The Welsh Labour conference in Llandudno has voted to increase the size of the Senedd.

Delegates voted unanimously on Saturday to support proposals to increase the number of politicians in the Senedd from 60 to between 80-100, with a voting system "at least as proportional" as the one we currently use.

Speaking before the vote, Ogmore MS Huw Irranca-Davies, who chairs the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform, said: "We have a government under Mark Drakeford's very wise stewardship that is going from power to power, growing in maturity, growing in strength and doing the right things for the people of Wales - but what we don't have is a Parliament that can match that.

"When you only have 60 members, there's a limit to which you can hold the government of the day to account.

"I'm a backbencher, that's what I do - I hold the government to account on your behalf."

"We have probably a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make this difference," Irranca-Davies added, suggesting that Wales could show other parts of the UK "how to do it".

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Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies, however, dismissed the move as "naval-gazing".

"Wales doesn’t need more Senedd Members," he commented this afternoon.

"Wales needs proper governance.

"1 in 4 people in Wales are on a waiting list.

"That is because of Labour mismanagement, and no amount of constitutional naval gazing will solve that."

The Conservatives also targeted the proposal in a graphic yesterday ahead of the conference.

 

 

Increasing the size of the Senedd formed part of last year's co-operation deal between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru, with the parties pledging to “support plans to reform the Senedd, based on 80 to 100 Members", with a voting system "as proportional – or more – than the current one" and gender quotas enshrined in law.

Debate on Senedd reform has gone on for years, with a panel of experts recommending an increase to "at least 80, but preferably 90 Members", using a Single Transferable Vote (STV) or other proportional voting system, back in 2017.

A committee on electoral reform was formed in the Senedd as a result, which published a report in 2020 recommending a Senedd expansion to between 80-90 Members, using an STV voting system.

 

 

The Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform, which was brought together following the Labour/Plaid deal and includes members from all parties, is set to make a final report by the end of May 2022, with a Senedd Reform Bill expected to be introduced some time in 2023.

While Welsh Government ministers celebrated Saturday's unanimous vote, backbencher Hefin David, MS for Caerphilly, struck a more cautious tone.

 

 

"The challenge to deliver this before next election is enormous," he said in a social media post this afternoon.

"Requires legislation, boundary review and consultation, and there’ll be bumps on the road.

"Westminster boundary changes took 2 parls. Looks unlikely pre 2025/6."

Llywydd Elin Jones replied: "I think perfectly possible by 2026 if all of us work together, which after today is also perfectly possible."

But Mr David concluded: "I think possible, but imperfectly so."

A discussion on whether the change would necessitate changes to the boundaries of constituencies followed, with former minister Alun Davies arguing that Wales could use Westminster's ongoing boundary review as a temporary first step before conducting its own.

"Not sure I’d support that," Mr David said.

"Temporary compromises have a horrible tendency to become permanent as Joel Barnett might have observed."

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