DURING the spring conference season Welsh political parties have been thrashing out the details of their policies for the year ahead. 

Not for the first time, the debate around increasing the number of seats in the Senedd is raging. 

Both the Labour and Plaid Cymru conferences voted in favour of having more Senedd members this month, and the recently agreed co-operation agreement between the two parties pledged the same thing.

But there is as yet, no obvious agreement when it comes to how this would be achieved. 

The Welsh Conservative Party has long opposed the idea. 

This week, it appeared some consensus had been found when Conservative MS for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Samuel Kurtz broke the party line on the issue, endorsing the idea of having more seats.

But he appeared to quickly back-track tweeting: “For clarity, I was saying what I *thought* was going to happen, not what I *want* to happen.” 

Why does The Senedd need more members? 

 

The Senedd has been given a host of new law-making and tax powers since 1999, bringing with them new responsibility.  

But the number of members has stayed the same in that time, and some people think more members are needed to help run the Welsh Government and scrutinise its policies. 

In 2020 Welsh Auditor general, Adrian Crompton said he didn't think Wales had the capacity to carry out its “representation, scrutiny and legislative functions now and in the future.” 

READ MORE: 'A bigger Senedd is right for Wales – but a convincing case has yet to be made'

A committee also recommended in 2020 that the Senedd should have 20-30 new members. 

But The Senedd electoral reform committee’s findings were only backed by one large party, Plaid Cymru. 

The committee was formed in an attempt to find a cross-party approach ahead of the next election, but its findings did not get the necessary support. 

Any legislation on constitutional change would have to be backed by a ‘supermajority’ of 40 members to be passed into law. 

The Welsh Conservatives oppose the idea of more members because of the additional cost, estimated to be around £12 million a year. 

READ MORE: Boundary reform offers Wales chance to go its own way

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies thinks the current MSs should simply “work harder.” 

A bigger Senedd is “not where you want your money spent,” said Davies in a video posted to Twitter. 

“You want to see more doctors, nurses and teachers on the front line dealing with your priorities. 

“We believe we should make the 60 MSs work that much harder instead of putting another 30-40 MSs in Cardiff Bay.” 

Time for a new voting system? 

 

Proponents of a bigger Senedd will also have to figure out how the new MSs would be elected. 

Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Green Party have been calling for a change to the voting system for some time, and an increase in the number of members could present an opportunity to do that. 

The current system involves a combination of the first-past-the-post and additional member system. 

Voters receive two ballots papers, the first is to elect a constituency member. The candidate with the highest number of votes wins. 

The second ballot is to elect a regional member. This ballot aims to give parties who missed out on constituency seats a second chance. Each party’s total is divided by 1 + the number of Members of the Senedd it has elected in that region. 

The party with the highest total after this calculation gets the next seat and the person on top of its list is elected. The same pattern is repeated until all four regional seats have been decided. 

Plaid Cymru has recently called for a move towards a single transferable vote system i.e. Voters cast a single ballot ranking their preferred candidates.  

To get elected, a candidate needs a set amount of votes, known as the quota. The people counting the votes work out the quota based on the number of vacancies and the number of votes cast. 

READ MORE: Diversity of the Senedd should be about more than binary gender

Plaid has also suggested that if a single transferable vote system is not achievable then the multi-member proportional system (MMPS) is the next best option. 

MMPS commonly combines a first past the post for constituency seats, and a proportional system for regional ones. 

The Labour party is divided on a move towards a single transferable vote system because some polling has suggested that they would lose seats. 

Plaid will hope that by laying out these plans, they can persuade the Labour party to settle on their own position. 

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