The Welsh Government should hold a referendum into increasing the size of the Senedd, the UK Government’s Welsh Secretary has said. Plans to expand the number of Senedd members from 60 to 96 have been put forward by Labour and Plaid in the Senedd.
If all MSs from both parties back the plans, they would have the two thirds majority needed to pass the Senedd and become law in time for the Senedd election, next expected to be in 2026.
At Welsh Questions in the Commons on Tuesday, May 25, Conservative MP for Devizes Danny Kruger asked Welsh Secretary Simon Hart: “The Welsh Government has decided it wants to increase the size of the Senedd, however there are real concerns that this will lead to a lack of proportionality in representation. Does he agree that this money would be much better spent on public services?”
Mr Hart replied: “Indeed I do. I have to say if this Government was making suggestions of this nature involving the constitution and voting measures, I have every belief that pretty well all of the members opposite would be saying this should be subject to a public referendum at the very least.
“So I would suggest that the proper course of action for Welsh Government is to seek the approval of its voters before proceeding with any of these costly measures.”
The last referendum on devolution Wales was in 2011 when the public was asked whether the then National Assembly should be given law-making powers. It followed the 1999 referendum on establishing the institution.
The statement from Mark Drakeford, the Labour leader, and Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru leader, said:
- The Senedd should have 96 members – up from the current 60
- It should be elected using closed proportional lists with integrated statutory gender quotas and mandatory zipping – which requires parties to put forward equal numbers of male and female candidates and alternating between men and women when preparing their candidate lists
- Seats should be allocated to parties using the D’Hondt formula (which is the current formula for electing members of the Senedd)
The Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has been vocal about his opposition to the plans. He said: “Wales does not need more politicians in Cardiff Bay – we need more teachers, doctors, dentists, and nurses. With residents across the country facing cost-of-living pressures, the last thing they need is to be footing the bill – expected to be more than £75 million over five years at least – for Labour and Plaid’s pet project.