Three years ago, colleagues at the Wales Governance Centre, working alongside the Electoral Reform Society Cymru, published a report advocating a larger National Assembly for Wales. The case they made then is, I think, yet stronger now. While the Assembly may have been adequately sized, at sixty AMs, for its initially very limited powers, it is no longer fit for purpose. Since 1999 the chamber has acquired primary law-making powers, and also some taxation and borrowing powers – with more on the way.
Brexit is also likely to bring substantially greater scope for legislation and policy innovation in devolved competences like agriculture and the environment. Many observers are concerned at whether the Welsh Government (and indeed the British Government) has adequate administrative capacity to deal effectively with the manifold implications for Brexit. But similar concerns also apply, I think, to the National Assembly, which will have a key role in scrutinising the policy and legislative implications of Brexit.
However, if we are to have a larger National Assembly, something will have to be done to the electoral system. It simply isn’t possible to add more members to the Assembly without in some way changing the system of election. This topic was not covered in our previous report. So last week we published a new report, Reshaping the Senedd, which explored the electoral implications of enhancing the size of the Assembly.
I’m not going to spoil the surprise for you of how the report goes. Read it for yourself – though beware the plot twist near the end, involving the butler…
I do hope that our report can contribute some important principles to the debate on how we elect our Assembly, as well as some worthwhile hard evidence. The debate needs to be a broad one, and people in all parties should be contributing to it.