Y Pwyllgor Biliau Diwygio

Reform Bill Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Darren Millar
David Rees Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Heledd Fychan
Sarah Murphy

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Anna Hind Uwch-gyfreithiwr, Gwasanaethau Cyfreithiol, Llywodraeth Cymru
Senior Lawyer, Legal Services, Welsh Government
Catrin Davies Pennaeth Polisi Amrywiaeth, Diwygio'r Senedd, Llywodraeth Cymru
Head of Diversity Policy, Senedd Reform, Welsh Government
Jane Dodds Aelod o’r Senedd dros Ganolbarth a Gorllewin Cymru
Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales
Jane Hutt Y Gweinidog Cyfiawnder Cymdeithasol a'r Prif Chwip
Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip
Will Whiteley Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Diwygio’r Senedd, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director, Senedd Reform, Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Catherine Roberts Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Claire Thomas Ymchwilydd
Gareth Howells Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Georgina Owen Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Helen Finlayson Clerc

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.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod am 10:01. 

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The public part of the meeting began at 10:01. 

2. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
2. Introductions, apologies, substitutions, and declarations of interest

Good morning. Can I welcome Members and the public to this morning's meeting of the Reform Bill Committee, where we will now begin our scrutiny of the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill? Before we go into our agenda item, there are just a couple of pieces of housekeeping. There is no scheduled fire alarm this morning, so if one does occur, please follow the directions of the ushers to a safe location. The meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and a transcript of the proceedings will be published in the usual way. Can I remind Members to turn their mobile phones to silent or off so that they do not interfere with our meeting this morning? The Senedd operates bilingually, and headsets are provided for simultaneous translation from Welsh to English—that's on channel 1. And if you require amplification, that's on channel 2.

3. Bil Senedd Cymru (Rhestrau Ymgeiswyr Etholiadol): Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda’r Gweinidog Cyfiawnder Cymdeithasol a’r Prif Chwip
3. Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill: Evidence session with the Minister for Social Justice and Chief Whip

We'll move on to our substantive content this morning, which is the scrutiny of the Minister in charge of the Bill. Can I welcome Jane Hutt to the meeting this morning? Would you like to introduce your officials for the record, please?

Diolch yn fawr, David—Chair of this committee. 

Rwy'n falch iawn o fod gyda chi y bore yma. 

I'm delighted to be with you this morning. 

Can I introduce Will Whiteley, the deputy director of Senedd reform; Catrin Davies, head of diversity policy, Senedd reform; and Anna Hind, our senior lawyer from Legal Services, Welsh Government.

Thank you for that. We will go into questions, and I'm glad Anna is here, because clearly the first question we will obviously want to ask about is the competence issue. Minister, yesterday, in your statement, you made it clear that you believed that it was within competence, that the purpose of the Bill was to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Senedd and that that was within devolved competence. The Llywydd has issued a statement, which says that it is outside of competence. The committee has taken its own advice, which also indicates that it's outside competence. So, perhaps you'd like to clarify to us why you believe it is within competence. 

Diolch yn fawr, Chair. Well, based on all the information available to me, as I said in my statement yesterday, I am of the view that this Bill is within the legislative competence of the Senedd. And just in terms of reaching that view, the Bill has been through all the usual processes and checks within the Welsh Government, and that is how I reached the view that it is within legislative competence. And, of course, it is important—and I'm very happy to bring in Anna at this point—the Government Bill was drafted with advice from officials, including our lawyers, and drafted by lawyers, and it has enabled me to make the required statement. 

It is important to recognise that this is something where, yesterday, I did talk a lot in my statement about the fact that this was clearly related to the purpose of the Bill, the objective of the Bill, in terms of competence. And also, just to acknowledge, I hope you will see today that we've produced both the justice impact and data protection impact assessment as well. So, I don't know whether you want to press this or pursue this any further, but I do feel that it is important to recognise that this has been through all of the processes and is backed by our senior lawyers. 

We appreciate that it has been through the processes. There's clearly a difference of opinion, and with lawyers there's always a difference of opinion, but there's a difference of opinion in relation to the—not just the purpose, but the reserved matters the purpose might try and deliver, particularly the equality agenda, and whether this impacts upon the equal opportunities matter, which is reserved. So, you don't believe that this Bill relates to equal opportunities—a reserved matter—which therefore would put it outside the competency?


I can bring Anna in—I'm very happy to do so, as our senior lawyer—but I think, as I said, the question of whether a provision of an Act of the Senedd relates to a reserved matter is determined by reference, as I said, to the purpose of the provision, having regard, among other things, to its effect in all the circumstances. That's laid down—that's the test laid down in the Government of Wales Act 2006. And, as I said, the purpose of this Bill is to establish a more effective Senedd. And I do think it's important to see this in the context of the package of reforms, which includes the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, currently at Stage 3, but the history is so important in terms of how we've reached this point. The Bill emanates from the special purpose committee's recommendations on Senedd reform, following on from earlier reports.

But can I—? On that point, Minister, that special purpose committee highlighted the fact that it was questionable and that if it were included in the original Bill—the Senedd reform Bill, which we know has gone to Stage 3 now—the whole Bill could be questionable. That's the understanding as to why the two Bills are separate. So, clearly, the special purpose committee highlighted its concern over the competency issues relating to this aspect of the Bill.

Well, of course, the special purpose committee, and indeed the former Senedd reform committee, did receive a lot of evidence—and I was going to go on to that, of course—including evidence from the Women's Equality Network Wales, from their legal counsel. I'm sure you've had access to, that Members have had access to that advice and that legal advice that came via WEN Wales, which did state that it believed that it was within competence. And I think also—and perhaps I would want to bring in Anna on this point—that we need to look at this from the perspective of elections as well.

Elections to the Senedd aren't a reserved matter and we've got that legislative competence under the Wales Act 2017. And, you know, it's useful just to recognise that in that Second Reading of that Bill, leading to the Act:

'Through this Bill, the Assembly will take control of its own affairs, including deciding arrangements for its own elections. It will be able to determine how its Members are elected'—


'the number of Members, the constituencies and regions used in those elections and who is eligible to vote. As we promised in the St David's day agreement, the Bill gives the Assembly full responsibility for deciding how it conducts its own affairs and regulates its own proceedings.'

But, I mean, I do think, if you want to come back, Anna, to make any other points—. Chair, if that's permissible.

There's not a huge amount that I can add to that; the Minister's already said everything that I would say. But, again, just reiterating that we—. You know, obviously, 108A(6) is what lays down how we determine purpose for the test, and it is having regard to its effect in all the circumstances—. Sorry, it's:

'by reference to the purpose...having regard...to its effect in all the circumstances.'

And, so, whilst the effects of a provision are relevant, they are not, in and of themselves, its purpose. And, as the Minister has said, the purpose of this is Senedd elections, is to make the Senedd more effective. And, again, just harking back to what the Minister has said about at the time of the Wales Act, when this was devolved to us, we were told that the Wales Act was giving us full competence over everything to do with Senedd elections, including how its Members are elected, and the purpose of this Bill is exactly that: how the Members are elected to ensure a more effective Senedd.

I would probably question the 'how its Members are elected'. You're talking about a difference of—. The how Members are elected is the process of election, not necessarily the process of presenting candidates. So, I might question that point myself in the interpretation. Darren, do you want to come in?

Yes. I mean, as we understand it from the legal advice that we have received, there are two tests that apply to any legislation. The first is this issue of the purpose of the Bill. A Bill, of course, can have a number of different purposes, as I understand it, not just the one that you say is the principal purpose, and there's clearly a purpose to address bias against women candidates and discrimination against women candidates. You refer to that in paragraphs 68 to 72 of the explanatory memorandum. And given that there's that clear link to discrimination and equalities issues, it's more than a loose or consequential connection in the view of the legal advice that we have received, and indeed the legal advice that the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform also received, because I was a member of that committee at the time.

So, do you accept that there is at least a secondary purpose in relation to this Bill? Yes, you want a more effective Senedd. We all do. Yes, we want to try to overcome the challenges that all parties have had in terms of getting greater diversity, but there's specific reference to addressing discrimination in your explanatory memorandum.


I will go back to that really key point, Darren, that you make, that is, about the purpose of this Bill. The purpose of this Bill is to establish a more effective Senedd, a more representative Senedd. Women are the under-represented majority in this Senedd. Again, I won't repeat everything I said yesterday, but we have evidence from across the world that a more gender-balanced legislature is shown to—

Let me finish. It's shown to strengthen its legitimacy. This is about a legitimacy that we want to confer on our Senedd by having a more effective Senedd. I would say, can I just—

Minister, I think the point is we're not challenging your decision on effectiveness. What we are questioning is whether you are actually using a reserved matter to deliver that, and that's the question of competency.

And of course, it's not just the test about purpose, for which we are—. As I say, it's a noble purpose to want to have the Senedd to be a more representative Senedd and a more diverse Senedd. It's whether this impinges on a reserved matter. I've already talked about the fact that a Bill can have a secondary purpose. You state the secondary purpose, frankly, in your explanatory memorandum, which undermines the argument that you've put forward. But there's also a second test, isn't there, and that's that no provision of a Senedd Bill must modify or give power to modify the law on reserved matters. This does modify the law on reserved matters, doesn't it?

Anna, if you want to add to points that I've made—. I do think that we need to refer back, also, to our powers over the elections as well, in terms of the Wales Act 2017, as well as the fact that we do have—and I haven't got the reference I made yesterday to the actual provision within GOWA to enable us to look at this in terms of the power. But, Anna, do you want to say more to test the purpose? Obviously, this is something where we want to hear more from the committee in terms of the conclusions, as you do take evidence, not just from us, but all those who you will be taking evidence from.

But, Anna, anything to add to this point, in terms of Mr Millar's point?

On the purpose point, just to reiterate, no, we don't consider there is a secondary purpose to the Bill. And the Supreme Court has said in a number of cases—it has reiterated in lots of cases—that the purpose and effect of legislation can be derived from both the purpose of those introducing it and the objective effect, and obviously the explanatory memorandum sets out the purpose of those introducing the Bill. But also, to address your point on the other test that you mentioned, and modifying the law on reserved matters, the answer to that is, again, I think there is a difference of opinion between where we have reached and the Llywydd's opinion, and so we do not consider that it breaches the restriction on modifying the law on reserved matters.

Can I clarify the situation? You said there's a difference of opinion. Is there now then a view that perhaps that difference of opinion may only be settled by the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court are the only people who can give a definitive view on competence, where there is a question over competence, and obviously that is the purpose of the section 112 referral.

So, you recognise that there is a likelihood that this Bill will end up in the Supreme Court because of that difference of opinion.

That's not something I could speculate on at the moment. As we said before, the Attorney-General and the Counsel General are the only people who can refer a Bill, and this is not the moment that a Bill should be referred. A Bill is referred after it is passed, in that—

I won't ask you to speculate, but you recognise that is a strong possibility,

I don't think she should be asked to comment on that at all. We are at the start of scrutiny of these proceedings, and I'm certain it's not the time to be talking in those terms.

But, Minister, with respect, it is the time, isn't it? Because there was a recommendation in the special purpose committee report that the Welsh Government should take 

'appropriate steps to ensure that...recommendations on Senedd reform...are not put at undue risk of a Supreme Court referral.'

There's clearly an undue risk of this going to the Supreme Court, isn't there, at significant cost, both to the Welsh Government and the taxpayer.


Well, I hope we will be able to continue with scrutiny this morning about the purpose of this Bill—

I think we've probably covered the point. We're really interested in the committee's views—obviously you're sharing those already with us. But can I just repeat that the Bill has been through the usual processes, checks within the Welsh Government, and we've reached the view that it is within legislative competence?

And that is the view of all Welsh Government lawyers, is it, and the advice that you've received?

We wouldn't be here, Darren, if that was—. This is a Welsh Government Bill—

Can I ask a question, then? Why was there a delay in the presentation of this Bill?

Well, there's a lot of work that's been undertaken by the team, as you know—

We are where we are, Minister, and we will scrutinise it—you don't have to worry about it, we will scrutinise it—

—but there are areas of concern, and competency is a clear area of concern that we need to explore.

Absolutely, and I respect that. And, as I said, I did say yesterday, very clearly, that I profoundly respect the fact that the Llywydd has reached a different view, and this is what parliamentary scrutiny is all about, and I really welcome the opportunity to come before you, with a Welsh Government team, today.

Have there been any discussions between the Welsh Government and the UK Government on this competency matter, and if so, can you tell us what—?

Well, we have been—. I think, perhaps, that's something, Catrin, you might like to discuss, but we've discussed with relevant UK Government departments and agencies; we do that with all Bills.

Yes, as is normal with any Bill, we would liaise with the Information Commissioner's Office and with the Ministry of Justice in developing the impact assessment, and that work has been undertaken, and that liaison has taken place.

In terms of your question on competency, we would not normally engage with—. The Minister's obviously reached the view that the Bill is within the Senedd's competence, and there would be, therefore, no need to engage with the UK Government on that matter.

The reason I ask is because, obviously, there has been previous correspondence between the Welsh Government and the UK Government on the competency issue around the introduction of gender quotas, hasn't there?

Well, in terms of seeking powers to be able to introduce quotas, potentially.

Not specifically, no. I mean, I think the discussions that have been taking place are of the usual kind, aren't they, Catrin?

Yes. In relation to this Bill, yes.

In relation to this Bill, so that they know what we're doing. I mean, this is—. We are in charge of this priority of this Government.

So, just for clarity purposes: the Government has not engaged with UK Government in relation to competency issues, because it doesn't believe—. You know, you believe that you make the decision and then, if it's challenged later down the line, that would be the case.

And elections to the Senedd are not reserved, so—

But—. Well, quite. Yes, any Bill, if—

Yes. And, I suppose, just to also say, the Bill doesn't give rise to any Minister of the Crown consents, and therefore we're not required to seek those consents prior to introduction or to, obviously—

Given the differences of legal opinion on this issue between Welsh Government lawyers, who appear to be the standout, versus everybody else, wouldn't it be sensible to put beyond doubt the powers of the Senedd and to ask for the consent of the UK Government and the UK Parliament to legislate in order to do this, to save a lot of heartache and distress and time and energy?

This is our—. This is the Bill, laid down in the programme for government, that we will take forward as a Welsh Government. Actually, we're doing it on behalf of the Parliament, because this Welsh Parliament backed this, that we would proceed with the recommendations of the special purpose committee, back in 2022, and a majority backed that. I mean, also, I think it is really important—. We won't go back, Chair, on the fact that it's quite clear that legislative competence was devolved by the Wales Act 2017, a Conservative Government—

Minister, we won't go through that again, because we have a difference of opinion, clearly.

Elections to the Senedd are not a reserved matter. And, in the spirit of all the legislation, obviously we share, at official level, and also yesterday was the first chance—and Monday we published the Bill—for other Parliaments to see what we're doing. And I've had much response from not just colleagues across the UK, but across the world, saying, 'Well done, Wales might get there', in terms of taking forward the progressive gender quotas that over 130 countries in the world actually already implement.


The question we're always asking, Minister—. You might have all those international converses, but the point is: do we have the authority and the powers to do this? That's the competency issue we talked about; it's not whether we want to do it, whether people want us to do it, but whether we are able to do it under the legal situation. And that's where the issue on the competency point has been always raised. And on the point of the Senedd reform committee—and I heard you say it yesterday, and you've said this just this morning now, that you're implementing what was agreed—the previous Bill, and, in a sense, this Bill, actually don't always do everything that the committee said. Because the committee didn't talk about—which we're going to talk about now—the vertical placement criteria and the horizontal placement criteria. The committee talked about zipping. The previous Bill had things in it that weren't discussed in the Senedd reform committee. So, it's not a 100 per cent argument to actually say that you're implementing the Senedd reform committee's report or recommendations, because there are differences between that and the Bills. That's just a clear fact.

Well, clearly, a great deal of work has gone on succeeding the special purpose committee recommendations. I hope we can now look at some of the work that has led us to the model that we've got within this Bill. I did get a question about that point particularly—I think, Darren, you might have raised it yesterday—about the zipping approach. Because, clearly, we go back to different variations; there are different ways in which gender quotas are delivered across the world. The expert panel recommended zipping—that's usually commonly used on a 50:50 model. But we feel a minimum 50 per cent model is the right way forward. So, it's a slightly different model. And the rules in this Bill don't prevent a zipping approach. So, a list that alternates between candidates who are women and candidates who are not women would be fully compliant with our vertical rules, as long as at least half the candidates are women. So, we can explore these, as I'm sure you're going to do now, in terms of the scrutiny—

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi am ofyn cwestiynau yn Gymraeg. Rydych chi wedi ateb rhai o'r cwestiynau roeddwn i eisiau eu gofyn. Ond ydych chi'n gallu dweud mwy, os gwelwch yn dda, ynglŷn â'r meini prawf gosod fertigol, a chynnwys y pwnc a'r sefyllfa zipping, a hefyd, os ydyn ni'n ei wneud o, y meini prawf gosod llorweddol hefyd? Ydych chi'n gallu jest dweud mwy am hynny, a'r rhesymau y tu ôl i hynny a pheidio â dilyn cynnig y pwyllgor cynt? Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Thank you very much. I am going to ask my questions in Welsh. You've answered some of the questions that I'd wanted to ask. But can you tell us more about the vertical placement criteria, and address the issue of zipping, and also if we could look at the horizontal placement criteria too? Can you just tell us more about that, and the rationale behind that, and the decision not to follow the recommendation made by the previous committee? Thank you very much.

Diolch yn fawr, Jane. Obviously, it goes back to the purpose of the Bill, to create a more effective Senedd, reflecting the gender make-up of the population—that's the key purpose—leading to better and more effective scrutiny and decision making. I think it's important if I can make that point here—it's about a more effective legislature. So, the vertical and horizontal placement rules have been designed to ensure that women are placed in winnable positions on lists, because this is crucially important, and links to the Senedd reforms overall, but it still allows parties some flexibility in compiling their lists. And I've commented on that in terms of the zipping opportunities. It is a model that lends itself to best reaching our aim of 50 per cent women in the Senedd, which we had back in 2003, but we're not going to be there unless we have some effective measure.

So, we've looked at that starting point from the Senedd, and what we need to do to get that 50 per cent representation. I just remember that 31 per cent of candidates in the last election were women. We've got to have this process in order to help us. So, I think the issues around the horizontal and the ways in which we're doing it—. Of course, I've already mentioned the fact that we've had many reports and evidence provided. The expert panel had recommended that 50:50 model with zipping and balance across the candidates in the first position. The special purpose committee report recommended legislative quotas with integrated zipping and enforcement via returning officers, and linked to the broader Senedd reform plans for a proportional representation closed list system, with multi-Member constituencies. 

Now, we have looked at international experience and evidence on key features of a successful quota model. It's pointed to the need for specific elements: a threshold of 50 per cent of placement criteria, including rules about women being included at the top of the list, and an effective enforcement mechanism. This is something where we can learn from other countries, but also develop our own model. So, it's a minimum 50 per cent model that we've got. I've mentioned the fact it doesn't prevent a zipping approach either. 

This is about how we can ensure that we reflect the percentage of women and girls in the Welsh population in terms of the way that we move it forward. So, by requiring that a woman follows any candidate who is not a woman on the list, the rules make sure that women are, at the very least, placed in every other position on a list. But if a list has a woman directly after another woman on a list, I would say that would also be compliant as well. And integration within the closed list system—people will be voting for a list of named candidates a political party puts forward, and people will be able to see the names of the candidates. So, I think—. The horizontal rule is that women proportionately will be in more winnable positions, towards the top of the list, because the lower down a list a candidate is, the less likely it will be generally that the candidate is returned. In the closed list system, seats are allocated in the order of the list, so, candidates that are not placed at or near the top, they have less chance of being elected. 

Now, many of us women here in this room will know how often we've been down at the bottom of a list, not at the top of the list. We can have lists and we can have our new arrangements, but, unless we have this engagement through the gender quotas—. That design ensures that women are not placed in less winnable positions. And without a horizontal rule, a party could effectively meet the vertical requirements but not actually elect any women if they have men at the top of the lists and only win one seat at each constituency. 

Now, I've probably gone into many other points of clarification, but I hope that's helpful. 


Diolch yn fawr iawn. Roeddech chi'n sôn fanna am enghreifftiau rhyngwladol. A allwch chi jest roi esiamplau i ni o'r gwledydd rydych chi wedi edrych arnynt o ran y systemau yma, os gwelwch chi'n dda—jest sôn am un neu ddau, os gwelwch chi'n dda? 

Thank you for that. Now, you just mentioned international examples. Can you give some examples of those nations that you have looked at in relation to these systems—just mention a few, if you could? 

Yes. Well, we have looked extensively. For example, from the research, we've taken some South American countries, for example, that apply a 50 per cent quota, Bolivia being one example. Actually, many countries have lower thresholds as well as gender quotas. I mentioned Ireland yesterday, and I'm quite keen on us looking at Ireland as an example, our nearest neighbour. Interestingly, as you know, they started off on a 30 per cent quota and moved up to a 40 per cent quota. I think whilst it's really interesting—. Again, I've mentioned Women's Equality Network Wales and all those stakeholders who are backing our moves here today. in Ireland, for example, the National Women's Council of Ireland welcomed the coming into force of 40 per cent gender quotas. 

But I think one point that I would like to make, if I don't have the chance, Chair, in the scrutiny today, is that this is about a critical mass. The evidence has come forward from academics—and I'm sure you'll be hearing evidence from them—that critical mass is crucially important to have the impact and change outcomes for women, creating that positive representation. And I will also say that the National Women’s Council in Ireland said:

'Gender-based abuse of female politicians must be tackled, family-friendly policies adopted, and women must be put forward for seats that are actually winnable. We must also see gender quotas extended to local elections'.  

So, I hope this is the start in terms of where—. If this Senedd wants to have that progressive approach, this is where we need to go. Obviously, different countries take different approaches—130, I’ve said already, gender quotas. I don’t know if Catrin wants to say anything more from her vast experience.


Ie, dwi'n hapus i ymhelaethu. Gwnaethon ni edrych ar sawl gwlad wahanol, gan gynnwys Iwerddon, fel mae’r Gweinidog wedi sôn, Gwlad Belg a Ffrainc, hefyd Sbaen a Chatalonia, a hefyd siarad ag awdurdod ar gender quotas yn America a De America hefyd. Felly, rydyn ni wedi cael syniad go lew o beth sy’n gweithio a beth sydd ddim yn gweithio. O’r hyn rydyn ni wedi’i ddeall, mae’n bwysig iawn cael trothwy o minimum 50 y cant neu beth bynnag. Mae’n bwysig iawn hefyd cael rheolau o ran lle mae menywod yn cael eu gosod ar y rhestr, oherwydd mae gwledydd fel Sbaen a Chatalonia wedi dysgu os ydyn nhw’n gosod rheolau ar gyfer rhan o’r rhestr—er enghraifft, dim mwy na 60 y cant a dim llai na 40 y cant—yna mae’r pleidiau gwleidyddol yn dal i allu gosod y menywod yn is lawr y rhestr, a dydy hynny ddim yn arwain at y canlyniad mae’r Llywodraeth yn edrych amdano. Felly, rydyn ni wedi edrych ar beth sy’n digwydd mewn gwledydd eraill, ond, yn fwy na hynny, dwi’n credu, wedi edrych ar y dystiolaeth a siarad ag academyddion ac arbenigwyr i ddeall beth yw’r prif elfennau sydd arwain at system gwota effeithiol.

Yes, I’m happy to expand on that. We did look at a number of different countries, including Ireland, as the Minister’s already mentioned; we looked at Belgium and France, Spain and Catalonia, and we also spoke to an authority on gender quotas in America and South America too. So, we have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. From what we’ve gathered, it is very important to have a minimum threshold of 50 per cent or whatever. It’s also important to have rules in terms of where women are placed on lists, because countries such as Spain and Catalonia have learnt that, if they have rules for certain parts of lists—for example, no more than 60 per cent and no less than 40 per cent—then political parties can still place women lower down those lists, and that doesn’t lead to the desired outcome. So, we have looked at what happens elsewhere, but, more than that, I think, we’ve looked at the evidence and we’ve spoken to academics and experts in order to understand what the main elements are that lead to effective quotas.

Yes. You've referred quite a bit in evidence there to thresholds of 50 per cent in other Parliaments, which, obviously, I see, and I can see the benefits of that in terms of delivering a more gender-balanced Parliament. But the quota system, or the approach that you've taken in this Bill, could lead to a Senedd with, say, 100 per cent women representation, 0 per cent men. Is that acceptable, in your view? If you want to deliver a more gender-balanced Parliament, why does your Bill not preclude all-women lists, but it does preclude all-men lists? Isn't that over-egging it in the opposite direction?

Well, obviously, this is about a candidates model that we're taking forward in terms of gender quotas. It goes without saying that this is something that, if it succeeds through the Parliament, and our political parties, who also are going to be producing their diversity and inclusion strategies—. This is about how we deliver; then political parties engage and deliver this.

Yes, the quota rules don’t guarantee the election of a balanced Senedd. Indeed, more men could still be elected than women in relation to the arrangements. I think you’ll see from the explanatory memorandum that there are variables that could determine the final outcome, but I think the fact is we recognise that, with firm placement rules, which are crucial to this, we can achieve this. But I don’t know if Will, who is keen to say something here, or put me right—.

No, no, only to add, Minister, I suppose, looking back at, certainly, Senedd and Assembly elections over the last 25 years, that would not seem likely. At the last election, I think, as the Minister has already said, only 31 per cent of candidates were women, so it would seem very unlikely that that would occur, certainly over the short to medium term. And actually, there's no evidence of that taking place elsewhere either. We believe the model that we're putting forward provides the best chance of maximising the number of women candidates, and therefore achieving that representation of the gender balance—

But you accept that what you're permitting—. It would be perfectly permissible to have a list of six women, but obviously not permissible to have a list of six men. The maximum number of men that can be on any list is, obviously, going to be three, if it's a list of six. Why do you think that's fair? Why is that fair, Minister?


We've come up with a system, an approach, that we think will, with the backing of political parties—. If we don't get the message over to women in Wales that we're welcoming them, and this is the way that we're going to get fair representation of women of Wales, then obviously we're in a very difficult position, there's no question about it. But I think this is the fairest way. We need to have, in showing the horizontal and the vertical—

I appreciate the points you made about horizontal and vertical, but what I think people are finding difficult to understand is why the zipping isn't being applied. They're finding it difficult to see why it would be acceptable to have an all-women list, while you're not allowed to have an all-men list. 

Well, it's a minimum 50 per cent model as far as women are concerned. We're not actually that far away from what the expert panel recommended. It doesn't prevent a zipping approach. We can have that alternate—

But 100 per cent women on all lists would be acceptable under the Bill. Obviously, anything above 50 per cent men on lists would not be acceptable in the Bill. So, there's a significant imbalance there, isn't there? That's the point I'm making. Would you not be able to achieve your policy objective by having zipped lists—completely zipped lists—rather than the approach that you've taken on the Bill? With zipped lists with the horizontal zipping and the vertical zipping, but completely zipped lists, you'd be able to achieve the same policy objectives, would you not?

Can we just go back to what this will do? By requiring that a woman follows any candidate who is not a woman on a list, the rules make sure that women are, at the very least, placed in every other position on a list. Can we go back to where we are? Thirty-one per cent at the last election. How many women candidates—[Interruption.]

How many women in Wales think that they're going to be encouraged to come forward to stand, to be representatives in our Welsh Parliament? If we can't at least enable them to have an opportunity—. And that's why we have to take this positive action.

Darren has made his point, and I understand the point. Will Whiteley has indicated that evidence has shown that it's unlikely that would happen, but I'm sure the review that you're recommending would look very carefully at that, and the Government would be committed—. One of things about the review is that the Government would commit to reviewing and acting upon that review, if that was shown to be the case—that's my assumption.

I'll come back to that, because I've got somebody who wants to come in. Heledd. 

Diolch. Mae'n rhaid i fi ddweud, os ydyn ni mewn sefyllfa o adolygu yn dilyn yr etholiad oherwydd bod yna broblem efo 100 y cant o ferched, neu 90 y cant o ferched, dwi'n meddwl y byddwn ni mewn sefyllfa fydd yn hitio'r penawdau. Oherwydd dwi'n meddwl bod yn rhaid inni ddod yn ôl i brif bwrpas y Bil yn y fan yma, a'r hyn rydych chi'n ei ddweud ynglŷn â chreu Senedd fwy effeithiol.

Mi oeddech chi'n pwysleisio ddoe bod 51 y cant o boblogaeth Cymru ar y funud yn ferched, a'r tangynrychiolaeth yna, felly dwi'n meddwl bod rhaid inni edrych ar y ffigur o 31 y cant yn hynny, oherwydd sut mae cael Senedd effeithiol os dydyn ni ddim yn cyrraedd yr un cysylltiad efo'r 51 y cant o'r boblogaeth? Dwi'n dod o farn wahanol iawn ar hynny.

Os ydy hi'n broblem yn y dyfodol, wel, beth am inni edrych arni fel rhan o'r adolygu? Byddai'n broblem anhygoel i'w chael o ran democratiaeth, oherwydd dwi ddim yn gweld yr un bobl yn pryderu am y ffaith bod dynion wedi bod yn fwyafrif yn bron bob Senedd ledled y byd. Jest i wneud y pwynt yna ar y record—sori. Mae yna lot o bwyntiau gwleidyddol wedi cael eu gwneud eisoes, felly roeddwn i eisiau dweud hynny.

Os caf i fynd yn ôl i'r prif bwrpas a'r enghreifftiau rhyngwladol, wrth edrych ar yr ymchwil, nid dim ond o ran y mecanwaith, ond o ran y manteision o ran creu Senedd fwy effeithiol o gael mecanweithiau fan hyn, beth sydd wedi'ch argyhoeddi chi o ran prif bwrpas y Bil, o edrych ar yr enghreifftiau rhyngwladol o bwysigrwydd hyn?

Thank you. I have to say, if we're in a position of reviewing this following the election because there's a problem with a 100 per cent women, or 90 per cent women, I think we would be in a position that might hit the headlines. Because I think we have to go back to the main purpose of the Bill at the point, and what you've said about creating a more effective Senedd.

You emphasised yesterday that 51 per cent of the Welsh population is currently women, and they are under-represented, and I therefore think we have to look at that figure of 31 per cent in relation to that. How can you have an effective Senedd if we don't reach that 51 per cent of the population? I have a very different view.

If it's a problem in the future, well, then, let's look at it as part of the review. It would be an incredible problem to have in terms of democracy, because I don't see the same people concerned about the fact that men have been a majority in almost all Parliaments across the globe. So, I just wanted to make that point and put it on the record—sorry. There are many political points that have already been made, so I wanted to make my own.

If I could go back to the main purpose and the international examples, in looking at the research, not only in terms of the mechanism, but also in terms of the benefits in creating a more effective Parliament in having these mechanism in place, what's convinced you in terms of the main purpose of the Bill, in looking at international examples of the importance of this?


Diolch yn fawr. I think, again, the main purpose of the legislation—I will extract from the explanatory memorandum—does go back to the evidence and the research that shows that gender-balanced legislatures can be more effective legislatures because of women's focus on different policy areas, collaborative leadership styles and approaches to work. As I said yesterday, when we go back over 25 years to pre this Assembly, we had that wonderful cross-party group that was setting it up saying, 'We must make this different, this must be different from Westminster, we must have family-friendly policies.' Dirprwy Lywydd, we don't always finish at 17:30. In the early days, we were trying to make this a place where all people with all circumstances could actually contribute. We have lost women. We've lost women in all our political parties who have not stood again. We haven't all, the political parties—well, ours has been able to—been able to attract women to stand. Therefore, Wales is losing out on the evidence that there are benefits derived from women's representations in political institutions. I'm sure, Darren, that you will recognise how good and healthy it is to have that diversity within our Senedd.

No, I know you don't. That's where we agree, that we actually can make it even better if we could get to that 50 per cent. It can be even better, the way that Wales is. Evidence relating to North America, Sweden, Latin America, Africa—what a difference it's made in Africa, in terms of women's leadership—and south Asia is that there's a difference between male and female citizens in terms of the issues they consider as most important, with women tending to report more concern about healthcare and poverty than men. We're not 50:50, but there is a concern across our Senedd about these issues. I was very pleased to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer for Wales. I was a women finance Minister, as was Edwina Hart, as is Rebecca Evans. Women need to be in those key positions in terms of economic development and finance, as well as healthcare and poverty. Men need to be in those positions where they are looking at some of the more, perhaps, seen to be women's issues. It's great when men in the Senedd speak up about tackling violence against women. I think we've developed a culture, but we're not there yet and it could slip. This is the evidence from across the world. I would imagine many of you who've been on Commonwealth parliamentary engagement will know of those pioneering women across the world who show what a difference women can make in politics.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Jest un cwestiwn arall—dwi'n gwybod bod gyda ni lot i edrych arno y bore yma. A jest i ddweud, dwi'n cefnogi hyn yn hollol, a fi ydy'r unig arweinydd sy'n ddynes dros y Deyrnas Unedig. Dyna'r sefyllfa rydym ni ynddi. I ddweud y gwir, dylai'r Ceidwadwyr a Phlaid Cymru a Llafur wneud mwy i sicrhau fod hynny'n digwydd. Ond gaf i jest ofyn am y swyddog yma sydd am reoli'r meini prawf gosod fertigol a llorweddol hefyd—hynny yw, y national nominations compliance officer? Rydych chi'n bwriadu cael y swydd yna. Gaf i jest ofyn tipyn bach mwy am sut fydd hynny'n gweithio? Dwi'n gwybod fod Heledd am ofyn mwy ynglŷn â beth sydd am ddigwydd, ond sut ydych chi'n gweld y swydd yna a'r profiadau tu ôl i'r swydd yna, os gwelwch yn dda, sy'n edrych ar y rhestrau a sut maen nhw'n gweithio? Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dyna'r cwestiwn olaf.

Thank you very much. Just one more question—I know we have a great deal to get through this morning. And just to say, I am very supportive of this, and I am the only female leader of a political party across the UK. That's the situation we're in. To be honest, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru and Labour should do more to address that issue. But can I just ask about the official that will manage the vertical and horizontal placement criteria, namely the national nominations compliance officer that you intend to appoint? Can I just ask you a little more as to how that will work? I know that Heledd will have some further questions on how this will develop, but how do you see that particular post and the experiences behind that post, please, looking at the lists and how they work? Thank you very much. That's the final question.

Diolch yn fawr, Jane Dodds. That's a great tribute to you as leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, and your predecessor, Kirsty Williams. We must acknowledge that leadership role. We did have a Plaid Cymru woman leader as well. We have more to do in terms of women's representation in leadership.

The new role of the national nominations compliance officer is required in terms of enforcing the horizontal rules. The arrangements will be provided in an Order under section 13 of the Government of Wales Act, and that's known as the conduct Order. The system, of course, will be about checking compliance. The NNCO's role will start after the constituency returning officers have checked the individual lists for compliance with the vertical rules and other rules about nominations. Constituency returning officers will share information with the NNCO on the gender of the person in the first or only position on all the lists of one party, then check that the horizontal requirements have been met, and if the NNCO finds a party non-compliant, there will be a short window for a party to decide which list or lists to be subjected to correction.

If a party can identify a list or lists to be reordered, then it will be for the relevant constituency returning officer to make minimal changes to the order of candidates on their lists to make a party compliant. This is all going to be in the conduct Order, because there will be issues if a party were to decline to select lists for corrective action. Then, the NNCO will select one or more lists to be reordered so that a party can stand candidates in as many constituencies as possible, but within the rules. We've chosen not to enforce the horizontal rule by outright rejection of a list or lists at this stage, because that might be challenging for some parties to co-ordinate compliance, and there could be greater scope for error. I think it's important to make the point here that a slightly different approach is proposed to mitigate any risk of a significant impact on parties' and candidates' ability to stand for election.


Before I bring Heledd in, just some clarification on one point, just for our understanding of this. If the NNCO identifies a need to adjust lists because of the non-compliance with the balance across—I'm assuming it's across Wales, totally—then the party can decide which list or lists, depending on how many, it wishes to actually have realigned. Who does the realignment? Does the party do it, or does the constituency returning officer do it?

It would be the constituency returning officer.

No. The intention is that the party has the opportunity to select the list or lists that can be reordered, but the conduct Order would prescribe how the constituency returning officer would have to reorder that to, essentially, have minimum impact on the reordering of the list. So, it would be for the constituency returning officer to actually do the reordering.

So, if the party gets it wrong in the first place, its only responsibility after that is to identify which ones would need to be reordered.

It's probably worth just saying that, of course, in order to get to the national nominations compliance officer bit, the constituency returning officer would've had to have accepted the list as being compliant with the vertical rules. So, it would be compliant in that respect. Therefore, the only information that they would need to provide to the national nominations compliance officer is actually the gender statements of the first candidate on the party's list in their constituency. Obviously, the NNCO would have that across however many constituencies that party has put forward candidate lists for.

Diolch. O ran rôl y swyddog cydymffurfiaeth enwebiadau cenedlaethol, ydych chi'n credu bod angen dirprwy neu eilydd ar gyfer y rôl, a hynny wedi'i nodi ar wyneb y Ddeddf?

Thank you. In terms of the national nominations compliance officer role, do you believe that there would need to be a deputy or a substitute for that role, and that that should be on the face of the Bill?

We think it could be useful for the post holder to have experience and knowledge of the electoral process. I think it could be appropriate to assign a deputy, yes, who could deputise for the NNCO. I think one of the important things is that there have been lots of discussions with people involved in the electoral administration field, key stakeholders—we've talked to them about whether there should be a deputy NNCO, and so we're continuing that discussion with the electoral administrators and returning officers. Of course, we also need to remember that we're actually going to have only 16 returning officers in the future, anyway, under Senedd reform. I think that is really important in terms of making sure that there's the capacity and the knowledge to deliver on the NNCO role.

The Bill makes provision for people to make a declaration at the time that they are nominated as a candidate to state whether they are a woman or whether they're not a woman. Do you want to tell us why that approach has been taken, rather than a straightforward 'whether you're a man or a woman'?


Again, we've sought to develop a Bill that can provide the most effective Senedd in terms of greater gender balance. As you say, Darren, candidates will have to provide information regarding whether they're a woman or not by way of a statement. This is very common for countries with gender quotas to ask candidates to state their gender as part of the electoral process. It's standard practice.

But you're not asking them to state their gender, because if I was asked my gender, I would say I'm a male. You're asking people to state whether they are woman or not a woman, which is quite a distinction. Why that specific test?

I think the information that we're asking them in terms of whether they're a woman or not a woman is very much alongside all of the other information that we would ask for in terms of valid candidate nominations, home address, age, et cetera. We have come to this point where we feel that a gender statement is the most appropriate way to deliver on this, and I think the point is candidates will only be asked to state whether or not they're a woman for the purposes of the quota.

So, if, for example, I decided to state that I was a woman for the purposes of the election, what sanction would I face?

Well, I think we'd need to look at this, perhaps, in a different way. You will, like you do, on so many occasions, have to give your personal information about gender and other circumstances, and for most people it's not going to be a sensitive or difficult issue to say whether they're a woman or not, I would say. Sometimes, actually, it could be sensitive and personal, but you will be making—

With respect, though, Minister, I'm asking you specifically what would prevent me from making a declaration that I was a woman for the purposes of the election, because there are people who describe themselves as gender fluid, aren't there, that might declare themselves to be a woman one day and a man the next.

Well, we need accurate statements, quite clearly, don't we, Darren, in terms of the statement that you will be making, and you clearly are not a woman, but it will be up to individuals to state—

Well, that's for me to determine, isn't it, as far as the Bill is concerned.

—to state their gender, just as you do—. You wouldn't be querying this in terms of any other candidate information that you—. In terms of sanctions, well, of course, the returning officer's role is to check that a nomination paper is correct on its face. They're not going to investigate the accuracy of any of the information provided by candidates during that process. We aren't asking you for your birth certificate, for example, but I think the point is that a party or a candidate will have an interest in ensuring—and you'll be standing for your party—that accurate statements are made, or, otherwise, you would run the risk of challenge. I don't know, Will, whether you would want to say anything about the risk of challenge. 

Yes, if I can pick up your first point, Darren, just to say that our starting position in terms of the formulation was to ask only the necessary information required to make the quota work. Obviously, the Bill is focused on the proportion and placement of women on candidate lists. Therefore, in terms of data, the only question that was needed was whether a candidate is a woman or not a woman. So, that's just to answer your first point.

In terms of the sanctions, yes, the expectation, certainly, is that candidates and parties have a role in terms of putting forward those candidate lists to ensure that the statements are accurate and truthful. There are checks in that nominations process. There are, currently, opportunities for certain individuals to check certain papers such as other candidates can look at the candidates' papers and raise them with the returning officer, who will do a face-value check, but wouldn't, as the Minister said, look behind it. The ultimate risk is one of an election petition. So, if candidates were not to fill out that information—any information—accurately, then there's a risk that an election petition could be brought and for them to be found unduly returned.


Can I just get this right: if someone self-identifies as a woman, they are entitled to declare themselves to be a woman for the purposes of an election? Is that right? And what happens with gender-fluid individuals who regard themselves as gender fluid, which I'm sure you will be familiar with, Minister?

Well, I think it is clearly the case that a party or candidate could seek advice, seek legal advice, if they're uncertain about how to state their gender. I have said again that that's ensuring that accurate statements are made. But I think, as I said, there will be times when a gender statement may be sensitive or personal, and that could be the case for a trans or non-binary candidate. I mean, this is highlighted in the equality impact assessment and, indeed, the data protection impact assessment as well.

I do think it's important to go back, Chair, to the point that this is only where people are being asked to state whether or not they are a woman for the purposes of the quota. And I hope that we will see that this is a really important point that we take forward.

Is there any other gender quota system in the world where people are allowed to determine for themselves at the point of declaration whether they consider themselves to be a woman or not and are asked in this way, 'Are you a woman or not a woman?' rather than, 'Are you a man or a woman?'

I don't know if any others are necessarily formulated in this way. As I said, we took the view that we only needed to ask the minimum amount of information from the candidates. There are others, and—Catrin I might look to—Ireland I believe also have a system where it is 'man' or 'woman', but it is up to the candidate to make that declaration.

Yes, I believe it's the case in Ireland as well that candidates state their gender and there's no looking behind that as part of the nominations process. I think it might also be worth just saying that where we've seen other countries with quotas, they often have thresholds that apply to men and to women, and, in those instances, you would see a statement framed in a slightly different way and asking, 'Are you a man or are you a woman?', because they need to know those two things in order to, effectively, implement their quota.

Because there is no definition of what a woman is and what a woman isn't on the face of the Bill, doesn't that risk undermining the true purpose of the Bill?

I think it's important to clarify and make the point that the Bill is not about the process of gender recognition; gender recognition is a reserved matter. I don't think we should be distracted from the purpose of the Bill, which is a more effective Senedd, achieved through greater gender balance. And this is where we have come to this view, and I think, as Catrin has said, clearly there are examples across the world—Ireland being closest to us—where stating a gender is part of the electoral process. It is not about a definition; gender recognition is reserved. The purpose of the gender statement—and that is what it is, it's a gender statement—is solely for compliance with the vertical and horizontal rules for the candidate list. It has no further applications. I hope, Chair, as well, that I can make the point, in charge of this Bill, that candidates—

Can I just say that candidates and political parties will have a role in ensuring that nomination papers are completed accurately and truthfully? There's no other way to operate a gender quota but to seek information about the person's gender.

I know the focus has been on gender here now, but, in the same way, if we look at the other Bill, residency will apply. So, this is in the same way, and that, in effect, is the same thing—that you're taking at face value the information provided.

Can I ask, therefore, just so that there is no doubt in my mind here, can returning officers still, when they receive forms, reject forms that are clearly a sham? And can you confirm this doesn't negate what's usual now—that nomination papers may then also be inspected by other candidates and agents and challenged if they're not correct? You were mentioning in terms of the election petitions, so there are still those checks within the process, and, in the same way, a false statement—be that residency, be that gender—can still be challenged in the normal way; this doesn't take away from that.


Not at all, and I think all of us who have been candidates know about that nominations window that we have and the questions asked, quite understandably, right before an election when nomination papers are put in, and the right to inspect those during that nomination window. Of course, an election petition, which comes after an election—. And we've seen election petitions relating to other factors—personal circumstances—that have been put into a nomination.

Yes, so, I just want to go back to this issue of nominations and self-declarations, because it is something that people have flagged up as being peculiar. So, someone who is trans can identify themselves as either a man or a woman, or a woman or not a woman, for the purpose of this Bill—yes? So, a biological male who is a trans woman can identify as a woman for the purposes of an election in Wales in the future? That's what you're saying, isn't it, Minister—is it?

Well, as I've said, this is a gender statement that will have to be made. It's actually highlighted in the equality impact assessment, which I'm sure you've scrutinised—the data protection impact—that this could be sensitive and personal very much in relation to someone who is trans or non-binary. But I'll just go back to the point that this Bill is not about the process—. It's not about gender recognition—

I appreciate that, but, Minister, people are asking: will a trans woman qualify as a woman for the purposes of elections in the future in Wales?

Well, I mean, this is—. We've gone back to—. Will, if you would like to come in on this point.

So, I was going to say that, obviously, the Bill doesn't provide a definition of 'woman' in the Bill, therefore, it doesn't change the law in relation to—

Well, what's the Government's intention? Perhaps you can tell us the Government's intention at least. Is it the intention that a trans woman will be a woman for the purposes of this Bill and, therefore, qualify in the same way—

We have no powers over gender recognition. I think that we've made that absolutely clear—

I'm not asking whether you have powers; I'm asking whether it's your policy intention.

—and we have no definition of 'woman' in this Bill, and I think that's the key point. And we've talked about—

I appreciate that, but in terms of gender fluidity, so, someone who regards themselves a woman at the time of declaration—

The Minister has made it clear that she's given the answer that she's going to give and is not going to change her answer.

I want to move on to data protection, so, Sarah, since we're talking about it.

Thank you very much. Thank you for being here this morning, Minister. We have already touched on how, potentially, the data that people are providing is going to be sensitive—not for all, as you said; for some, it'll be quite straightforward, I imagine, but, for some, it won't be. And I was just wanting to ask what your thoughts are on the safeguards that will be in place for the data collected about candidates' declarations and for you to outline the consideration given to potential sensitives around the sharing of this data. Thank you.

Well, thank you for recognising the sensitivity issues in terms of data protection. You've seen the impact assessment, which we were very pleased to get out and published with the Bill. 

Those gender statements will be covered by the same safeguards as currently apply to any other personal data that is collected on the nomination forms.

Thank you very much. I think, based on the evidence—what's already in there—it's safe to say, though, isn't it, that if somebody has declared themselves a woman, then it would be very obvious from the order of that what will happen? So, I suppose my other question here is: how would those people then be made to feel reassured that they are welcome and that they are safe coming through this process?

Well, I think, as you said, for many people, the information they give about whether or not they are a woman won't be a sensitive matter. But if it is a sensitive matter, in terms of the person concerned, it may be possible for the published list, for example, of candidates to predict what a particular candidate has said in their statement, but, with the majority of candidates, it won't be sensitive data. And I think it is important that you recognise the fact that this could be a sensitive issue, and we've obviously had that discussion already on how we can acknowledge that sensitivity and also consider, perhaps at subordinate legislation stage, restrictions, possibly, safeguards in terms of interference or inspection of nomination papers. But we want to make sure we do have, as Heledd Fychan said, that nominations window, the right to inspect and abide by, with constituency returning officers, the national nominations compliance arrangement anyway. But on the practical arrangements, anything that the committee can advise us and guide us with would be really helpful. 


Thank you. And I think this is something that we will be looking into, and hopefully we will be able to give some feedback, then, from the people we gather evidence from about this. So, thank you very much. Thank you, Chair. 

Heledd, we've had some aspects of this, but do you want to continue with the other bits?

Os cawn ni edrych ar orfodaeth a throseddau, felly. Jest os medrwch chi, efallai, roi mwy o wybodaeth i'r hyn dŷn ni wedi ei drafod eisoes, jest ynglŷn ag os oeddech chi wedi ystyried unrhyw gosbau amgen y tu hwnt i'r rhai sydd wedi cael eu nodi yn y Bil, er enghraifft yn y memorandum esboniadol, mewn perthynas â thynnu cyllid y wladwriaeth nôl ar gyfer pleidiau gwleidyddol yng Ngweriniaeth Iwerddon.

If we could now turn to enforcement and offences. Could you perhaps provide us with more information to what we have already discussed as to whether you had considered any alternative methods of sanction beyond those mentioned in the Bill, for example in the explanatory memorandum, relating to the withdrawal of state funding for political parties in the Republic of Ireland, for example?

Diolch yn fawr, Heledd. Of course, we are following very much the special purpose committee recommendations. They recommended the rejection of lists by returning officers as the most appropriate enforcement mechanism. And, again, working with our stakeholders, electoral administrators, we know that this has been recognised as the most important. We don't have state funding for political parties here in Wales as they do in Ireland, so that wouldn't be an appropriate approach. I think that's where we feel this is the right arrangement in terms of the publication of party non-compliance and equality rules for returning officers. 

Diolch. Fe fyddwch chi'n ymwybodol efo'r Bil arall, efallai, mai un o'r pwyntiau sydd wedi codi—lle dŷn ni wedi cael cytundeb y Cwnsler Cyffredinol—ydy edrych o ran ariannu pleidiau gwleidyddol ac, o bosib, efo datblygiad polisi ac ati. Felly, efallai y byddai'n fuddiol wrth i hyn ddatblygu fod y drafodaeth efallai yn gallu parhau, yn enwedig efo'r mecanwaith adolygu. 

Gaf i ofyn, felly—yn amlwg, un o'r pethau sydd wedi cael ei bwysleisio, ddoe a heddiw, ydy'r 31 y cant yna o ymgeisyddion yn etholiad 2021 yn ferched. A oes yna unrhyw ystyriaeth wedi ei roi i ddarparu cymhellion i bleidiau gwleidyddol, megis cymorth neu hyfforddiant i ymgeiswyr, i gyd-fynd efo'r ochr sancsiynau am ddiffyg cydymffurfio fel yr elfen gefnogol, felly?

Thank you. You'll be aware, with the other Bill, perhaps, that one of the points that has been raised—and we got the agreement of the Counsel General on this—is the issue of funding political parties in relation to policy development and so on. So, it might be beneficial that, as this develops, that discussion could continue, particularly with the review mechanism.

Can I ask, therefore—clearly, one of the things that was emphasised yesterday and this morning is that 31 per cent of candidates in the 2021 election being women. Has any consideration been given to providing incentives to political parties, such as support or training for candidates, alongside sanctions for non-compliance? So, you'd be providing that supportive element. 

I think, again, it's interesting how the use of the political compliance in Ireland that means that if they don't comply then they lose their state funding is a pretty powerful way of enforcing gender quotas. But I think your point about how political parties and how we support and train candidates to move forward to ensure that we do get the numbers forward for our gender quotas is really important. I think political parties, at this stage—I hope they're all looking at this. There are incentives, I think, that we should also consider, and of course the Senedd is doing that, such as job sharing. And a wider programme of electoral reform, of course, is looking at these issues. But I think this is about building a pipeline of individuals, and I'm sure you're going to be taking evidence from that coalition of organisations that has mentoring, Equal Power Equal Voice, where all political parties are mentoring this pipeline of candidates, particularly I would say more diverse candidates, because we know that this is about not just gender, but diversity. And of course that's intersectional in many cases. 

Diolch, Weinidog. Oedd yna unrhyw ystyriaeth wedi cael ei roi i ddulliau eraill o orfodi cwotâu, ac eithrio'r hyn a nodir yn y Bil?

Thank you, Minister. Was any consideration given to other methods of enforcing quotas other than those set out in the Bill?

We looked at the possibility of imposing financial penalties. You could issue a fine, but that would require a whole new set-up of independent bodies to do that. It was—. I think, really, we recognised the special purpose committee's views that this was the most effective enforcement approach. It's also used in Belgium, Poland and Mexico.


Diolch yn fawr iawn. Os caf i jest ofyn un peth arall, jest o ran y diffyg trosedd am ffugio papurau enwebu: pam ei drin yn wahanol i wybodaeth arall? Ydy'r Bil, fel sydd wedi'i gyflwyno, yn galluogi gwneud ffugio papurau enwebu yn drosedd yn y Gorchymyn manwl fydd yn gorwedd o dan y Bil?

Thank you very much. And if I could just ask one further question in terms of there not being an offence of falsifying nomination papers: why treat it differently? Does the Bill, as introduced, enable false gender statements in the Order that will sit beneath the Bill?

Yes, of course. So, it isn't an intention to make it a corrupt practice to make false gender statements in the way that some other pieces of information that are provided for—. I think that's a reflection of the personal nature and sensitivity associated with—for some individuals—stating their gender, and so it's not seeking to criminalise that. However, as we've already talked about, there are those checks in the system and potential challenge if someone were to make an incorrect statement.

Diolch. Mae'n ddrwg gen i, un cwestiwn arall. Sori, dwi yn neidio ychydig bach. Wrth edrych—. Dŷch chi wedi pwysleisio sut mae'r Bil yma yn cydweithio efo'r Bil arall yn agos, ac yn amlwg, byddwch chi'n gwybod yn rhan o'r Bil diwygio arall, o ran cyfathrebu neu hybu rhai o'r newidiadau yn rhan o hynny, mi fydd angen gwneud tipyn o bethau er mwyn cael y neges drosodd i ferched ynglŷn â sefyll yn rhan o hyn. Gaf i ofyn oes yna unrhyw ystyriaeth wedi'i rhoi hefyd o ran unrhyw gymhellion neu gefnogaeth arall sydd ei angen, megis cymorth ariannol, i ymgeiswyr benywaidd i dalu am unrhyw gostau ychwanegol y gallent fod yn eu hwynebu, sydd efallai yn rhwystr rhag sefyll ar y funud?

Thank you. Just one further question. Sorry, I am skipping around here sightly. But you've emphasised how this Bill works closely with the other Bill, and you will know that as part of the other reform Bill, communication promoting those changes is an important part of that, and there will need to be some work done to get the message over to women in terms of standing as candidates. Can I ask whether any consideration has been given to any incentives or other support that might be necessary, for example financial support, for women candidates to cover any additional costs that they may experience, which may be a barrier to standing at the moment?

We haven't considered that in terms of financial provision. I've mentioned ways in which we can encourage women to come forward with mechanisms such as job sharing. I think culture is pretty important, as well as family friendly. Some of the points I've made came from the National Women's Council of Ireland, and, indeed, WEN Wales. When I've spoken to WEN Wales, and, indeed, the Electoral Reform Society and the Wales TUC, just specifically about the Bill and what's happening, they want to play their part in helping us to see the barriers that women face, and we know about those barriers, and the support that could be put in place to make a positive difference. We do actually fund Women's Equality Network Wales through a whole range of provision. We support their Equal Power Equal Voice initiative. So, they are now very clearly engaging with us, as we are as a Government, in terms of our road map to gender equality. But also we have to look at this in terms of our wider 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan' and the provisions in that, our 'LGBTQ+ Action Plan for Wales', but also our disability rights action plan. We've got to look at this from the perspective of the diverse women of Wales having this opportunity to come forward to benefit from these gender quotas, and I made that point very clearly in my oral statement yesterday.

Okay, I'll move on to the review agenda. Like the other Bill, which is the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, the Government has decided to once again instruct the Senedd to create another committee to review elements 7A-7D. Is it actually more appropriate to actually refer this into the same committee rather than create another committee? Is it your intention that the Senedd should create a single committee to do all the review work, or are you specifically asking for a third committee to be created within the first year of the next Senedd to actually do another review?

Well, I think, of course, it is up to the Senedd, as we said, in terms of the review. The Senedd may want to take a co-ordinated approach to reviewing the two Bills in terms of their operation. If they're both coming into effect in the 2026 election, and gender quotas would be an integral part of the new closed list system, obviously it's up to the Senedd to determine its approach, but it would make sense to review it in that way. I think it's interesting, in terms of the review provisions in section 2 of this Bill—they align with section 19 of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, taking into account, Darren Millar, your amendment to the other Bill to require Welsh Ministers to lay a statement in response to any report by the committee. There's not more for me to say, really, on this point, except that it is a co-ordinating—. The core purpose of this Bill is to give legislative effect to a parliamentary committee, the special purpose committee, so I think it's important that it is now undertaken by the Senedd in terms of review.


In light of this committee's previous recommendations on the earlier Bill, which was actually to remove section 19, do you expect us to have a different view, just simply because the Government wants to try and have another go at it?

Well, I think we had a very useful debate in relation to the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill on this matter. So, I think, probably, in terms of the way we're going forward, and as we've gone through Stage 2 of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, and I've commented on Darren's amendment, that this now should be considered by the Senedd.

Okay, let's go back on to the next stage, then. Why hadn't you put in the Bill a requirement on all Welsh Ministers to act upon recommendations of that committee, because, clearly, if there are recommendation that come out of committees based upon the review, those recommendations are requiring the Government to take action, but this Bill doesn't say you will take that action—there's no action on the recommendations?

Just to clarify, in section 2(5), there is a requirement for the Welsh Ministers to lay before the Senedd a statement in response.

A response, but not actions. There's a difference between a response and actions. A response could say, 'I don't like what you recommended.' What we're simply saying is, if there's a recommendation—. Because you want a review to be undertaken by the Senedd—if that committee comes up with recommendations, one would expect those recommendations to be acted upon. Basically, that's what I'm trying to get at. A response is not the same as taking action.

I think, probably, the Counsel General may have said something similar in the scrutiny of the previous Bill, but I think it was simply to reflect, obviously, the intent that the Government would respond to any recommendations. Obviously, were that to lead to legislative proposals, there would still be a need to undertake further work analysis, as we did do, taking the special purpose committee recommendations. So, I think this is probably, as much as anything, a drafting approach to ensure that Welsh Ministers are responding to and setting out the next steps that they would be taking in response to the committee's recommendations, but obviously not being held to the exact—. As I said, that's simply to reflect the further work that may need to be done.

Thank you very much, Chair. I have a few questions on consultation. The Bill's explanatory memorandum states that given the tight timetable it means the Welsh Government has not been able to undertake its own public consultation on the general concepts, and it also states instead that Welsh Government undertook a targeted bilateral engagement with external stakeholders to discuss key policy considerations. So, can you explain what engagement has taken place with stakeholders and any changes that were made to the Bill as a result of the feedback?

Thank you very much, Sarah. We have used—. I've already mentioned the engagement that I've just had, as we've come to the point of introducing the Bill, with existing stakeholders for engagement purposes, and of course this is the history that takes us back to the expert panel, the special purpose committee, the Senedd reform committee, where there was extensive consultation and engagement, and indeed I would say pressure and lobbying for us to move forward with this. Yesterday I mentioned the Diverse5050 campaign, which is backed by a number of organisations, and I'm sure, and I hope, you'll be hearing from them. It's very intersectional as well—as I said, obviously, Disability Wales and Race Council Cymru, Stonewall Cymru, WEN Wales. So, just to say, the Electoral Commission, Senedd Commission representatives, returning officers, electoral administrators, academics, also in the field of diverse representation in politics, and political party representatives who have been facilitated by the Electoral Commission, and the Welsh Local Government Association, looking at the net financial impacts of the Bill—so, extensive engagement with those stakeholders.


Thank you very much. And could you just give us a bit more detail, though, on the engagement that you had with the Electoral Commission, and what was discussed with the political party representatives and how this formed the development of the Bill as well, please?

Well, I have been able to—. We've had cross-party committees working on this as well, in terms of previous committees—a special purpose committee in particular—but we also have engaged with all the political parties in terms of the way forward. Obviously, it's a Welsh Government policy, so the Welsh Labour Party are fully behind it, the programme for government, and this is part of our co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru in terms of Senedd reform. I think the Electoral Reform Society has also sought and reached out to engage with political parties. But the Electoral Commission, I think, is perhaps more on official level, so I don't know if Catrin or Will want to say something. Catrin.

Yes. We've engaged with the Electoral Commission in particular, really, around the process, the process of nominations and enforcement and that sort of thing, and also around the guidance that they provide to political parties, to candidates, et cetera, including around data protection legislation as well. They have been very happy to support and facilitate conversations with political parties through their existing groups, so we have met with political party representatives, through the Electoral Commission, and discussed with them our emerging thoughts around model and placement and process. I think it's fair to say that some of that conversation has led us to where we are in terms of the enforcement mechanism and the different approaches to the enforcement at the vertical level and the horizontal level, which is more proportionate, you could say, at the horizontal level, given that some parties don't have such a strong, maybe, national co-ordination function. So, that's just a flavour of the discussions we've had.

I mean, in fact, I think the Electoral Commission has got its own party political group, hasn't it—

—so they've agreed they meet every three months, cross-party, mainstream parties, so that's been facilitated.

Fantastic. And it's our understanding that the engagement was convened by the Electoral Commission rather than the Welsh Government. Is that correct, and is there a reason for that?

Can I just turn to the matter of costs, if that's okay? So, first of all, one of the questions that I raised with you yesterday in the Chamber, Minister, was around what the costs have been to develop this Bill to date by the Welsh Government. Are you able to share those with us today?

Thank you, Darren. Well, you'll be aware, obviously, of the regulatory assessment, with the assessment of cost. It lays it out, the costs and and benefits, over the eight-year appraisal period, from 2024-25 to 2031-32. Total costs arising from the Bill are estimated to be £21,000.

Sorry, Minister, that's not the question I asked. I asked what have the costs been that have been incurred by the Welsh Government to date, in the development of the Bill, including the costs of any external legal advice.

Well, we, obviously, in terms of developing any Bill—as I'm sure you would, if you were in our position—we have our own costs, we have our own public servants who are undertaking that work. I don't think there's anything else to say, is there, Will, on that?

I'd only add, Minister, that, obviously, the regulatory impact assessment for this Bill is focused quite narrowly on the provisions of this Bill. Obviously, the costs associated with the Members and elections Bill covered, obviously, the provisions of that Bill, but, in certain respects, was the Senedd reform programme as a whole. And one of those was, obviously, the Welsh Government costs, and there's a budget line within the Welsh Government budgets that provides for the policy and legal work that has gone to develop the programme, including the Members and elections Bill and this Bill.


So, was there any specific external legal advice sought in respect of the provisions in this Bill specifically—or commissioned?

Not as far as I'm aware. I think we've got our senior legal adviser here today.

We as policy officials refer to our legal services departments through that normal process of developing legislation, and, of course, as I think the Minister said, legislative drafters as well.

The Welsh Government is entitled to, and also ensures that we have our legal advice from our department. I don't think there's anything more to say on that, Chair.

Well, I suppose the question has been asked: has your legal department sought external legal advice? I won't ask the cost, but, just simply, has it sought external legal advice? I think that's a very valid question.

I think we'd need to confirm and come back to you.

That's absolutely fine. And just turning to the costs, obviously, I've seen the very small administrative costs that have been listed in the explanatory memorandum, with the regulatory impact assessment. Do you really think that's a realistic expectation of the actual costs of this, given that we all know, from the legal competency discussion that we had earlier, it's likely to end up in the Supreme Court? Shouldn't you be making provision for that, and anticipating what costs might be? Given that you've had a number of Supreme Court cases to deal with in the past, you know they're very expensive things to contend with, don't you?

Well, Darren, as you know, I'm of the view that the Bill is within the competence of the Senedd. We don't account for costs of potential legal challenges in the assessment of our costs. And that's the case for all regulatory impact assessments that accompany Government legislation. I think it is important to look again at costs. I've given you the costs as laid out in the RIA. If we look at electoral management systems, the cost of updating those systems, the IT systems used to facilitate the running of elections, is estimated to be £18,000—a one-off cost, which will fall in the financial year of 2025-26. And we support local authorities in terms of those updates. We will have a recurring cost of £1,500 at each election, in relation to the designation of the NNCO. That might be a potential fee that the NNCO might receive. I'm giving you some forward look in terms of very minor costs.

Can I clarify on that—the NNCO will not be a permanent post; it's going to be a temporary post, effectively, during an election period?

So, the cost, the £1,500 is a best estimate—

And it's likely to be a constituency returning officer that is asked to do it.

Yes. So, that cost is actually modelled on the fees and charges that are currently provided for returning officers and regional returning officers in the existing system. In the discussions that we had through the WLGA, with local authorities, the returning officers felt that it's modelled more on the regional returning officer fee. But, obviously, it's worth saying that decisions around fees and charges for returning officers are matters for Ministers closer to the election itself.

And can I ask you this question, Minister: what were the costs to the Welsh Government of the last case that was taken to the Supreme Court in respect of a competency issue in relation to a Senedd Bill? Do you know?

I think it would be helpful just to have an understanding, especially given the clear recommendation to try and avoid anything that would end up in the Supreme Court.

I have one final question. You've referred to the costs that you think are associated with this Bill. Obviously, there may be costs, one would assume—we were talking about some of these earlier, I suppose—in terms of trying to engage more women candidates, in terms of trying to assist them with any costs of being candidates, trying to educate members of political parties, and, indeed, the public. There are no costs associated with those that are on the face of this Bill. Is there any reason why they haven't been estimated?

No, they're not on the face of the Bill. I have responded, to say about ways in which we're working with stakeholders in order to develop pipelines of candidates, and also looking at other provisions within other legislation, like job sharing as well. 

Can I just say that it's important, Chair, to say—and to Darren—that officials have engaged with the Electoral Commission, back to Sarah's point, about any additional costs or savings that could arise in the context of this work? So, this exercise is not just from the Welsh Government; it's exploring with the Electoral Commission. It is important, I think, to look at how we raise awareness of change. I think that's a point that's been raised in terms of communication activity and the costs relating to that communication activity—it's in the regulatory impact assessment, Darren. But they won't be in terms of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill. 

As Will said, this is part of the holistic Senedd reform package that has been taken forward, and I just hope that we can see that this is actually an investment, this is an investment in parliamentary democracy. It's an investment in making this Parliament the most representative Parliament, where women are under-represented at present and more diversity is needed. So, this is an investment that I think all political parties will also be looking to proceed with, in terms of enabling women to feel that they are welcome in our Senedd, they're welcome to come forward, and that they can welcome the fact that there will be opportunities in this reform.


And just one final question, if I may, Chair, and that is in relation to the other aspects of diversity that you've touched on a few times during the evidence session. Obviously, we want this Senedd to be as representative as possible of the diversity in the population of Wales, but other aspects of diversity are not provided for within this particular Bill. What consideration was given to whether you could include other aspects of diversity?

Absolutely, and I really welcomed your comments on that yesterday, Darren, and the special purpose committee recommendation that political parties should be encouraged to publish diversity and inclusion strategies. It's interesting that, actually, diversity information is already collected and published on behalf of local government candidates. I think that's been useful in terms of scrutiny about diversity representation in local government. So, this is something where we're looking at advisory guidance to parties, working with stakeholders, looking at all Welsh elections, because we do want to make sure that we can see this as an opportunity for diversity and inclusion.

But we're also exploring legal and other legislative means of addressing this, and, obviously, it would be very helpful if the Senedd reform committee, when it comes to that committee, could consider the options and opportunities to ensure that political parties do take this forward in terms of publishing a diversity and inclusion strategy for Welsh elections.

Can I ask a question on this? Clearly, I understand what you're saying is an issue, but the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform did talk about this, and the ability to put in this Bill perhaps even just a mandatory requirement, rather than guidance, to actually collect that data and publish it. Would it be another thought? That's not necessarily moving towards diversity, but it's actually making it public as to how diverse lists are. You didn't take that opportunity. Why not?

We are looking at legislative means for doing this, so, obviously, that's something that we can share as things progress. 

I welcome that, Minister. And just finally if I can pick up and follow on on that, because I do support statutory requirements for certain information to be published both by parties and, indeed, the Electoral Commission or the returning officers on the diversity agenda. But just turning to the specific issue of quotas, obviously, we know that a certain proportion of people in Wales are disabled, a certain proportion are from ethnic minorities, et cetera. Could you not use this framework in order to provide for those other aspects of diversity, so that a certain proportion of candidates at the top of the list should have lived experience of disability, a certain proportion must come from ethnic minority backgrounds, a certain proportion must come form under-represented faith groups, for example? Isn't that something that you could take the opportunity to address as well?

Well, we very much took the guidance recommendations from the special purpose committee, which did recommend further consideration on a cross-party basis of diversity quotas for that, and I have to say, for possible implementation sometime in the future. There is less evidence across the world in terms of wider diversity quotas. We're learning from the evidence that is developing, but I think that if we can do the gender quotas and the diversity and inclusion guidance, and if that could be made statutory, then I think we'd be taking further steps than even the SPC report identified. 


We've come to the end. We've actually exceeded the time, Minister. Can I thank you for your evidence this morning? You and your officials will obviously receive copies of the transcript, and if there any factual inaccuracies, can you please let the clerking team know as soon as possible? So, once again, thank you for your time. And we will see perhaps yourself, or whoever will become the Member in charge following next week, later in the process.

4. Papurau i'w nodi
4. Papers to note

For Members, we have item 4, papers to note. There are two papers to note. Both are responses in relation to the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill, one from the Senedd Commission and one from the Counsel General. Are Members content to note those two papers? I see they are. 

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (ix) to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Then the next item is under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to exclude the public from the remainder of today's meeting. Are Members content to do so? We'll therefore now move into private session. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:36.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:36.