of issuing guidance. And I don't know if you want reflect particularly on some of that work—[Inaudible.]
Yes. The working group is looking at a number of things around the Bill and the practical application of those and what guidance local authorities believe they need, and what we think would be required. It is a particularly complex and interesting area, and some of the discussions that we've had about how things might work can test the mind somewhat. But that's why we're working together, because we want to get it right. We want to make sure that the circumstances that arise can be dealt with appropriately, both in terms of giving some kind of core guidance, but also allowing flexibility for the local authorities to operate in a way that is appropriate for their own areas as well.
But we're at the start of that process, and so, over the coming months, we would expect to have a little bit more clarity around some of those detailed arrangements.
That's really, really helpful. Minister, I just wonder whether you could turn to the idea that underpins this—why are you even countenancing job sharing in executive positions for local authorities?
The thought behind that, really, is for local authorities to be able open up, I suppose, those posts to individuals, who, for a variety of reasons, be it their caring responsibilities, or potentially being a disabled person who is limited in the number of hours that they're able to work—to open up, really, those important leadership roles to a greater range of people, so that those people can bring their own perspectives to those roles.
You also mentioned candidates, and this is an area, I think, which again is complex and requires a lot of thought. Remuneration—how does that all work? That would be one of the questions. I know that there is a complex body of law that would be impacted as well. So, if you have a situation where you have people sharing the job, or elected together as a candidate, what happens if one of those individuals leaves the post for whatever reason, or what happens if they're suspended? Some of the practical challenges for local authorities, in terms of their standing orders and constitutions, would need to be looked at. Also, there might be some practical implications for electoral law in terms of the way that elections are run—so, rules on candidates' expenses and so on.
So, there are lots of things that you would need to consider, but, perhaps most importantly, it's not something that we've yet consulted the public on, and I think that we would need to test the public's views on how they would feel about shared candidacy as well before taking any further steps on that road.
It's useful to have an understanding of some of those practical barriers, which have been raised with us as well by some people. But you quite eloquently laid out the reasons and the advantages, and, if you like, the philosophical underpinning of the idea of extending job sharing to executive positions. Can I suggest to you, then, that the same ideas would underpin extending job sharing to Cabinet positions here in Welsh Government?
I think that there's a lot that we can learn from the work that has been undertaken at the moment through local authorities. Swansea, for example, you'll be aware, has already attempted a job-sharing approach to executive roles, although I understand that's a slightly different approach, in the sense that they have a six-month rotation of those roles. So, in the first instance, it's about exploring how it's worked within local authorities and getting a better understanding of what might be possible.
But you're clearly not ruling it out, because the same principles, the same ideas—is there a difference between local authority executive-level job sharing and, in principle, Welsh Government executive job sharing?
It is a difficult one, because—. And I know Julie James, who's leading on this, has said as well that one of the potential problems that you might run into is the fact that, actually, you've just got two people doing full-time jobs, because I'm—
The same applies at local authority level.
Yes, that is one of the challenges, that we need to—
So, that's the same—that's the same obstacle at both levels. Is there a difference that we've come across yet?
In principle and philosophically the issues are probably the same, but, in practice, that's where things get tested, I suppose.
Okay, brilliant. Look, I know we're in the foothills of this at the moment and we're watching how this expands, but having established that, at the moment, we can't really see some major differences between—. If you're going to do job sharing at executive level and if that is deemed at the moment as the easier one to do than an actual candidacy for election, I think we might struggle to see what the difference is between different levels of government on that.
But, interestingly, you're also, in stating those benefits around job sharing—. Those benefits about diversity, whether you're carers, whether you have a disability that limits the time or your ability to attend meetings, et cetera, et cetera—those would apply to candidacy as well. So, I'm just wondering whether the Welsh Government has a view, has a mind towards—. If you can overcome the obstacles, would the Welsh Government like to see job sharing, because of the benefits in terms of diversity and so on, extended to candidacy as well as to executive positions?
This is like the issue, really, as to whether or not it would be possible within Welsh Government. This is another area where we haven't come to a view, but we are considering the experience of elsewhere. As you say, these are the foothills, this is the early starting point, of the thinking on this issue. So, we haven't got a view, as a Government, on whether it would be possible or desirable within Welsh Government, within the Cabinet here, and, again, we haven't come to a view in terms of candidacy either. But, on the second, we haven't even asked the public what they think yet, and I think that's an important—
It would be unfair to push you any more. I'm simply unravelling—if the benefits are so myriad of this, and the obstacles are surmountable, then I would have thought, at some point, a progressive Government would come to a position that said, 'Well, yes, we can make this happen, we'll work through and we'll consult', but, anyway, I'll leave it there. [Laughter.] I won't push you any more, because, as you say, you haven't come to a view yet as a Government.
Could I turn to whether any of the measures proposed in the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill to increase diversity or remove barriers that could prevent people from standing could also be applied to the Assembly?
Yes, so, things such as remote attendance, for example—we could explore that. Again, it's something that we haven't explored as an Assembly, but, in theory, those things could be explored. The duty of group leaders to promote and maintain high standards of conduct, that's certainly something that could relatively easily be read across to the responsibilities, I would imagine, of our group leaders. And then the issue of family absence as well, that's something, again, that we could explore within the context of the Senedd. So, at the moment, we're exploring proxy voting in the context of maternity, paternity and adoption leave. This is something that we're having current discussions on within the Business Committee. So, that's one of the areas where there's an obvious mirror. But, certainly, there are things that we could learn and consider from the experience of local government.
The issue of proxy voting is an interesting one because, clearly, there are real clear examples of when it would be difficult because of family situations, because of maternity and so on, to be physically present, but particularly in a democratic arena like we have, every vote really counts and people will want to see their representatives casting that vote, and it would seem, a modern understanding of the way democracy works, you shouldn't be debarred from that simply because you were unable to physically attend. If your view was clear and you'd expressed your view on every social media platform, you should be allowed to cast your vote on behalf of the people you represent. So, I get you're exploring this, but have you come down on one side or the other as to whether barriers, once again, if they're surmountable—is there's a view in Welsh Government that proxy voting should be the way ahead?
So, within the context of the Business Committee, I have these discussions representing the Labour group—that hat on—rather than representing Government business, but, that said, representing the group's view, I've been in support of exploring proxy voting, particularly in the first instance for paternity, maternity and adoption, but then also I know that there's an interest to see if in time it could be expanded to other circumstances that people might face.
That said, not all political parties are of the same mind. There is a variation of views as to how proxy voting might be introduced and whether or not it should be introduced in the first place. But as a committee we are exploring how we can introduce it in the first instance, and, actually, there's a whole range of questions. So, what kind of votes does it include? Is it just the regular votes in the Assembly that need a majority or does it also include those ones where you need three quarters of people present to vote? Would it include votes for a Presiding Officer or committee Chairs, all of those kind of individual votes? What about free votes when parties have free votes? And then nominating your person to be your proxy—how does that all work, especially if you're an independent Member? That could be more complex. And the physical voting, so do you put a card in and vote for yourself and put the other person's card in and proxy vote for them? So, we're exploring all of these different angles, but with a view to seeking to make some changes.
Before you move on, Huw—Dai, you had a supplementary on that point.
Wel, roedd ef ar y pwynt blaenorol. Ymddiheuriadau: roeddwn i ychydig bach yn hwyrfrydig yn cynnig sylw, ond, wrth gwrs, yn nhermau materion a allai atal pobl rhag sefyll mewn etholiad, wrth gwrs, mae'r busnes o'r heriau dŷn ni gyd yn wynebu gyda beirniadaeth ar-lein, drwy Twitter neu beth bynnag, gweplyfr ac ati—mae yna aflonyddu dyddiol, mae yna gasineb dyddiol, mae yna ddadlau uchel, hirhoedlog. Dŷch chi byth yn gallu ennill unrhyw fath o ddadl efo rhai pobl, ac, wrth gwrs, fel dŷn ni wedi crybwyll, mae hyn yn effeithio arnon ni i gyd, ond dwi wedi sylwi ei fod o'n llawer gwaeth ar ein Haelodau benywaidd ni yng ngrŵp Plaid Cymru. Dŷn ni gyd yn cael yr un un fath o gasineb a beirniadaeth, ond mae llawer iawn yn waeth i'n menywod ni ac eraill sydd efo rhinweddau gwarchodedig. Felly, sut ydych chi fel Llywodraeth yn mynd i drio mynd i'r afael efo'r holl gasineb yma sy'n digwydd ar-lein? Achos dwi'n credu ei fod o'n her sylweddol i bob un sydd yn ffeindio eu hunain wedi'u hethol i'r lle yma neu unrhyw senedd-dy unrhyw le yn y byd rŵan—yr aflonyddu yna a'r casineb ar-lein. Beth allwn ni i gyd ei wneud i herio hynny?
Well, it was on the previous point. I apologise: I was a little bit late in coming in and making a comment, but in terms of the issues that could prevent people from standing for election, of course, the business of challenges that we all face with online criticism via Twitter or whatever it may be, Facebook and so forth—there is daily harassment, there is daily hatred, there's loud debate. There are some people you can never win a debate with, and, of course, this does impact us all, but I have noticed that it is much worse for our female Members in the Plaid Cymru group. Now, we all face the same kind of hate and criticism, but it is much worse for our female Members and others with protected characteristics. So, how are you as a Government going to try to get to grips with all this online hatred? Because I do think that it is a substantial challenge for everyone who finds themselves having been elected to this Parliament or any Parliament anywhere in the world now—that harassment and that online hatred. What can we all do to challenge that?
I think you captured it at the end of the contribution then, in terms of what we can all do to address this. I think it goes well beyond what Welsh Government can do alone. I think that there's lots that we can all do as individuals, as political parties, and we try and create an excellent environment as much as we can to work in in terms of the Senedd, but you only have to turn on your phone—women particularly, but also men as well—to face daily abuse, usually from anonymous accounts online. I think this has to be potentially part of the way we approach the mentoring schemes, so that people are prepared and resilient.
We look at the work we're doing to ensure that children and young people are safe and resilient online. Actually, there's lots that we can learn as adults in terms of that resilience. I think people are often shocked when they become elected. The day before you're elected: 'They're a lovely person, they'll do anything for everyone.' The day after: 'You're on the gravy train, you're in it for yourself, you're a different person.' And that can be difficult to deal with when you're newly elected, I think.
I just want to, before we miss this focus, skip right ahead to issues of proxy voting. It's clear you've given a lot of thought to that, which is great to hear, the difficulties and so on. I never think these things are insurmountable if the will is there to make them work, but we have to work through them. The other one is remote attendance. There have been trials that have been held for remote attendance at council meetings, I understand. What have we learnt from those trials? What do we know? Are those under way at the moment or are they soon to be, those trials within local government?
Those trials have already taken place. I think WLGA reflects that they can be positive and useful, but equally there are some challenges as well. So, the WLGA asks what happens at the extreme, if the majority or if all members decide now that they want to start having remote access to those meetings. Those are things that could happen, but their actual experience thus far I think has been broadly positive. Is that right?
Yes, the WLGA gave evidence on the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill to the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee last Wednesday or Thursday, and they were, I think, quite positive about their experience with remote attendance. Of course, the difference at the moment is it's an enabling provision and the Bill will require local authorities to make the facility available. So, I think the concerns are, as the Minister said, around what happens if everyone wants to attend remotely. What happens if the equipment breaks down? For example, some local authority planning committees require members to be present for the whole of the discussion if they're going to make a decision, and sometimes a five or 10-minute break just to try and sort out the IT might not be sufficient.
So, I think there are issues that need to be explored before we commence those provisions. So, we're having a further working group to try and look at some of those issues. As the WLGA mentioned in their evidence last week, ironically, at the first meeting of that group, the IT broke down and Powys couldn't beam in. [Laughter.] But we'll soldier on. But in principle, it's quite important, and the WLGA had some examples of members being able to attend scrutiny committees or cabinet where otherwise that wouldn't have been possible, and valued that as an option.
Elaina, did you want to come in on this?
What I can say is that, as well as what Lisa said, in the coming months, myself and some others are going to visit a number of councils to see what the experience has been like in practical terms and what the issues are, so that, in learning lessons for the whole of Wales, we can put those practical things into guidance, into support, just to be clear about what support local authorities do need in this area.
Do you get a feel—? Curiously, particularly in light of this committee's deliberations, I was unable to be at the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee last week because, as I approached that committee having read the papers, I was then diverted to another committee where there was an absence of a Member—and a very enjoyable committee it was, Dai, as well; chaired very well. [Laughter.]
With an excellent Chair. [Laughter.]
But it was symptomatic of the fact we have 60 Members and the inability to find, as you could in Westminster, 100 MPs twiddling their thumbs not on committees that you could have rung. Sorry, a slight diversion.
I didn't see that, so I'm having to read through it now, but I'm interested whether—well, one thing that's clear: are there lessons from what we're learning on that for the Assembly in any way, for committees, for other meetings that happen, let alone Plenary—much more difficult, I think. But are you considering that there might be some lessons in here for future iterations of this Assembly, this Senedd?
I think lots of this work and lots of the thinking is being done on a party political basis at the moment, while we all firm up, really, our approach to the potential need for greater power within the Assembly—people power in this sense. Because I think that, generally, it's accepted that the Assembly is under-resourced in terms of the number of Assembly Members we have. But what we do about that and what's the appetite for change? I know it's something that this committee is particularly looking at, but I suppose much of that discussion will happen on a party political basis rather than—
Sorry, I'm talking about the remote attendance, rather than the numbers. Sorry, I diverted you towards—. [Laughter.] I'm talking about the issues around remote attendance at meetings. Do you see the applicability of that for—?
I think anything that we can learn in terms of how we can make the Assembly more efficient and provide more opportunity to encourage a more diverse and wider pool of people to put themselves forward, we should be definitely looking to explore those particular ideas. But we're talking about baby steps. So, in the first instance, we're just talking about proxy voting and just for a certain specific set of circumstances that might happen only once or twice over the lifetime of an Assembly. So, I think that perhaps what is possible is over here, and where we are currently is in a different place, and the steps we are taking are much smaller than the bigger issues that you're describing at the moment.
Do you see any of these measures being potentially used in the 2021-26 Senedd, because we are going to be at 60 Members in that place? So, we've had a lot of discussion around being more efficient in the way that we work. We've tried to make lots of changes already, but are any of these potentially applicable to making us more productive? Because if David is in north Wales attending one meeting on one thing, he can also then remotely tap in in the afternoon to something else, rather than spending five hours on a train.
I think these, potentially, are questions for us as a Senedd, rather than necessarily for Government, and something that we would have to have discussions about within our political groups to come to a view an, and then seek, potentially, to have cross-party discussions.
Can I just take you back to what Elaina and Lisa were saying about the work going on in local government at the moment around this? I don't know what stage you're at with all that, but is that something you can share with us when you've got a clearer idea of what those discussions are—where it's leading you?
Yes, I think we can probably do a short paper or something.
Okay, that would be helpful.
We're probably going to meet again shortly, aren't we? So, probably after that would be good.
I think probably after the visits that we've done, and then, once we've collated all of that, it would be more helpful, rather than doing something now without having that information. So, I would say it would be a couple of months—
A couple of months or so, that's fine. So, the kinds of things that local government have identified at the moment, would those be things like accessing through Skype, or have we not got into that sort of detail yet?
There are various things that they use, and it's about Welsh language issues, it's about Skype, it's about technology, it's about mindset and it's about the practical things. So, there are a range of areas—technology and finance, obviously, is one area that's been flagged up quite considerably. But also just traditional working practices, I would say, and some resistance, but not overwhelmingly, predominantly resistance.
Yes, and some local authorities are very keen to explore. For example, Powys, because of the geography of Powys, they're very keen to work with us to find a way through the challenges. As Elaina said, there are issues around mindsets and cultures as well as the hard, technological challenges to address.
And Huw's questions about remote attendance reminded me that just before Christmas, I gave evidence to the Finance Committee on the budget, and one of the members dialled in from north Wales and was able to fully participate in that meeting. So, we have some of that practice already.
Yes. We've seen that once or twice now, yes. And I suppose there's no reason why Ministers couldn't give evidence remotely as well, I guess, in that sort of thing. Well, we look forward to seeing that report from yourselves in due course. So, if there are no further questions from Members—. Have you got everything covered? Well, can I thank you very much indeed for coming in this morning? It's been very helpful. Thank you.
If you don't mind, I'll ask Julie James to just review the session that we've had, and if she wants to add anything or clarify anything that I might have said, then I'll ask her to write to you because she leads on all of the issues that we've been through.
Okay. That's really helpful, thanks, Rebecca.
If we can move on now to item 3, which is papers to note. We have paper to note 1, which is a letter from the Llywydd, which is additional information following the meeting that we held on 2 December 2019. Is everybody happy to note that paper?
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
We move on, then, to item 4, which is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting. Is everybody happy with that?
Okay. We move into private session, then. Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:12.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:12.