Pwyllgor o'r Senedd Gyfan

Committee of the Whole Senedd

05/03/2024

Cynnwys

Contents

1. Bil Senedd Cymru (Aelodau ac Etholiadau): Trafodion Cyfnod 2 1. Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill: Stage 2 Proceedings
Grŵp 1: Adolygu ffiniau etholaethau’r Senedd: diffiniadau a dehongli, cyfnodau ar gyfer sylwadau, adroddiadau, a gweithredu (Gwelliannau 59, 60, 76, 77, 91, 98, 100, 79, 105, 25, 54, 55, 56, 108, 15, 110, 16, 17, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115) Group 1: Senedd constituency boundary reviews: definitions and interpretation, representation periods, reports, and implementation (Amendments 59, 60, 76, 77, 91, 98, 100, 79, 105, 25, 54, 55, 56, 108, 15, 110, 16, 17, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115)
Grŵp 2: Effaith pa mor aml y cynhelir etholiadau cyffredinol cyffredin ar benodiadau cyhoeddus (Gwelliant 35) Group 2: Impact of frequency of ordinary general elections on public appointments (Amendment 35)
Grŵp 3: Mân newidiadau drafftio yn y Gymraeg (Gwelliannau 61, 75, 90, 78, 80, 58) Group 3: Minor drafting changes in the Welsh language (Amendments 61, 75, 90, 78, 80, 58)
Grŵp 4: Cynyddu nifer uchaf Gweinidogion Cymru drwy reoliadau (Gwelliannau 1, 52, 3) Group 4: Increase in maximum number of Welsh Ministers by regulations (Amendments 1, 52, 3)
Grŵp 5: Anghymhwyso rhag bod yn Aelod o’r Senedd neu’n ymgeisydd: personau nad ydynt wedi eu cofrestru ar y gofrestr etholiadol mewn cyfeiriad yng Nghymru (Gwelliannau 57, 38, 39, 40) Group 5: Disqualification from being a Member of the Senedd or a candidate: persons not registered in electoral register at an address in Wales (Amendments 57, 38, 39, 40)
Grŵp 6: Anghymhwyso rhag bod yn Aelod o’r Senedd neu’n ymgeisydd: personau sydd wedi eu heuogfarnu o ddichell o fewn y pum mlynedd diwethaf (Gwelliant 126) Group 6: Disqualification from being a Member of the Senedd or a candidate: persons convicted of the offence of deception within the previous five years (Amendment 126)
Grŵp 7: Adolygiad o’r posibilrwydd o rannu swyddi sy’n ymwneud â’r Senedd (Gwelliannau 4, 62, 63) Group 7: Review of possible job sharing of offices relating to the Senedd (Amendments 4, 62, 63)
Grŵp 8: Y system bleidleisio yn etholiadau cyffredinol y Senedd a dyrannu seddi (Gwelliannau 21, 51, 22, 23, 117, 31, 32) Group 8: Voting system at Senedd general elections and allocation of seats (Amendments 21, 51, 22, 23, 117, 31, 32)
Grŵp 9: Seddi gwag na ellir eu llenwi yn unol ag adran 11 newydd o Ddeddf Llywodraeth Cymru 2006 (i’w mewnosod gan adran 9 o Fil Senedd Cymru (Aelodau ac Etholiadau)) (Gwelliannau 29, 30, 33, 34, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123) Group 9: Vacant seats that cannot be filled in accordance with new section 11 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (to be inserted by section 9 of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill) (Amendments 29, 30, 33, 34, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123)
Grŵp 10: Gwelliannau cysylltiedig at ddibenion Rhan 2 o Fil Senedd Cymru (Aelodau ac Etholiadau) (y system bleidleisio yn etholiadau cyffredinol y Senedd a dyrannu seddi) (Gwelliannau 64, 65, 66, 67) Group 10: Related amendments for the purposes of Part 2 of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill (voting system at Senedd general elections and allocation of seats) (Amendments 64, 65, 66, 67)
Grŵp 11: Adalw Aelodau o’r Senedd (Gwelliannau 124, 125) Group 11: Recall of Members of the Senedd (Amendments 124, 125)
Grŵp 12: Rhan 3 o Fil Senedd Cymru (Aelodau ac Etholiadau): mân ddiwygiadau a diwygiadau canlyniadol (Gwelliannau 68, 69, 89) Group 12: Part 3 of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill: minor and consequential amendments (Amendments 68, 69, 89)
Grŵp 13: Comisiwn Democratiaeth a Ffiniau Cymru: penodi ac anghymhwyso aelodau, y prif weithredwr a chomisiynwyr cynorthwyol (Gwelliannau 5, 6, 7, 8, 70, 41, 42, 71, 43, 72, 44, 45, 46, 73, 47, 48, 74) Group 13: Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru: appointment and disqualification of members, chief executive and assistant commissioners (Amendments 5, 6, 7, 8, 70, 41, 42, 71, 43, 72, 44, 45, 46, 73, 47, 48, 74)

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 y cyfarfod am 16:32.

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

The meeting began at 16:32.

1. Bil Senedd Cymru (Aelodau ac Etholiadau): Trafodion Cyfnod 2
1. Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill: Stage 2 Proceedings

Dyma ni nawr yn cychwyn felly ar Gyfnod 2 o Fil Senedd Cymru (Aelodau ac Etholiadau). 

We will now commence Stage 2 proceedings of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill. 

Grŵp 1: Adolygu ffiniau etholaethau’r Senedd: diffiniadau a dehongli, cyfnodau ar gyfer sylwadau, adroddiadau, a gweithredu (Gwelliannau 59, 60, 76, 77, 91, 98, 100, 79, 105, 25, 54, 55, 56, 108, 15, 110, 16, 17, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115)
Group 1: Senedd constituency boundary reviews: definitions and interpretation, representation periods, reports, and implementation (Amendments 59, 60, 76, 77, 91, 98, 100, 79, 105, 25, 54, 55, 56, 108, 15, 110, 16, 17, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115)

Mae’r grŵp cyntaf o welliannau yn ymwneud ag adolygu ffiniau etholaethau’r Senedd, gan gynnwys diffiniadau a dehongli, cyfnodau ar gyfer sylwadau, adroddiadau a gweithredu. Gwelliant 59 yw’r prif welliant yn y grŵp yma a dwi’n galw ar y Cwnsler Cyffredinol i gynnig y prif welliant ac i siarad ar y grŵp yma. Mick Antoniw.

The first group of amendments relate to Senedd constituency boundary reviews, including definitions and interpretations, representation period, reports and implementation. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 59 and I call on the Counsel General to move the lead amendment and to speak to other amendments in the group. Mick Antoniw.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 59 (Mick Antoniw).

Amendment 59 (Mick Antoniw) moved.

Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. I’m delighted to open this, the first of our Stage 2 debates on the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill. It’s a debate in which I believe there is considerable consensus and with a range of amendments, both Government and non-government, which are aimed at fine-tuning the effectiveness of this legislation. I will go through the amendments individually.

Amendments 98 and 108 address concerns raised by the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales, the LDBCW, in their written evidence to the Reform Bill Committee, about whether there would be a requirement to republish representations received during the first consultation period at this stage of the review. The amendments have the effect of clarifying that it is only the representations received during the second period of representations that must be published at this stage. They also ensure that any representations received from the Welsh Language Commissioner during the second consultation period are published alongside others received during that period.

Amendment 108 similarly addresses the LDBCW’s concerns that there could be a need to republish representations received during the first and second consultation periods at the final stage of the review. It also has a secondary purpose of ensuring that any representations received from the Welsh Language Commissioner during the final consultation period are published alongside others received during that period.

Amendment 110 provides that if a review determines that changes are required to be made to the boundaries of Senedd constituencies, then the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru's final report must set out the boundaries of all constituencies for which Members of the Senedd are to be returned. This is in addition to the names of all the constituencies and whether a constituency is a county constituency or a borough constituency.

I will also be supporting Darren Millar's amendments 25, 54, 55 and 56. These amendments address concerns expressed by the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales about the requirements to publish representations received during the second consultation period and records of public hearings. These amendments ensure that those representations are published in a way that is user friendly and accessible. They also require the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru, the DBCC, to invite representations on the representations made during the public hearings and on any other representations received, as well as inviting representations on its report. I am therefore pleased to support these amendments.

My own amendment 105 similarly seeks to address concerns previously raised by the LDBCW. Its effect is to clarify that, whilst the chair of public hearings must allow representations to be made by any other person considered by the chair to have an interest in the proposals with which the hearing is concerned, the chair may also determine that it is necessary, due to a shortage of time, to limit the representations to be made at public hearings. The amendment is intended to facilitate management of expectations and to ensure the smooth running of public hearings.

I'd also like to ask the Senedd to support amendment 113, which will ensure that the first set of regulations implementing the determinations of the final report of the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru will set out the boundaries and names of all 16 constituencies and whether they are a county or a borough constituency. In turn, this will ensure that the definition of a 'Senedd constituency' in section 2 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 sets out a complete list of all 16 constituencies.

I do not support Darren Millar's amendment 15, because bringing forward the deadline for completion of boundary reviews from 1 December to 1 November would make delivery of these full reviews challenging, very challenging. In my view, this could mean that the review ahead of the 2030 Senedd election may need to start in advance of the 2026 election, which could cause confusion for the public and voters. I'd therefore urge the Senedd to oppose this amendment.

However, I do support Darren Millar's amendment 16 and its consequential amendment 17, which mean that the timescales for implementing the determinations of the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru would align with the time frames for implementing the UK Parliament's constituencies. In my written response to the Reform Bill Committee's Stage 1 report, I accepted a recommendation on this basis, and therefore am pleased to support these amendments.

This group also contains a number of technical and transitional amendments, which I'd ask the Members to support. Amendment 59 clarifies that a 'Senedd constituency' will be defined by reference to the constituencies set out under paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 until the first set of regulations under section 49J(8) take effect.

Amendment 60 is a consequential amendment that omits the provisions that inserted the existing definition of 'Senedd constituencies' into section 2 of the Government of Wales Act 2006. This amendment will avoid any implication that the redundant provisions in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 continue to have legal effect.

Amendment 76 and amendment 77 clarify that Schedule 1 makes provision about constituencies for a general election held within a specific time period—starting from 6 April 2026 and ending when the first set of regulations takes effect.

Amendment 91 is a technical and transitional amendment made to clarify when Schedule 1 applies for the purpose of making provision about the constituencies for which the Members of the Senedd will be elected. It means that the Senedd constituency boundaries for the 2026 election will remain in place until the first set of regulations provided for in Schedule 2 take effect.

Amendment 100 updates the reference to the Order in Council, made after the introduction of this Bill, in which the new UK Parliament constituencies are specified. It is these constituencies that will be paired as part of the boundary review to take place ahead of the 2026 election.

Amendment 79 clarifies that Schedule 2 makes provision about constituencies for a general election held after the taking effect of the first set of regulations provided for in Schedule 2.

Amendment 111 ensures that the new Senedd constituency boundaries will take effect for any election that takes place up to one month in advance of a scheduled ordinary general election, or on the day in which the ordinary general election was scheduled to have been held, regardless of whether that election is an extraordinary or an ordinary general election. This is to ensure that there were not different boundaries for an extraordinary or a general election.

Amendment 112 ensures that certain terms introduced by Schedule 2 of the Bill are appropriately defined, while amendment 114 ensures that the definition of 'Senedd constituency' is defined by reference to regulations made under paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 until the first set of regulations provided for in Schedule 2 take effect.

Finally, amendment 115 is a technical amendment to clarify that the reference to 'the Act' in this provision is to the 2013 Act. Diolch, Llywydd.

16:40

In making my first contribution to this Stage 2 debate today, I want to put on record my thanks to the Reform Bill Committee team for their work and support in helping Members of this Senedd to prepare in advance of this afternoon's debates. It's been an enormous task for them to help Members to draft and prepare the 126 amendments that have been tabled, and I'm very grateful to them for their support.

And I also want to make it clear that I, along with my Welsh Conservative colleagues and the overwhelming majority of the people of Wales, maintain our fundamental opposition to these unnecessary reforms. Wales does not need more politicians; we need more doctors and dentists. We don't need more Government Ministers; we need more nurses and teachers. And we don't need political parties in the Senedd putting their energies into closed candidate lists; we need to get to grips with NHS waiting lists, poor education standards, and light pay packets.

And then, of course, there are the significant costs of these reforms, which the Welsh Government itself estimates to be just shy of £120 million over the eight-year appraisal period. That's money that I, and Conservatives on these benches, firmly believe should be invested in our national health service, schools, housing and other public services. We don't believe that it should be invested in a job-creation scheme for politicians in Wales.

However, whilst maintaining our full-throated opposition—[Interruption.]

Do you accept that there is a solid argument, actually, for a transfer of some of the funds that are now spent on the largesse within the House of Lords and actually devolving some of that funding out to the regions, including, I have to say, within England as well as Wales, to strengthen local democracy?

I'm a supporter of reform of the House of Lords. Can I just say that whilst—[Interruption.] Whilst I maintain and whilst my party maintains full-throated opposition to this Bill, I do recognise the parliamentary arithmetic in the Senedd and the desire of the majority of Members for change. It's for these reasons that I have sought to engage positively in the scrutiny of this Bill and that I have sought to make a positive contribution to the work of the Reform Bill Committee.

But, Llywydd, if this Senedd reform Bill is ever to enter our statute books, it needs radical surgery before doing so. And it needs that surgery to ensure that it puts voter choice, Member accountability, and fairness at its heart. At present, the new voting system fails to achieve these aims, and that's why I've tabled scores of amendments to the Bill in advance of today, and I will be supporting others that seek to improve this Bill during Stage 2 proceedings.

Now, I want to move amendments 15, 16, 17, 25, 54, 55 and 56 in group 1, all of which have been tabled in my name.

Amendment 15 seeks to address the concerns that were raised by the Association of Electoral Administrators in relation to the publication of future boundary review reports. As Members will be aware, this Bill proposes to rename the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales and call it the 'Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru'. This body is then going to be tasked with undertaking an initial boundary review to pair the current 32 UK parliamentary constituencies into sixteen new Senedd constituencies in advance of the next scheduled Senedd elections in May 2026. The Bill then requires the commission to undertake a further boundary review and to publish a final report before 1 December 2028, and then before 1 December in every eight years thereafter.

Schedule 2 of the Bill sets out the process by which these boundary reviews are to be undertaken, including the reporting requirements for the democracy and boundary commission at each stage of the process. My amendments 25 and 54 seek to clarify the reporting requirements at the second report stage of the review process, requiring the commission to publish only the representations received since the publication of their first report, along with records of any public hearings, and to inform people of how they can access these, along with the second report that they produce.

Amendments 55 and 56 are consequential to amendments 25 and 54, and I'm very grateful to the Minister for indicating his support for these amendments and for the assistance that he and his legal team have provided in the drafting of amendments 54, 55 and 56.

Turning then to my amendment 15. The Reform Bill Committee heard evidence at Stage 1 that 1 December could be problematic as the date coincides with the last date at which the electoral registration officers are required to publish the revised register of electors following the annual canvas. So, the committee suggested that an earlier publication date for the final boundary review report would be desirable, as this would allow electoral registration officers to take the new boundary changes into account prior to publishing their revised registers. We were told that an earlier final reporting date for the commission would avoid both the potential burden of having to make changes to registers and then republish and distribute them, and the potential confusion for register recipients that could be caused. So, amendment 15 changes the publication date for the democracy and boundary commission's final report from 1 December to 1 November in 2028, and every eight years thereafter, in order to address these concerns.

The Bill requires then Welsh Ministers to make regulations within six months to give effect to any boundary changes determined by the commission or to lay a statement before the Senedd within six months, setting out exceptional circumstances that prevent their regulations from being made. My amendments 16 and 17 seek to reduce this time to four months, which is consistent with the timescale for similar regulations as required by the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 2020. There was no compelling evidence whatsoever from any witnesses during the Stage 1 proceedings as to why a six-month period was appropriate, and I'm grateful for the Minister indicating that the Welsh Government will also be supporting those amendments 16 and 17.

And finally, Llywydd, I'm pleased to confirm the support of the Welsh Conservatives for all of the Welsh Government's amendments in this group.

16:45

Hoffwn, fel Darren, ddiolch i bawb o dîm diwygio'r Senedd a hefyd pawb o dîm y Blaid sydd wedi bod yn gweithio’n ddiwyd ar bopeth sydd o'n blaenau ni heddiw, a hoffwn ddechrau fy nghyfraniad drwy bwysleisio natur wirioneddol hanesyddol y Mesur sydd ger ein bron heddiw. Bron i chwarter canrif ar ôl i'n cenedl gymryd ei chamau cyntaf i oes newydd o ddatganoli a phennod newydd yn ei hanes, bydd sylfeini ein democratiaeth werthfawr, a enillwyd yn galed trwy fandad democrataidd dau refferendwm, a'r mwyafrifoedd o blaid datganoli ym mhob etholiad ers 1997, yn cael eu huwchraddio o’r diwedd i adlewyrchu anghenion a heriau'r unfed ganrif ar hugain.

Like Darren, I'd like to thank everyone from the Senedd reform team and everyone in Plaid's team who's been working so diligently on everything in front of us today, and I'd like to begin my contribution by emphasising the genuinely historic nature of the Bill before us today. Almost a quarter of a century after our nation took its first steps into the new era of devolution and a new chapter in its history, the foundations of our valuable democracy, hard won through the democratic mandate secured in two referenda, and the majorities in favour of devolution in every election since 1997, are being upgraded at last to reflect the needs and challenges of the twenty-first century.

Mewn gwirionedd, mae'r angen am y diwygiadau hyn wedi bod yn amlwg ers sbel. Er bod ystod y pwerau sydd gan y Senedd hon yn parhau i fod yn llawer rhy gyfyngedig, yn enwedig o gymharu â Senedd yr Alban, mae cymwyseddau datganoledig Cymru, serch hynny, wedi cynyddu'n sylweddol o ran nifer a chymhlethdod ers 1999, gyda chynnydd o ganlyniad yng nghyfrifoldebau a llwythi gwaith Aelodau etholedig. Er gwaethaf y datblygiadau hyn, dydy trefniadau etholiadol a seneddol datganoli Cymru heb newid drwy gydol y cyfnod hwn. Yn syml, nid yw maint ein Senedd yn darparu’n ddigonol ar gyfer y pwerau sydd ar gael iddi.

Mae enghreifftiau'r Alban a Gogledd Iwerddon yn tanlinellu i ba raddau y mae Cymru dan anfantais yn y cyd-destun hwn. Fel y gwyddom ni oll, mae gan Senedd yr Alban 129 o Aelodau, sy'n cyfateb i un Aelod ar gyfer tua 33,000 o etholwyr. Mae gan Gynulliad Gogledd Iwerddon 90 o Aelodau, sy'n cyfateb i un Aelod ar gyfer tua bob 15,000 o etholwyr. Mewn cyferbyniad, o ran y Senedd hon, os ydych chi'n edrych ar Gymru yn ei chyfanrwydd, gyda 60 Aelod yn unig, mae un Aelod i bob 39,000 o etholwyr. Ar sail y niferoedd hyn yn unig, does dim amheuaeth bod yna ddiffyg democrataidd yma ar hyn o bryd.

Dylem hefyd nodi bod adolygiad diweddaraf o'r ffiniau etholiadol wedi golygu bod dyraniad yr Aelodau Seneddol o Gymru yn San Steffan wedi ei leihau o 40 i 32. Ar hyn o bryd, mae hyn yn gadael Cymru gyda'r gynrychiolaeth etholiadol leiaf o holl wledydd y Deyrnas Unedig, a hynny o bell ffordd. Os edrychwn ni ar hyn yn unig, mae cyflwyno Bil diwygio’r Senedd yn anghenraid democrataidd, ac mae’n siŵr na allai unrhyw un sydd yn wirioneddol credu mewn democratiaeth wrthwynebu hyn. Mae gennym ni hawl i gael democratiaeth sy'n gweithio i Gymru; mae gennym ni hawl i fod yn uchelgeisiol dros y ddemocratiaeth honno. Pam y dylai Cymru wastad fodloni ar gael llai na'r holl wledydd eraill? Mae'n hen bryd i ni gael yr hyn rydym ni ei angen ac yn ei haeddu. 

Mae hefyd yn amlwg y byddai Senedd mwy o faint yn hwyluso atebolrwydd a chraffu mwy effeithiol ar y Llywodraeth. Mae nifer y meysydd polisi datganoledig yn golygu bod Aelodau’r gwrthbleidiau yn aml yn cael portffolios lluosog, gan orlwytho’r gwaith craffu angenrheidiol ar draws nifer cyfyngedig o unigolion. Edrychwch ar ein pwyllgorau ni a'r hyn sy'n gallu cael ei gyflawni gydag aelodaeth mor fach, yn aml.

Bydd cynyddu nifer Aelodau’r Senedd felly yn cyfoethogi, yn gwella ac yn grymuso gwleidyddiaeth gwrthbleidiol yng Nghymru—rhywbeth dwi'n gobeithio y byddai'r Torïaid yn falch ohono, oherwydd mae dal Llywodraeth i gyfrif yn eithriadol o bwysig. Rydyn ni'n sôn am fwy o atebolrwydd, mwy o graffu, tra'n bod hefyd yn uchelgeisiol.

Os ydyn ni'n edrych, felly, ar rai o'r dadleuon rydyn ni eisoes wedi'u clywed gan feinciau'r Torïaid am y gost o gyflawni'r diwygiadau hanfodol hyn, beth ydy'r gost o beidio gwneud hyn? Mae'n rhaid i ni ystyried hefyd y cyd-destun ehangach: nid bai Cymru ydy o, na phobl Cymru, fod yna smonach llwyr wedi'i wneud o economi'r Deyrnas Unedig gan y Llywodraeth Dorïaidd. Edrychwch ar Brexit, Liz Truss, yr argyfwng costau byw: i gyd yn hollol, hollol gysylltiedig efo penderfyniadau yn Downing Street.

Mi soniwyd eisoes ynglŷn â chostau Tŷ’r Arglwyddi. Beth am gostau afresymol adnewyddu San Steffan? Mae yna gymaint o bethau lle mae yna wariant mawr yn cael ei wneud; dydy o ddim yn ormod i ofyn am fuddsoddiad yn ein democratiaeth ni, a bod yn uchelgeisiol o ran hynny.

Rydym hefyd yn falch y bydd y Mesur hwn yn mynd i’r afael â’r angen amlwg am ddiwygio ein system bleidleisio, gan gael gwared unwaith ac am byth ar y system gyntaf i’r felin hynafol sydd wedi bod mor niweidiol i ymgysylltu a chael pleidleiswyr yn frwdfrydig ynglŷn ag etholiadau. Byddwn ni hefyd, wrth gwrs, yn cael gwared o'r holl daflenni sydd yn trio codi ofn ar bobl i bleidleisio mewn un ffordd, gan ddweud, 'Pleidleisiwch fel hyn i stopio rhywun arall.' Bydd cael system fwy cyfrannol yn golygu ei fod o'n fwy o weithred bositif o ran pleidleisio fel hyn. Mae symud tuag at system fwy cyfrannol yn drefniant modern, addas ar gyfer Senedd fodern, gan sicrhau y bydd pob pleidlais a chaiff ei bwrw yn etholiadau’r Senedd yn y dyfodol yn cael effaith ar ddosbarthiad y seddi.

Mi ydym ni ym Mhlaid Cymru wedi bod yn glir o'r cychwyn nad yw’r Bil hwn yn cyflawni popeth yr hoffem ei weld o ran diwygio'r Senedd. Ein polisi ni fel plaid, sydd yn wybyddus eisoes, ydy cefnogi STV yn hytrach na’r system restrau caeedig a fydd yn cael ei gweithredu gan y Bil hwn, a byddwn yn parhau i wthio a gweithio i sicrhau mai am un tro yn unig y byddwn ni’n defnyddio’r rhestrau caeedig, gan geisio defnyddio’r mecanwaith adolygu, wedi 2026, i fireinio ymhellach erbyn 2030.

Fodd bynnag, rydym hefyd yn cydnabod nad oes gan yr un blaid yn y Senedd y mwyafrif o ddwy ran o dair sy’n ofynnol i gyflawni diwygio ar ei phen ei hun, yn ôl y telerau a osodwyd gan y Ceidwadwyr yn San Steffan fel penseiri Deddf Cymru 2017, sy’n rhoi’r grym i ni wneud y diwygiadau i'n system etholiadol. Ac felly, mi ydym ni fel plaid wedi gweithio’n bragmataidd gyda’r Llywodraeth i ddatblygu set o gynigion a fydd yn medru cyrraedd y trothwy anghenrheidiol hwnnw.

Now, truth be told, there has been a clear need for these reforms for a long time. Although the range of powers that this Senedd has continues to be far too limited, particularly compared to the Scottish Parliament, Wales's devolved competencies have, despite this, increased significantly in number and complexity since 1999, with the resulting increase in the responsibilities and workloads of elected Members. Despite these developments, the electoral and parliamentary arrangements of Wales have not changed throughout this devolution era. Simply put, the size of our Senedd does not adequately meet the needs of the powers available to it.

The example of Scotland and Northern Ireland underlines to what extent Wales is at a disadvantage in this context. As we all know, the Scottish Parliament has 129 Members, which equates to one Member for approximately 33,000 constituents. The Northern Ireland Assembly has 90 Members, which equates to one Member for around every 15,000 constituents. And, by contrast, in terms of this Senedd, if you look at Wales in its entirety, it has just 60 Members, or one Member for every 39,000 constituents. Based on these numbers alone, there is no doubt that there is a democratic deficit here at present.

We should also note that a recent review of electoral boundaries has meant that Wales's allocation of parliamentary seats at Westminster has been reduced from 40 to 32. At present, this leaves Wales with the lowest level of electoral representation amongst all UK nations, by a large margin. If we look at this alone, the introduction of the Senedd reform Bill is a democratic necessity, and surely no-one who genuinely believes in democracy could oppose these reforms. We have a right to have a democracy that works for Wales; we have the right to be ambitious for that democracy. Why should Wales always be content to have less than the other nations? It's about time that we have what we need and what we deserve.

It's also clear that a larger Senedd would facilitate accountability and more effective scrutiny of the Government. The number of devolved policy areas means that opposition Members often have multiple portfolios, overloading the vital scrutiny function across a limited number of individuals. Look at our committees and what can be achieved with such a small membership, often.

Increasing the number of Senedd Members will enrich, improve and empower opposition politics in Wales—something that I hope the Conservatives would be pleased to see, because holding the Government to account is vitally important. We're talking about more accountability, more scrutiny, whilst also being ambitious.

If we look, therefore, at some of the arguments that we've heard from the Conservative benches about the cost of delivering these vital reforms, what's the cost of not doing this? We also have to consider the wider context: it's not Wales's fault, nor that of the Welsh people, that there has been an entire mess made of the UK economy by the Conservative Government. Look at Brexit, Liz Truss, the cost-of-living crisis: all taken together, all related to decisions made in Downing Street.

It was also mentioned regarding the costs of the House of Lords. What about the unreasonable costs of restoring Westminster? There are so many things where huge levels of expenditure are seen; it's not too much to ask for an investment in our democracy, and to be ambitious in that regard.

We're also pleased that this Bill will tackle the clear need to reform our voting system, abolishing once and for all the dated first-past-the-post system that's been so damaging to engagement and the ability to get voters to be enthusiastic about elections. We'd also, of course, be getting rid of all of the leaflets that try to frighten people into voting in a certain way, saying, 'Vote this way to stop someone else.' Having that more proportional system would mean that it's more of a positive act when we vote. Moving to a more proportional system is an appropriate and modern arrangement for a modern Parliament, which means that every vote cast in Senedd elections in the future will have an impact on the distribution of seats.

We in Plaid Cymru have been open from the outset that this Bill doesn't deliver everything that we would wish to see in terms of Senedd reform. Our policy as a party, which is well known to all, is that we support STV rather than the closed list system that will be implemented by this Bill, and we will continue with our calls that we will be using the closed list system but once, using the review mechanism, following 2026, to refine the system further by 2030.

However, we also acknowledge that no one party in the Senedd has the two-thirds majority required to secure reform alone, according to the terms set by the Conservatives in Westminster as the architects of the Wales Act 2017, which gives us the powers to amend our electoral systems. Therefore, we have as a party worked pragmatically with the Government to develop a set of proposals that will enable us to reach that threshold.

16:55

Thank you very much for taking an intervention. I'm sure you know what I'm going to ask. You've talked there about the issue around working together. I wonder if your party have challenged Labour as to why they are sticking to closed lists and why that's putting you in the position of only supporting that. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Dro ar ôl tro, heb os—dwi ddim yn meddwl fy mod i'n datgelu unrhyw gyfrinachau yn y fan yna—mae wedi bod yn glir mai safbwynt Plaid Cymru ydy STV, ond beth sydd gennym ni ydy ffordd bragmataidd o symud pethau ymlaen. Ond, yn sicr,  mae hynny wedi'i herio dro ar ôl tro.

Ein nod ni fel plaid wleidyddol ydy bod yn barod i weithio'n adeiladol er budd holl bobl Cymru, bob amser yn rhoi buddiannau ein pobl a'n cenedl ni yn flaenllaw i'n gweithredu.

Gan droi at sylwedd y gwelliannau yn y grŵp hwn, rydym yn fodlon â rhesymeg y rhai a gyflwynwyd gan y Cwnsler Cyffredinol. Byddwn hefyd yn cefnogi gwelliannau 16, 17, 25, 54, 55 a 56, gan ein bod yn credu eu bod yn sicrhau aliniad priodol rhwng amserlenni adolygiadau ffiniau’r Senedd a deddfwriaeth gyfatebol y Deyrnas Unedig, ac yn gwella tryloywder y gwaith a fydd yn cael ei wneud gan y Comisiwn Democratiaeth a Ffiniau Cymru newydd. Fodd bynnag, rydym yn cytuno â’r Llywodraeth fod gwelliannau 15, 24, 27 a 28 yn ddyblygiadau llai safonol o’r rhai sydd eisoes wedi’u gosod gan y Cwnsler Cyffredinol, ac felly byddwn yn gwrthwynebu’r gwelliannau hyn.

Time and time again—I don't think I'm sharing any secrets there—it's been clear that Plaid Cymru's stance is STV, but what we have is a pragmatic way forward. But, certainly, that decision has been challenged time and time again.

Our aim as a political party is to work constructively for the benefit of all Wales's people, putting the interests of our people and our nation at the heart of our actions.

Turning to the substance of the amendments in this group, we are content with the rationale behind those tabled by the Counsel General. We'll also be supporting amendments 16, 17, 25, 54, 55 and 56, as we believe that they ensure appropriate alignment between the Senedd's boundary review timetables and corresponding UK legislation, and improve the transparency of the work undertaken by the new Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru. However, we agree with the Government that amendments 15, 24, 27 and 28 are less satisfactory duplications of amendments already tabled by the Counsel General. We will therefore oppose these amendments.

Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol nawr i ymateb i'r ddadl.

The Counsel General to reply to the debate.

Diolch, Llywydd. Firstly, can I just agree with, I think, all Members that this is indeed a historic Bill? We did obviously go through the details of the Bill in the principles debate, so I just want to assert one point, as far as I'm concerned, and as far as the Welsh Government is concerned: this Bill is an investment in democracy, and it's also an investment in the future of Wales.

I'm grateful to the Members for their constructive contributions to this debate and, indeed, for the constructive engagement we've had in the preparation leading up to this particular stage. I believe that a range of amendments tabled in this group will address the concerns that were raised by the local democracy and boundary commission during Stage 1, illustrating the positive impact that legislative scrutiny can have in shaping our laws. So, I'd ask Members to support the amendments tabled in my name and also the number, as I've outlined, that were tabled by Darren Millar.

Y cwestiwn, felly, yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 59? A oes unrhyw Aelod yn gwrthwynebu? Does dim gwrthwynebiad i welliant 59, felly mae gwelliant 59 wedi'i gymeradwyo.

The question is that amendment 59 be agreed to. Does any Member object? There are no objections to amendment 59, and amendment 59 is therefore agreed.

Derbyniwyd y y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 12.36.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 60 (Mick Antoniw).

Amendment 60 (Mick Antoniw) moved.

Mae gwelliant 60 yn cael ei gynnig. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 60? A oes unrhyw Aelod yn gwrthwynebu? Nac oes. Felly, mae gwelliant 60 wedi'i gymeradwyo.

Amendment 60 is moved. The question is that amendment 60 be agreed to. Does any Member object? No. Therefore, amendment 60 is agreed

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 12.36.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

Grŵp 2: Effaith pa mor aml y cynhelir etholiadau cyffredinol cyffredin ar benodiadau cyhoeddus (Gwelliant 35)
Group 2: Impact of frequency of ordinary general elections on public appointments (Amendment 35)

Grŵp 2 fydd nesaf, felly. Mae'r grŵp nesaf yma o welliannau yn ymwneud ag effaith—[Torri ar draws.]—pa mor aml y cynhelir etholiadau cyffredinol cyffredin ar benodiadau cyhoeddus. Gwelliant 35 yw'r prif welliant yn y grŵp yma. Dwi'n galw ar Darren Millar i gyflwyno'r gwelliant hwnnw. 

We now move to group 2. This group of amendments relates to the impact—[Interruption.]—of the frequency of ordinary general elections on public appointments. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 35, and I call on Darren Millar to move the amendment. 

17:00

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 35 (Darren Millar).

Amendment 35 (Darren Millar) moved.

Diolch, Llywydd. I can see there are floods of support from the Labour backbenches already. [Laughter.] I rise to speak to amendment 35 tabled in my name. As I've indicated throughout the passage of this Bill, the move from five to four-year terms of office for Members of the Welsh Parliament is something that we Welsh Conservatives welcome. Parliamentary term lengths are a balancing act between democratic legitimacy and having sufficient time between an election to implement a manifesto. It's important to ensure that any Welsh Government has the time to implement its contract with the public, but it's equally important that the Senedd is representative of the public mood of the time. 

But changing parliamentary term lengths can, of course, have unintended consequences, and this amendment attempts to address potential issues with public appointments. At present, there are a plethora of public appointments made by Welsh Ministers, the Senedd Commission and the Senedd, with significant inconsistencies in the length of terms of office, and the way in which appointments are made. The length of parliamentary terms can be an important factor in determining the appropriate length of the term of office for people with a public appointment, and this can be seen in the different lengths of terms that have been agreed for those individuals who've been appointed by the Senedd and the Welsh Government over the years at different times.

The Senedd Commissioner for Standards, for example, is appointed by the Senedd with a single six-year term. The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales is appointed by the Senedd for a single seven-year term. The term of office for members of the Independent Remuneration Board of the Senedd is five years that can be renewed for a further five. The Children's Commissioner for Wales is appointed to serve a four-year term that can be renewed for a further four years, while the Older People's Commissioner for Wales is appointed by Welsh Ministers, not the Senedd, for a four-year renewable term, and the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales for a single seven-year term. It really is all over the place, and there's a huge amount of inconsistency with terms of variable length, some of which may not be suitable, particularly should the term of office for Members and Ministers shift back to four years.

It's for this reason that I've tabled amendment 25. That amendment would require Ministers to undertake a review and to publish a report on the impact of four-year Senedd terms on future public appointments made by Ministers, and there would also be a similar requirement placed upon the Senedd Commission in relation to Commission and Senedd appointments. These reports would need to be published once the reviews are complete, and laid before the Senedd within 12 months of the next Senedd elections for consideration by Members. And, of course, this does bring about one of the recommendations that was made by the Reform Bill Committee at Stage 1. I urge Members to support the amendment.   

Nid ydym yn gefnogol o’r gwelliant yma. Fel sydd yn cael ei wneud eisoes, bydd dal modd i’r Llywodraeth a’r Senedd ystyried goblygiadau ymarferol fel maen nhw’n codi. Yn San Steffan, does yna ddim tymhorau pendant o gwbl mwyach ar ôl diddymu’r Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, ac maen nhw i'w weld yn llwyddo i drefnu apwyntiadau cyhoeddus o gwmpas hynny, felly does dim rheswm i hyn fod yn drech na ni yma chwaith. Yn wir, mae’r Pwyllgor Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus a Gweinyddiaeth Gyhoeddus wrthi’n cynnal ymchwiliad i mewn i benodiadau cyhoeddus ar hyn o bryd. Felly, mae o’n faes mae’r Senedd yn barod yn cymryd diddordeb byw ynddo, yn briodol felly, a rydym yn teimlo mai hwnnw yw’r fforwm mwyaf priodol i graffu ar benodiadau cyhoeddus yn y cyswllt yma at y dyfodol, gan gynnwys cadw trosolwg o sut mae’r Llywodraeth a Chomisiwn y Senedd yn ymateb i newid yn hyd tymhorau’r Senedd.

Rydym yn deall bod yna rai swyddi, fel yr archwilydd cyffredinol ac aelodau o’r bwrdd taliadau, er enghraifft, lle mae hyd eu tymhorau wedi eu gosod mewn deddfwriaeth gynradd, ac yn achos yr archwilydd, bod y penodiad am uchafswm o wyth mlynedd. Mae yna rywfaint o ddatgysylltiad rhwng etholiadau Senedd a’r penodiadau yma, a allai o bosibl gynnig mwy o warchodaeth o ran annibyniaeth lwyr y swyddogaethau, a bod lleihau hyd tymhorau i bedair blynedd yn golygu y byddant, o bosibl, yn cyd-fynd yn agos gyda’r penodiadau. Fodd bynnag, does yna ddim dal pryd all swyddi gwag ar gyfer penodiadau cyhoeddus godi trwy gydol tymor seneddol, yn ddibynnol, wrth gwrs, ar nifer o ffactorau megis rhywun yn ymddiswyddo, rhywun yn ymddeol neu, yn anffodus, fel rydym ni wedi gweld, marwolaeth, a thymhorau amrywiol. Ac felly, fyddai'r rheini ddim yn cwympo’n daclus i'r patrwm yma.

Mae’r annibyniaeth yn dod yn sgil y ffaith bod y penodiadau a’r gyllideb yn cael eu gosod, yn achos yr archwilydd, gan y Senedd, nid y Llywodraeth. Felly, y ffordd orau, mae’n debyg, i warchod annibyniaeth y penodiadau cyhoeddus sy’n gyfrifol am graffu ar y Llywodraeth ydy ymestyn nifer y penodiadau mae’r Senedd ei hun, yn hytrach na’r Llywodraeth, yn eu gwneud, fel sydd wedi bod yn destun trafod am nifer o flynyddoedd yn achos y comisiynwyr, er enghraifft.

Nid ydym yn argyhoeddedig, felly, fod angen rhoi dyletswydd ychwanegol ar y Llywodraeth ac ar Gomisiwn y Senedd i lunio a chyhoeddi adroddiad penodol ar hyn. Byddai’n gofyn am adnodd a chost ychwanegol, rhywbeth mae’r Ceidwadwyr wedi bod yn poeni yn fawr amdano fo, er mwyn adrodd yn benodol ar effaith lleihau tymor y Senedd o un flwyddyn mewn gwirionedd o bum i bedair blynedd. Mae’r gwelliant yma hefyd yn rhy gyfyng—mae’n debyg bod sawl Deddf yn cyfeirio at orfod adrodd ar wahanol bethau 'ym mhob tymor seneddol' y tu hwnt i benodiadau cyhoeddus, megis Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol (Cymru) 2015.

Felly, ein disgwyliad ydy bod y Llywodraeth a’r Comisiwn yn delio efo’r goblygiadau yn rhagweithiol wrth i'r Senedd benderfynu newid hyd tymhorau, sydd yn ei hanfod yn beth da i ddemocratiaeth, ac sy’n rhoi mwy o rym i'r bobl ac yn mynd â’r Senedd yn ôl at ei gwreiddiau o ran hyd ei thymhorau gwreiddiol, a bod y Senedd, felly, drwy ei phwyllgorau, yn parhau i graffu ar sut mae swyddogaethau penodiadau cyhoeddus y cyrff yma yn cael eu gweithredu.

We do not support this amendment. As is already done, the Government and the Senedd will still be able to consider the practical implications as they arise. In Westminster, there are no longer any fixed terms of office following the revocation of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, and they seem to succeed in arranging public appointments around those new arrangements, so there's no reason for that to be beyond us here either. Indeed, the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee is holding an inquiry into public appointments at present. So, it is an area that the Senedd is already taking a live interest in, appropriately so, and we feel that that is the most appropriate forum to scrutinise public appointments in this regard for the future, including maintaining an overview of how the Government and the Senedd Commission respond to changes to Senedd terms. 

We understand that there are some roles, such as those of the auditor general and members of the remuneration board, for example, for which the length of the term of office is set out in primary legislation, and in the case of the auditor general, that the appointment is for a maximum of eight years. There is some disconnect between Senedd elections and these appointments, which could possibly offer more protection in terms of the complete independence of these functions, and that decreasing the length of terms to four years would mean that they would correspond closely, potentially, to these appointments. However, there is no telling when an empty post for a public appointment could arise during a Senedd term, dependent on different factors such as somebody resigning, retiring, or unfortunately, as we have seen, passing away. And so, they would not fall neatly into this pattern. 

The independence comes from the fact that appointments and the budget are set, in the case of the auditor general, by the Senedd, not the Government. So the best way, it would appear, to secure the independence of the public appointments that are responsible for scrutinising the Government is to extend the number of appointments that the Senedd itself, rather than the Government, makes, as has been discussed for several years in the case of the commissioners, for example.

We are not convinced, therefore, that an additional duty needs to be placed on the Government and on the Senedd Commission to publish a specific report on this, which would require additional costs and resources, something the Conservatives have been very concerned about, to report on the impact of decreasing the Senedd term by one year from four to five years. This amendment is too limiting, too—many Acts mention having to report 'in every Senedd term' beyond public appointments, for example the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

So, our expectation is that the Government and the Commission would deal with the implications proactively if the Senedd decides to change the length of terms, which at its heart is good for democracy, and provides more powers for people, and takes the Senedd back to its roots in terms of the length of its original terms, and that the Senedd, through its committees, continues to scrutinise how specific functions of public appointments are delivered. 

17:05

Diolch, Llywydd. I am grateful to Darren Millar for tabling amendment 35, as it does raise an important point about the implications of a change to the frequency of ordinary general elections for public appointments in Wales. On that point, and as this is the only amendment in relation to section 3 of the Bill, I would like to take the opportunity to say that I'm pleased that there's been broad support, and considerable support, for changing Senedd terms back to four years.

It is important that the implications of such a change are fully considered. However, I do not support Darren Millar's amendment 35. In my response to recommendation 13 of the Reform Bill Committee, I confirmed that consideration has been given to the term lengths of Welsh Government-led public appointments in the light of the proposed move to four-year Senedd terms. No legislative implications have been identified as a result of this consideration. I am continuing to give consideration to any practical implications arising for individual public appointments in the light of the proposed move to four-year Senedd terms. However, it is important that any implications are considered on a case-by-case basis and in an appropriate time frame for each. Therefore, the arbitrary time frame set out in the amendment could hinder rather than assist that work. 

I also note that the Llywydd, on behalf of the Senedd Commission, accepted the Reform Bill Committee's recommendation 12, which asked the Senedd Commission to consider whether any changes are required to the process of undertaking Senedd-led, or Senedd Commission-led, public appointments to account for more frequent electoral cycles. Consequently, I do not believe that this amendment is necessary, and the Government and Senedd Commission, those caught by the proposed duties, have already committed to undertake the work. Diolch, Llywydd. 

Diolch, Llywydd, and thank you to both the Counsel General and the Plaid spokesperson for their consideration of this matter. We're all agreed, aren't we, that there are implications for the length of terms. We're all concerned about the inconsistencies in the appointments processes for different commissioners and other corporations sole, and that these things need to be looked at. I can remember participating in a Public Accounts Committee inquiry when I chaired that committee, a long time ago now, and we made a recommendation to the Welsh Government to undertake a review, and that still, unfortunately, hasn't been done.

I've heard what the Minister has said in relation to the Welsh Government giving a firm commitment to undertake a piece of work in conjunction with the Senedd Commission in order that we can try to see whether there's anything that does need to be looked at as far as a legislative change is concerned, but I would say that, at some point, it will require legislation in order to do this, and it's not appropriate, as has been suggested by Heledd Fychan, to simply do this on a piece-by-piece basis. It does need some focus and energy being spent on it in order that we can get it right in an efficient way to deal with these things once and for all. But on the basis of the commitments that the Minister has given, and what he has shared about the co-operation that's happening with the Senedd Commission, too, I am prepared to withdraw this amendment.

17:10

Felly, mae gwelliant 35—y cais yw i dynnu'r gwelliant hwnnw'n nôl. A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad i hynny? Nac oes. Felly, mae gwelliant 35 wedi'i dynnu'n ôl.

So, amendment 35—there's a request to withdraw that amendment. Is there any objection to that withdrawal? There is none. Therefore, amendment 35 is withdrawn. 

Tynnwyd gwelliant 35 yn ôl gyda chaniatâd y pwyllgor.

Amendment 35 withdrawn by leave of the committee.

Grŵp 3: Mân newidiadau drafftio yn y Gymraeg (Gwelliannau 61, 75, 90, 78, 80, 58)
Group 3: Minor drafting changes in the Welsh language (Amendments 61, 75, 90, 78, 80, 58)

Grŵp 3 fydd nesaf. Mân newidiadau drafftio yn y Gymraeg yw'r gyfres yma o welliannau. Gwelliant 61 yw'r prif welliant yn y grŵp, a dwi'n galw ar y Cwnsler Cyffredinol i gynnig y prif welliant, ac i siarad i'r grŵp. Mick Antoniw.

We move now to group 3: minor drafting changes in the Welsh language. The lead amendment is amendment 61, and I call on the Counsel General to move the lead amendment and to speak to the group. Mick Antoniw.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 61 (Mick Antoniw). 

Amendment 61 (Mick Antoniw) moved.

Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. This group of technical amendments corrects the erroneous use of the incorrect terminology 'Aelodau'r Senedd' in the Cymraeg version of the Bill as introduced. Correcting these errors to 'Aelodau o'r Senedd' will help to ensure that the statute book remains accurate, accessible and consistent, and I'd ask Members to support these amendments. Diolch.

Just briefly, we support all of the amendments in this group. It is a shame that these amendments are having to be brought forward. I would have hoped that the Welsh Government's lawyers would be able to be on top of these things first time around, rather than you having to come back, bring them and deal with them through amendments, particularly given the time and the money that was spent on developing this particular Bill. Perhaps the Minister can explain, in his response to this particular debate on this group, why on earth they didn't get the drafting right the first time.

Llywydd, in replying to the Member, while every effort is made to ensure accuracy in the drafting when a Bill is introduced, it was, as necessary, developed at considerable pace, in order for the Senedd to have the opportunity to scrutinise it in detail and for it to be implemented in time for the 2026 election. I'd say also that the fact that these areas have been identified during legislative scrutiny illustrates the positive impact that such scrutiny can deliver, and I'll just again ask Members to support these amendments. Diolch.

Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 61? A oes unrhyw Aelod yn gwrthwynebu? Nac oes. Felly, mae gwelliant 61 wedi'i dderbyn.

The proposal is to agree amendment 61. Does any Member object? No. Amendment 61 is therefore agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Grŵp 4: Cynyddu nifer uchaf Gweinidogion Cymru drwy reoliadau (Gwelliannau 1, 52, 3)
Group 4: Increase in maximum number of Welsh Ministers by regulations (Amendments 1, 52, 3)

Grŵp 4 o welliannau sydd nesaf. Mae'r rhain yn ymwneud â chynyddu nifer uchaf Gweinidogion Cymru drwy reoliadau. Gwelliant 1 yw'r prif welliant yn y grŵp yma. Dwi'n galw ar Darren Millar i gynnig y gwelliant hwnnw.

We move now to group 4, which relates to increasing the maximum number of Welsh Ministers by regulations. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 1, and I call on Darren Millar to move that amendment. 

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 1 (Darren Millar).

Amendment 1 (Darren Millar) moved.

Diolch, Llywydd. I move amendment 1, tabled in my name. At present, the Government of Wales Act 2006 sets a limit of 12 on the maximum number of people that can hold ministerial office in the Welsh Government, in addition to the First Minister and the Counsel General. Section 5 of this Bill proposes to increase that maximum number from 12 to 17, and it then inserts a new regulation-making power that enables Welsh Ministers to increase that number to up to 19, subject to a simple majority vote in the Senedd. Once increased, the number of Ministers can never be reduced back to 17 without primary legislation.

Now, it's important for everyone in this Chamber to note that one of the central arguments that proponents of this Bill have made is that it is designed to improve the scrutiny of the Welsh Government—we've heard that argument already being made in this Chamber this afternoon. So, the larger the size of the Executive, the more this argument that the Welsh Government is going to get more scrutiny is undermined. And it's for this reason that I am firmly of the view that any increase in the number of Ministers ought to be significantly less than the proportional increase in the number of Members of the Senedd. Now, it is less, but it's only very, very marginally less, as the Counsel General will know. 

The Bill, in the explanatory memorandum, envisages a Welsh Government with up to seven more Ministers, with 19 extra Members of the Senedd to scrutinise them, and between just one and three Senedd committees to help them facilitate this—29 rather, extra Members of the Senedd to scrutinise them, and between just one and three extra Senedd committees to help them facilitate this. Now, do we really think that having between one and three extra Senedd committees to scrutinise another seven Ministers is sufficient? I don't. And that's why I don't think that this is appropriate—this extension, particularly, to 19.

In spite of this, the Reform Bill Committee received evidence that while the proposed increases of the number of Welsh Ministers to 17 may be appropriate to some people, support for an increase to 19 Ministers was less clear. And there were a number of witnesses who expressed concerns about the mechanism to increase the limit to 19 Ministers. Professor Alan Renwick told the Reform Bill Committee that, as a matter of principle, the maximum number of Welsh Ministers should be set out in primary legislation and not be subject to regulations. And we must remember that this Bill, given its significance, will require a supermajority in this Senedd before it can become law. So, if this Parliament surrenders powers over increasing the number of Ministers to a simple majority vote in a future Senedd, it should not do so lightly. The Member in charge told us that the increase in the number of Ministers was needed given the additional powers transferred to the Senedd since 2006, and also the very broad and unwieldy portfolios held by some Ministers. No doubt he was referring to the Minister for Climate Change, for example, whom he sits beside in this Chamber. 

17:15

But the reality is—. I'm glad to hear you say that it is not unwieldy, Minister, because that's the evidence that your colleague provided to us. So, perhaps he should reconsider it. [Laughter.] But the reality is that portfolio responsibilities need not be so broad. They are allocated directly by the First Minister, and we have never seen such broad portfolios before this Senedd, frankly. So, if any future First Minister so wished—listen up, Jeremy and Vaughan—you could allocate them in a more balanced manner, so that we wouldn't have these problems.

So, with regard to the increase from 17 to up to 19, the Minister then asserted that the circumstances that could trigger such a request could be the further devolution of powers to the Senedd or, more worryingly, simply to help accommodate future coalition Governments. Now, I do not accept those arguments. I cannot envisage any circumstances where further significant devolution of powers would come to the Senedd without sufficient notice for us to be able to legislate for additional Ministers should they ever be justified. And I cannot accept that the purpose of this Bill ought to be drafting it in such a way as to simply be convenient for any future Government to form coalitions. That is why my amendment 1 would remove that regulation-making power in its entirety, allowing for an increase in the maximum number of Ministers to 19 from the face of the Bill.

In the event that amendment 1 is not agreed, I'll be moving amendment 52. Amendment 52 would introduce a requirement for any increase above 17 Ministers to be subject to the agreement of a supermajority of Members in this Senedd, and not a simple majority. And amendment 3 seeks to introduce a sunset clause, as I said earlier. At the moment, on the face of the Bill, a simple majority, and then, regardless of whether it could be justified that you could go down to 17 Ministers in the future, you would have to have primary legislation to do so. So, my amendment 3 seeks to introduce a sunset clause onto the face of the Bill. The effect of this would be that any regulations to agree an increase in the number of Ministers would expire at the end of each Senedd term, requiring any future First Minister who wanted to appoint more than 17 Ministers to have a fresh vote, and to have to justify that increase after each election. And it should be noted that all of these amendments give effect to recommendations 6, 7 and 8 of the Reform Bill Committee's Stage 1 report. I therefore commend them to the Siambr.

Mi ydyn ni wedi bod yn glir o’r cychwyn: er bod y Bil hwn yn gam pwysig ymlaen yn esblygiad ein democratiaeth, nid dyma ddiwedd y daith o bell ffordd. Mae geiriau enwog Ron Davies am ddatganoli fel proses yn hytrach na digwyddiad yn parhau i fod mor berthnasol ag erioed.

Yn hyn o beth, mae'n hanfodol nad yw’r sylfeini cyfansoddiadol newydd yr ydym yn eu rhoi ar waith heddiw yn atal y posibilrwydd o fireinio pellach, gan alluogi'r Senedd hon i fynd i'r afael yn effeithiol â heriau’r dyfodol. Am y rheswm yma, dŷn ni'n credu y dylai fod mecanweithiau i ganiatáu’r Senedd gynyddu nifer y Gweinidogion yn ôl yr amgylchiadau. Ni allwn, felly, gefnogi gwelliant 1, a fyddai, i bob pwrpas, yn rhewi yn barhaol maint pob Cabinet dilynol, waeth beth fo'r hinsawdd wleidyddol y maent yn gweithredu ynddi.

Fel y mae'r Gweinidog eisoes wedi'i awgrymu, gallai hyn fod yn niweidiol at ddibenion diogelu datganoli yng Nghymru at y dyfodol. Nid yw natur y pwerau a roddwyd i’r Senedd wedi sefyll yn ei hunfan ers 1999, yn unol â dymuniadau democrataidd etholwyr Cymru. Mae'n hollol resymol, felly, y dylai capasiti y Llywodraeth gael yr hyblygrwydd angenrheidiol i ymateb yn yr un modd.

Byddem hefyd yn dadlau bod profiadau’r ychydig flynyddoedd diwethaf, wrth ymdrin ag effeithiau Brexit, y pandemig a’r argyfwng costau byw, wedi dangos yn glir pa mor bwysig yw creu gwytnwch a’r gallu i addasu yn ein pensaernïaeth gyfansoddiadol. Mae’r heriau aruthrol sydd i ddod, wrth gwrs, yn cynnwys bygythiad difrifol yr argyfwng hinsawdd, yn golygu bod yn rhaid i'n sefydliadau democrataidd gael yr offer perthnasol i ymateb yn gyflym ac yn effeithiol. Nid dim ond gallu ymateb yn gyflym i argyfyngau ac amgylchiadau sydd angen chwaith. Yn ogystal ag ehangu maint y Senedd, rydym angen symud ar fyrder, yn unol ag argymhelliad y comisiwn cyfansoddiadol, i ehangu pwerau’r Senedd ac iddi fod yn gyfrifol am greu system gyfiawnder i Gymru, rheolaeth o Ystâd y Goron, goruchwylio darlledu a chyfathrebu, gweinyddiaeth lles, rheilffyrdd, i enwi dim ond rhai o'r meysydd angenrheidiol.

Fodd bynnag, gan y byddai unrhyw newid yng nghyfanswm nifer y Gweinidogion yn effeithio’n sylweddol ar waith craffu’r gwrthbleidiau, rydym yn cydnabod yr angen i unrhyw newidiadau gael eu cymeradwyo’n eang yn y Senedd. Byddwn felly yn cefnogi gwelliant 52, sy’n ei gwneud yn ofynnol i unrhyw gynnydd o’r fath yn nifer y Gweinidogion dderbyn pleidlais fwyafrif o ddwy ran o dair yn y Senedd.

We've been clear from the outset: although this Bill is an important step forward in the evolution of our democracy, this isn't the end of the journey by any means. The famous quote of Ron Davies about devolution as a process rather than an event is as true today as it ever was.

In this regard, it is crucial that the constitutional foundations that we are putting in place today do not preclude the possibility of further refinement, enabling this Senedd to tackle effectively the challenges of the future. For that reason, we believe that there should be mechanisms in place to allow the Senedd to increase the number of Ministers, should circumstances demand. We cannot therefore support amendment 1, which, to all intents and purposes, would permanently freeze the size of every Cabinet in the future, whatever the political climate they operate in.

As the Minister has already suggested, this could be damaging to the purposes of safeguarding devolution in Wales for the future. The nature of the powers provided to the Senedd hasn't stood still since 1999, in accordance with the democratically expressed views of the people of Wales. It is totally reasonable, therefore, that the Government's capacity should have the necessary flexibility to respond in the same way.

We would also argue that the experiences of the past few years, in dealing with the impacts of Brexit, the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, have shown clearly how important it is to have resilience and the ability to adapt in our constitutional architecture. The huge challenges to come, of course, will include the serious threat of climate change, and that means that our democratic institutions have to have the necessary equipment to respond quickly and effectively. It's not only responding quickly to crises that's required either. As well as expanding the size of the Senedd, we need to move as a matter of urgency, in accordance with the recommendations of the constitutional commission, to expand the powers of the Senedd and for it to be responsible for creating a justice system for Wales, management of the Crown Estate, oversight of communications and broadcasting, the administration of welfare, railways, just to name a few.

However, as any change in the number of Ministers would have a significant impact on the scrutiny work of opposition parties, we recognise the need for any changes to be supported broadly in the Senedd. We will therefore support amendment 52, which makes it a requirement for any increase of this kind in the number of Ministers to receive a two-thirds majority vote in the Senedd. 


17:20

Diolch, Llywydd. I may have some good news for the Member opposite, because although I do not support amendment 1 in this group, and that is because it would remove the power to increase the legislative limit on Welsh Ministers through secondary legislation, the inclusion of this power provides for futureproofing, enabling future Welsh Governments to react quickly and flexibly to circumstances without the need to utilise primary legislation for the sole purpose of increasing the legislative limit by one or two Ministers. This could be necessary due to the devolution of further powers, as has been outlined already.

I am receptive to the principle behind amendment 3, which would create create a sunset effect upon the use of the power to increase the legislative limit on Welsh Ministers. But as I detailed in my response to the reform committee’s report, Welsh Government officials have explored the potential for similar amendments of this nature. However, such an amendment, including amendment 3, will necessarily impact on section 48 of the Government of Wales Act 2006, which is protected from modification. So, on that basis, I cannot support the amendment.

However, I do support amendment 52, as tabled by Darren Millar, which applies a requirement for a two-thirds majority vote on the power to increase the legislative limit on Welsh Ministers. It is important to state that the application of a supermajority would generally be incompatible with the intention of subordinate legislation to enable a Government to react quickly and flexibly to circumstances. However, I am very mindful that this particular power has a corresponding impact on the capacity of the Senedd. For this reason, framed by the particular nature of this constitutional Bill and the narrow circumstances associated with this power, I am happy to support this amendment.

Thank you, Llywydd. I'm very pleased to hear of the Government's support for the amendment in relation to a supermajority vote being required in order to increase the number of Ministers. I think it is entirely appropriate that that should be the case, given the significance of making that decision.

I heard the Minister's comments as well in relation to my amendment No. 3, which would seek to introduce a sunset clause. I make this offer to the Minister: I'd be very happy to work with you, Minister, to try and come up with an alternative way of amending the Bill in order to provide for a sunset clause after each Senedd election, or upon the appointment of a new Cabinet for the first time after a Senedd election, in order to achieve the same aims.

But in the meantime, I will still be wanting to push to a vote my amendment 1, because, as I said earlier, I think we have a principled objection to having such a significantly high number of Ministers provided for on the face of the Bill, given the limited extra capacity that the explanatory memorandum points to in terms of scrutiny committees to hold those additional Ministers to account. So, I urge Members to support amendment 1. Obviously, if that fails to go forward, then, of course, I will move amendment 52, and I'd be grateful for the support from both Plaid Cymru and the Minister in addressing that issue. Diolch.

17:25

Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 1, felly? Ac os ydy gwelliant 1 yn cael ei dderbyn, bydd gwelliannau 52 a 3 yn methu. A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad i welliant 1? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad i welliant 1, ac felly symudwn i bleidlais ar welliant 1. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 15, neb yn ymatal, 41 yn erbyn. Felly, mae gwelliant 1 wedi cwympo.

The question is that amendment 1 be agreed to. And if amendment 1 is agreed, amendments 52 and 3 fall. Is there any objection to amendment 1? [Objection.] There is objection, and I therefore call for a vote on amendment 1. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 15, no abstentions, and 41 against. Therefore, amendment 1 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 1: O blaid: 15, Yn erbyn: 41, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 1: For: 15, Against: 41, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Felly, gwelliant 52. Ydy e'n cael ei symud?

So, we move now to amendment 52. Is it moved? 

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 52 (Darren Millar).

Amendment 52 (Darren Millar) moved.

Ydy, gwelliant 52. Oes yna wrthwynebiad i welliant 52? Na, does dim gwrthwynebiad i welliant 52. Felly mae gwelliant 52 wedi ei gymeradwyo.

It is; the question is that amendment 52 be agreed to. Is there any objection? No, there is no objection to amendment 52. And therefore it is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Tynnwyd gwelliant 2 yn ôl.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.

Gwelliant 3 nesaf. Yn cael ei symud gan—

We now move to amendment 3. Is it moved?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 3 (Darren Millar).

Amendment 3 (Darren Millar) moved.

I will move, but I’m happy to withdraw if I can have a commitment from the Minister in relation to working with him to bring forward an amendment at Stage 3.

That’s a commitment, so that’s a request for amendment 3 to be withdrawn. Unless there’s any objection to that, we’ll allow Members to discuss that further before Stage 3.

Tynnwyd gwelliant 3 yn ôl gyda chaniatâd y pwyllgor.

Amendment 3 withdrawn by leave of the committee.

Grŵp 5: Anghymhwyso rhag bod yn Aelod o’r Senedd neu’n ymgeisydd: personau nad ydynt wedi eu cofrestru ar y gofrestr etholiadol mewn cyfeiriad yng Nghymru (Gwelliannau 57, 38, 39, 40)
Group 5: Disqualification from being a Member of the Senedd or a candidate: persons not registered in electoral register at an address in Wales (Amendments 57, 38, 39, 40)

Felly, grŵp 5 sydd nesaf. 

We move now to group 5.

And I'm hoping that, before the next vote, that somebody could take a hairdryer to Lynne Neagle's voting system, to see if we can dry it out.

Grŵp 5 yw'r grŵp o welliannau sy'n ymwneud ag anghymwyso personau nad ydynt wedi eu cofrestru ar y gofrestr etholiadol mewn cyfeiriad yng Nghymru rhag bod yn Aelod o'r Senedd neu'n ymgeisydd. Gwelliant 57 yw'r prif welliant yn y grŵp yma. Darren Millar i gyflwyno'r gwelliant.

Group 5 relates to disqualifications of persons not registered on the electoral register at an address in Wales from being a Member of Parliament or a candidate. The lead amendment is amendment 57. And I call on Darren Millar to move the amendment.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 57 (Darren Millar).

Amendment 57 (Darren Millar) moved.

Diolch, Llywydd. I move amendments 38, 39, 40, and 57, all of which have been tabled in my name. Currently, unless you are disqualified from standing as a candidate or from holding office as a Member of the Senedd due to holding a particular office, you can qualify to stand as a candidate at a Senedd election, provided that, on the day of your nomination and on polling day, you're aged 18 or over and you’re either a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, a qualifying foreign citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, or a citizen of the EU who is resident in the UK.

Section 6 of this Bill introduces a new requirement for candidates seeking election to the Senedd and for sitting Members of the Senedd. It proposes that unless you are registered in the register of local government electors at an address within a Senedd constituency, then you're disqualified. And you’ve got to remain on that register throughout your Senedd term of office, otherwise you would be automatically disqualified from being a Member of the Senedd.

Now, let me be clear, Llywydd, requiring candidates and Members of the Senedd to be resident in Wales is something which I and the Welsh Conservatives support. But while there was general agreement that those who are elected to the Senedd should live in Wales, it became very clear at Stage 1 during our Reform Bill Committee evidence sessions that registration to vote alone is not a sufficient test to demonstrate that this policy intention will be met, because those who have a main home outside of Wales can still be on an electoral roll in Wales by virtue of a second home. And the Reform Bill Committee therefore recommended that the Member in charge should bring forward amendments at Stage 2 to resolve this loophole, but he hasn’t done that, so I’ve brought forward my amendments instead.

Amendment 57 seeks to strengthen this residency test to close this loophole. It would disqualify a person from becoming a candidate or a Member of the Senedd if they do not spend at least 182 days per year in Wales or are not ordinarily resident in Wales. And then the amendment goes on to clarify what it means to be ordinarily resident. It effectively would enable someone to meet the test if they live in Wales or spend at least 182 days a year in Wales, save for them or their spouse or civil partner being temporarily resident outside of Wales for education, training, employment or healthcare reasons. 

Moving on, then, to amendments 38 and 39, the Bill, as currently drafted, means that a sitting Member of the Senedd would be instantly disqualified as a consequence of no longer being on an electoral register in Wales, even if they were removed as a result of an administrative error. Now, clearly, that would be grossly unfair for any individual Member of this Senedd and, indeed, for their constituents. The Llywydd, in her evidence to the Reform Bill Committee, suggested that there should be a grace period to enable Members to resolve such matters, and my amendment 38 seeks to address this issue by requiring constituency returning officers to provide a copy of the register to Members of the Senedd every single time it is published. It then gives Members 21 days as a grace period after their removal from an electoral register before they are automatically disqualified. [Interruption.] Yes.

17:30

They do now. Every Member of the Senedd has the right to have an electoral register. 

Yes, we do have a right, but there's no requirement for that to be given to Members of the Senedd. There's no absolute requirement or duty each time an amendment is made to that register for it to be furnished to Members. 

The 21-day grace period is therefore built in in order to correct any administrative errors. And I think it's worth saying at this point that the Welsh Government has ambitious plans in relation to electoral registration arrangements to introduce an automatic system of voter registration. Now, what has happened in other countries that have introduced such automatic registration systems is that errors have occurred. And if errors occur, this could have devastating consequences for any Member of the Senedd in the future who is elected to this place and automatically disqualified whenever a new register is published and they are not on it.

Amendment 39 addresses another, different concern. The Bill as it stands would currently result in any reserve candidate who is called upon to fill a vacancy arising during a Senedd term being immediately disqualified if they've since relocated outside of Wales and are therefore no longer on the electoral roll at an address in Wales. Now, clearly, it's unreasonable to expect a reserve candidate who satisfied the residency requirement when they stood for election to live in Wales for a full Senedd term just in case a vacancy might arise on the list. So, amendment 39 gives them the same proposed 21-day grace period from the date a vacancy arises to return to Wales and to register to vote in order that they can take up any vacancy that they might be offered by a returning officer. And these amendments all address recommendations 38 and 39 in the Reform Bill Committee's Stage 1 report. 

And finally, Llywydd, amendment 40 in this group seeks to require candidates to provide their electoral number when submitting nomination papers in order to assist electoral administrators when verifying a candidate's qualification to stand. It was a recommendation from the Wales Electoral Coordination Board, and therefore I urge Members to support that amendment too. 

Diolch, Llywydd. Credwn yn gryf y dylai unrhyw un sy’n cael ei ethol i’r Senedd hon, waeth beth fo’i ymlyniad gwleidyddol, fod yn ddarostyngedig i'r un cyfreithiau â'r bobl maent yn eu cynrychioli a'u bod yn talu trethi yma. Mi ydyn ni wedi gweld ymgeiswyr ac Aelodau o’r blaen nad ydyn nhw’n byw yn y wlad, sydd yn ymddangos yn annheg i bobl. Er nad oes dull hollol sicr sydd yn medru cynnal yr egwyddor sylfaenol hon, mae cyflwyno gofyniad preswylio ar gyfer ymgeiswyr y dyfodol yn welliant sylweddol ar y trefniadau presennol.

Doeddwn i ddim yn Aelod o'r Senedd ddiwethaf, ond fe welais y difrod a wnaethpwyd i ddemocratiaeth a'r Senedd hon yn llygaid etholwyr o weld rhai pobl yn cael eu hethol doedd ddim yn byw yma a ddim i weld yn malio am fuddiannau pobl Cymru. Ac mae pleidleiswyr Cymru yn iawn i ddisgwyl gwell, ac felly mae’n rhaid iddynt gael sicrwydd bod eu cynrychiolwyr etholedig yn mynd i ddal eu buddiannau nhw. Yn y rhan fwyaf o broffesiynau eraill, mae gan gyflogwyr brosesau fetio clir sy'n sail i'w harferion cyflogaeth. Pam na ddylai hyn fod yn wir hefyd ar gyfer ein Senedd genedlaethol, lle mae deddfau sy'n effeithio ar bobl Cymru yn cael eu gwneud?

Mae gennym rywfaint o gydymdeimlad â rhai o amcanion y gwelliannau yn y grŵp hwn i geisio darparu ar gyfer achosion eithriadol. Fodd bynnag, mi ydym ni'n cytuno efo'r Llywodraeth fod y gofyniad preswylio ar wyneb y Bil yn glir, yn wrthrychol ac yn dilyn cynsail cyfreithiol. At hynny, byddai cynnig cyfnodau gras estynedig ar gyfer pennu meini prawf cymhwyster ymgeisydd neu ar gyfer llenwi seddi gwag yn creu bwlch yn y ddeddfwriaeth a allai annog, yn hytrach nag atal, yr union sefyllfa mae'r ddarpariaeth hon yn ceisio osgoi. Ac o'r herwydd y rhesymau yma, ni allwn gefnogi gwelliannau 38, 39 a 57.

Thank you, Llywydd. We strongly believe that anyone who is elected to this Senedd, regardless of their political affiliation, should be subject to the same laws that they apply to the people they represent and that they pay their taxes here. We have seen candidates and Members in the past who did not live in Wales, which appears unfair to people. Although there is no definitive approach that would guarantee this fundamental principle, introducing a residency requirement for future candidates is a significant improvement on the current arrangements. 

I wasn't a Member of the previous Senedd, but I saw the damage done to democracy and the Senedd in the eyes of constituents when they saw some people being elected who didn't live here and who didn't seem to care about the interests of the people of Wales. And Wales's voters are right to expect better. So, they must have an assurance that their elected representatives are going to have their interests at heart. In the majority of other professions, employers have clear vetting processes that are the basis for their employment practices. So, why should this not be true too for our national Parliament, where the laws that affect the people of Wales are made?

We have some sympathy with the objectives of the amendments in this group that seek to cater for exceptional cases. However, we agree with the Government that the residency requirement on the face of the Bill is clear, is objective and follows legal precedent. And to this end, offering an extended grace period for setting the eligibility criteria of a candidate or for filling a vacant seat would create a gap in the legislation that could encourage, rather than prevent, the very situation that this provision seeks to avoid. And so, for these reasons, we cannot support amendments 38, 39 and 57.

17:35

Diolch, Llywydd. I just remind Members, of course, that I have written to all Senedd Members in respect of amendments 38 and 39. I am unable to support the amendments in this group.

In relation to amendment 57, I believe the registration requirement in the Bill that a person must be registered on the register of local government electors within a Senedd constituency deliberately sets out objective criteria that are clear to candidates, parties and to electoral administrators. In order to be registered on a register of local government electors, a person must be resident in that local authority, and, as such, the registration requirement in the Bill as introduced already gives practical effect to a residency requirement as set out in the Representation of the People Act 1983.

As I set out in my response to recommendation 40 of the Reform Bill Committee, the Electoral Commission has published guidance making clear that property ownership, such as owning a second property in Wales, and council tax payments alone are not sufficient to make a person resident at an address. It is unlikely that owning a second property that is visited only for recreational purposes would meet the residency qualification. In order to be deemed resident, a person must demonstrate a degree of permanency, and that the address is where the main business of life is conducted.

Amendment 57 therefore introduces an unnecessary complexity and impedes the clarity, I think, currently achieved by section 6 of the Bill. I think Members will be aware of the concerns there might be over what might amount to 182 days' residency, the definition of spending a day not usually resident, and it is for the clarity and transparency that we've gone for, having thought very, very carefully about some of the points that have been, I think, genuinely raised.

Turning to amendment 38, as I've set out in my letter to all Members, I do not consider it necessary to make provision in this Bill to ensure that a person who's removed from a register is not disqualified for a period of time. I'm satisfied that there are robust safeguards and processes in place that electoral registration officers must follow before removing a person from a register. My officials will continue to work with the electoral registration officers as part of the implementation process to consider if any further practical measures can be considered.

I also cannot support amendment 39, and, as I set out in my letter to all Members, I do not consider it necessary to make provision in the Bill—that is provision in the Bill—to provide for a grace period to allow prospective Members of the Senedd called upon to fill a vacancy to become registered, but I have accepted in principle recommendation 39 of the Reform Bill Committee. Having considered the matter further, I believe the most appropriate way to achieve the intention is through the conduct Order, and I can confirm—I can confirm—that revisions will be made to the conduct Order to standardise a period of time that returning officers must observe before notifying the Presiding Officer as to who is to fill such a vacancy, allowing them to ensure they meet the registration criteria.

I consider that amendment 40 is not necessary as the conduct Order will continue to set out the nomination and consent processes for candidates for the election to the Senedd. The conduct Order will be revised to prescribe a consent form on which a prospective candidate must set out the local authority in Wales in which they are registered to vote. So, in the light of the above consideration, I would call on Members to vote against the amendments in this group.

17:40

Darren Millar, felly, i ymateb i'r ddadl yma.

Darren Millar to reply to the debate.

Diolch, Llywydd. Can I just say that I completely appreciate the point that was made about the fact that you're either on or not on the register and therefore that's a clear test that could be applied in respect of residency? But we all know that there are people who have a second home in Wales, which is not their main home, but are on electoral rolls. Many of us in this Chamber, because of the fact that we have a home in our constituency and a place of residence in or around Cardiff, will be on two electoral rolls. So, we could therefore envisage a situation whereby someone could be on an electoral roll, even at a second home, and I don't think that that's anybody's intention.

Now, I understand what you say, Minister, about the guidance from the Electoral Commission to electoral administration officers requiring people to have a degree of permanency at an address. But who checks that? Who checks that? Nobody, it appears to me. It appears to me that when people register to vote, there's a huge reliance on self-declaration by anybody who completes a form to say that they are resident in a property.

And I think the other matter here of concern is that we do have people who live overseas for most of the year, might have a single property in Wales, live overseas for most of the year, Wales is not their main home, and yet they will still, on the basis of the rule that is currently set out on the face of this Bill, have the opportunity to stand for election and to participate as a candidate or be a Member of the Senedd. I think those things are wrong and that we need to therefore strengthen the arrangements in order to address those concerns.

Now, it seemed to me also that what you suggested was that you're having a conversation with the electoral administrators to make sure that there's a sort of self-declaration for candidates to fill in, to say, 'This is my main home.' Who is going to check that? Who is going to check that? I ask you, Minister, because I don't think it will be properly checked. We can't just rely on self-declarations. That, to me, does not sound like a robust test of whether people actually have their main home in Wales or not.

Why did I choose this 182-day figure? Well, it's a figure that is familiar to us all, of course, because of the self-catering lets issue, which we've been discussing for a long time here in this Senedd, and therefore it seemed to me to be an appropriate figure. So, I'm not prepared to back down on this, Minister, and I do think, if you don't think that this is the correct solution, that you need to try and bring forward something else that you think is.

Now, the thing I do think that you've given me some confidence about is the changing of the conduct order in relation to those people who are called upon to fill a vacancy on a list, who might be a reserve candidate. On that basis, I am happy to withdraw amendment 39, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to push all of the others to the vote, because I'm not satisfied with your answers. You might be confident that self-declaration is sufficient; I am not.

Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 57? A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad, felly symudwn ni i bleidlais ar welliant 57. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 15, neb yn ymatal, 41 yn erbyn. Mae gwelliant 57 wedi ei wrthod.

The question is that amendment 57 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There is objection, and we will therefore move to a vote on amendment 57. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 15, no abstentions, 41 against. Amendment 57 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 57: O blaid: 15, Yn erbyn: 41, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 57: For: 15, Against: 41, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 38 (Darren Millar).

Amendment 38 (Darren Millar) moved.

Ydy, mae wedi cael ei gynnig. A ddylid derbyn gwelliant 38? A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad i hynny? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad. Gwnawn ni symud i bleidlais ar welliant 38. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 15, neb yn ymatal, 41 yn erbyn. Gwelliant 38 wedi ei wrthod.

It is. The question is that amendment 38 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There is objection. We will move to a vote on amendment 38. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 15, no abstentions, 41 against. Amendment 38 is not agreed.

17:45

Gwelliant 38: O blaid: 15, Yn erbyn: 41, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 38: For: 15, Against: 41, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Mae gwelliant 39 wedi ei dynny'n ôl. Os nad oes yna wrthwynebiad i hynny, fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen. Felly, dim pleidlais ar welliant 39. 

Amendment 39 is withdrawn. Is there any objection to that withdrawal? We will therefore move on. No vote on amendment 39. 

Ni chynigiwyd gwelliant 39.

Amendment 39 not moved.

Grŵp 6: Anghymhwyso rhag bod yn Aelod o’r Senedd neu’n ymgeisydd: personau sydd wedi eu heuogfarnu o ddichell o fewn y pum mlynedd diwethaf (Gwelliant 126)
Group 6: Disqualification from being a Member of the Senedd or a candidate: persons convicted of the offence of deception within the previous five years (Amendment 126)

Daw hynny â ni at grŵp 6. Mae'r grŵp yma o welliannau yn ymwneud ag anghymhwyso personau sydd wedi eu heuogfarnu o ddichell o fewn y pum mlynedd diwethaf rhag bod yn Aelod o'r Senedd neu'n ymgeisydd. Gwelliant 126 yw'r prif welliant a'r unig welliant yn y grŵp yma. Dwi'n galw ar Adam Price i gynnig y gwelliant yma.

That brings us to group 6. This group of amendments relates to disqualification of persons convicted of the offence of deception within the previous five years from being a Member of the Senedd or a candidate. The lead amendment is amendment 126 and the only amendment in this group. I call on Adam Price to move the amendment.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 126 (Adam Price).

Amendment 126 (Adam Price) moved.

[Anghlywadwy.]—i symud gwelliant 126 yn fy enw i.

Thank you. I move amendment 126 in my name.

As we discuss here tonight ways in which we can strengthen our Welsh democracy, we are witnessing the slow death of trust in democracy worldwide, and the object of that distrust is in this room. It's in every chamber of every parliament across the world. It's us. In increasing numbers, people don't trust us, their elected representatives, to tell the truth.

Now, cynicism about politics and politicians is nothing new. 'You can tell when they're lying, when their lips are moving', et cetera. But something has changed, hasn't it? It started more than 20 years ago when the politics of spin left in its wake the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Basra and Baghdad, while here at home the biggest casualty of all was truth itself. Years of austerity then eroded people's hope, and while some feared the corrosive effects of despair on democracy, the populists and the narcissists saw it as an opportunity. And armed with the new machines of misinformation of social media, Boris, Trump, Farage were the new princes of this post-truth politics, and never before have lies been so shamelessly and systematically told. They normalised lying at an industrial scale. And even now, out of office, for now at least, their legacy persists.

In 2022, the charity Full Fact reported that 50 MPs declined to correct false, unevidenced or misleading claims. The statistics regulator had to write to the UK Government at least 10 times to challenge its own use of statistic. And so, for many people, it's a truism that every politician lies, and if people don't know who to trust, they're more likely, aren't they, to go with their gut feeling. And sometimes, some of those gut feelings can be the product of a deliberately manufactured paranoia.

Oxford University surveyed attitudes over the border in England at the height of the pandemic, as Professor Daniel Freeman set out in this week's Big Issue. One in five people considered it possible that the virus had been created by Jews to destroy the global economy. Almost a quarter endorsed, to some degree, the proposition that the vaccine will contain microchips to control people. The irony, of course, is that there is an actual plot to generate these very conspiracy theories, in the lie factories of the far right and Russian-state cyber warriors, armed now with the new technologies of deep-fake media and generative artificial intelligence.

Democracy cannot thrive, and even this Senedd cannot survive if soon no-one will believe a word we are saying, if every statistic is distrusted, and every policy disbelieved. So, what can we do? Well, we can start by restoring truth's central moral value in our democracy, by saying that anyone who tells a deliberate political lie has no place here. Truthfulness is, I think, rule No. 2 in our code of conduct. But it's a code with no real teeth if deliberate dishonesty only leads to a suspension of a few weeks with no further consequences, and it's that very culture of impunity that breeds cynicism and mistrust, and that, in our case, can only be changed through legislation.

Faced with the rising deluge of deceit that we're seeing in politics, we can protect the integrity of our democracy by taking this opportunity now as a matter of urgency. Otherwise, this new expanded Senedd that we are about to create could become an echo chamber of fantasy and falsehood. We expect doctors—. There was reference to doctors earlier. Well, we expect doctors to be honest or they'll be struck off; dishonest teachers will be disqualified; lawyers who lie are disbarred. In these other professions, lying is prevented because it is prohibited. So, why not us, when the decisions that we make, as we've heard this week at the UK COVID inquiry, affect the lives of millions?

In making deliberate deception by politicians a specific offence, as this amendment does, we would be breaking new ground. The Parliaments of Queensland and Western Australia make lying to Parliament a criminal offence, and South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory prohibit deception in political campaigning. This amendment brings those two dimensions together for the very first time in any parliament in the world. What a message that would send. What better way to start this new chapter in the history of our democracy? I commend the amendment to the Senedd.

17:50

Diolch, Llywydd. Llywydd, I have a lot of sympathy with what's just been said by the Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. I share with him the concern about political discourse in recent years and the falsehoods—blatant falsehoods, it appears to me—that have sometimes been shared by politicians of all stripes. But I do think that this is a matter that requires greater consideration than just the few days that we've had to see this new section that you want to insert into the Bill and consider this amendment.

Now, clearly, we're all agreed in this Chamber that deliberately misleading people during an election campaign, or at any time while you're a Member of the Senedd, in order to influence people is completely and wholly unacceptable, and making false statements, as we know—[Interruption.] If people want to make an intervention, I'm happy to take it. Would you like to make an intervention? I'll happily take an intervention.

Yes. It's a very interesting discussion. Where would the promise to have an extra £350 million a week for the NHS sit in this discussion?

That is actually a promise that has been fulfilled, everybody. [Interruption.] You can do a fact check, if you like. It's a statement of fact. It's a statement of fact.

Now, at the moment, making false statements in an election campaign—[Interruption.]

At the moment, making false statements about the personal character of a candidate in an election campaign is already illegal, and those found doing so can be charged with election fraud, but there isn't a wider possibility of being charged with election fraud if people make comments about other matters that may be complete works of fiction or lies. So, a wider issue and opportunity, offence of deception, I think, is something that should potentially be considered. But, as I say, because we've had such a short time to be able to consider this, I don't think, at the moment, that it would be possible for the Welsh Conservatives to support this particular amendment. I'd want to have the opportunity to discuss things further with the Member, and indeed with the Member in charge, to see whether there was another route to securing an appropriate amendment to this Bill in order to outlaw lying, whether it be at election time or during the tenure of somebody as a Member of this Senedd. And, for that reason, we will be abstaining on this particular amendment today.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd. This is the first time I'm speaking on this motion, this Bill, so I just really want to also put on record my thanks to the Bill team for their patience and forbearance with myself and my team in preparing for this debate.

I wish to speak in support of Adam Price's amendment, and am grateful to him for putting this amendment forward. This proposal is about safeguarding the integrity of our democracy. We know that truth and transparency are under threat. We have to conduct ourselves according to our values and govern our behaviour according to rules that, actually, most people outside of this Siambr already abide by in their professional lives.

The amendment does provide cast-iron provisions to ensure that a casual mistake or error cannot be caught by the legislation and that a frivolous or vexatious claim cannot be brought. It sends a message to voters. The message is: we want to operate with integrity. And this amendment could not come at a more crucial time for our politics. Our democracy is precious. We can all have our views, but we need to operate with that honesty and integrity. This amendment gives Wales the opportunity to lead within the United Kingdom.

I want to just finish my short contribution here with a quote:

'I am not ready to back away from my views'.

That was Alexei Navalny, who was killed by Putin. He hoped and fought for a more open and transparent political system in his home country. We have that democratic system here, and of course it can be improved, but let's protect it and make sure it is open and transparent. I urge you to support this amendment. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

17:55

Can I just say, right at the start, that the contributions have been made substantively, and I agree with nearly everything that has been said through those, and I think it's an important reflection of the thinking, I hope, within this Senedd? I'll perhaps refer Members also to the fact that, of course, the independent commission's final report makes references as well to the threat to democracy locally and internationally. So, I think it's very important that these comments have been made today, and I think the biggest threat to our democratic system and structures at this moment in time is, actually, around the issue of artificial intelligence, false information, the abuse and so on that emerges out of those. So, I do agree with the general principles underpinning the amendment, which is about increasing the accountability of Members for certain actions. Truthfulness and, indeed, trust is a cornerstone of a healthy representative democracy.

However, I do think that the consideration of this issue is something that is best undertaken by the Standards of Conduct Committee. Members will recall that recommendation 50 of the Reform Bill Committee called on the standards committee to work with the standards commissioner, registered political parties and other stakeholders to develop options for strengthening individual Members' accountability. My understanding is that the standards committee has agreed in principle with this recommendation, which proposed that a public consultation on potential options should be completed before the end of this Senedd term. And I believe it would be most appropriate for that committee to consider the proposal put forward by Adam Price as part of that work and, having consulted on options, to determine any appropriate steps to be taken. I note also that, in the various considerations, the standards commissioner has also expressed views on some of the steps that could be taken.

What I can say to the Member is this: I don't think I can support the amendment here. I certainly agree with Darren Millar that a change of this sort, the creation of a criminal offence within this Bill, is something that does indeed need very, very careful consideration. But what I can do is say that I'm very happy to commit to write to the Chair of the Standards of Conduct Committee and ask that the committee give specific consideration to this issue as part of their work. I think there are other areas, perhaps, within this Bill that might also fall within that area as well. I think that is probably the appropriate area and, of course, there are options to committees to take that sort of work forward and how it might seek to implement change there.

I'm very grateful to all the Members who have contributed to this debate and, in the broad support for what the amendment is seeking to achieve, I think that, certainly, I'm grateful for the consistence that I've received so far in drawing up the amendment in its current form. We've tried to do it in a way that is careful. You can see in the way that it's drafted that there are guard rails in there to focus, really, on where we want to focus, which is on deliberate deception. It sets a very high bar, quite rightly. You would have to prove intent to mislead, and the amendment actually sets out the defences that would be available to prevent it in any way impinging upon, for example, freedom of expression.

But I accept that further work can be done to refine this, and, indeed, those discussions could look, potentially, at other ways in which we can achieve this objective. I think that Darren Millar is right that the principle, actually, of truth telling, in a very, very narrow sense, is there right at the beginning of our modern democracy, in the Representation of the People Act 1918. But it is so narrowly confined; it hasn't kept pace with the threats to our democracy that come from this wave of misinformation and disinformation and deliberate deception. And that's, I think, the opportunity for us to set a bit of a beacon here, set an example, which I'm sure will be not only of value to our own democracy but, actually, welcomed by democracy campaigners across the world.

In the spirit of the comments that have been made, I would like the leave of the Senedd to withdraw the amendment at this stage, in order to allow us to have those cross-party discussions—whether to bring forward an amended version of this amendment at Stage 3, or I've heard what the Counsel General said in terms of the potential, maybe, for a committee and, indeed, a committee Bill to come forward. I do think, though, that, given what I said at the outset, we cannot wait; this has to be something that we need to do in this Senedd. We need to legislate for this in this Senedd. I'm agnostic in terms of how we do it precisely, but we cannot wait, because, if we do, the purveyors of lies, the pervaders of untruths will not wait for us to get our house in order. We need to act, we need to act urgently, but if we can act together on a cross-party basis, that indeed strengthens and demonstrates our resolve that we want to send a message to the citizens of Wales that the Senedd we are now and that we want to create has no place for deliberate deception within it.

So, with the leave of the Senedd, I would like to withdraw at this stage, to allow those further discussions to take place.

18:00

Amendment 126 is proposed to be withdrawn, then. If there's no objection to that, we'll consider amendment 126 withdrawn.

Tynnwyd gwelliant 126 yn ôl gyda chaniatâd y pwyllgor.

Amendment 126 withdrawn by leave of the committee.

Grŵp 7: Adolygiad o’r posibilrwydd o rannu swyddi sy’n ymwneud â’r Senedd (Gwelliannau 4, 62, 63)
Group 7: Review of possible job sharing of offices relating to the Senedd (Amendments 4, 62, 63)

Grŵp 7 sydd nesaf. Mae'r grŵp nesaf yma o welliannau yn ymwneud ag adolygiad o’r posibilrwydd o rannu swyddi sy’n ymwneud â’r Senedd. Gwelliant 4 yw'r prif welliant yn y grŵp, a dwi'n galw ar Darren Millar i gyflwyno'r prif welliant.

Group 7 is next. This group of amendments relates to a review of possible job sharing of offices relating to the Senedd. Amendment 4 is the lead amendment, and I call on Darren Millar to move the lead amendment.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 4 (Darren Millar).

Amendment 4 (Darren Millar) moved.

Diolch, Llywydd. I move amendment 4, tabled in my name. Section 7 of this Bill requires a motion to be tabled within six months after the 2026 Senedd election by the Presiding Officer. And that motion must propose the establishment of a Senedd committee for the purpose of reviewing and reporting on the potential for job-sharing arrangements of Senedd and Welsh Government offices. It must also include provision for a review and report in relation to holding office on a temporary basis while the usual office holder is unavailable. And it then goes on to include a list of all of the offices to be reviewed, including Member of the Senedd, Presiding Officer, Deputy Presiding Officer, member of the Senedd Commission, First Minister, Welsh Minister, Deputy Minister and Counsel General.

Now, there's no time requirement on the face of the Bill for the completion of these reviews, but the Bill does stipulate a requirement for a report to be laid before the Senedd, and for the Welsh Government to respond to that report, setting out its views and the actions that it may intend to take. Now, regardless of the merits or otherwise of job sharing in such offices, it is wholly inappropriate for this current Welsh Government to seek to impose a requirement on a future Senedd or its Presiding Officer. And the provision in the Bill, as it stands, was widely criticised by those who gave evidence to the Reform Bill Committee at Stage 1. Academics described it as quirky, unusual, strange and an anomaly in parliamentary practice. Both the Electoral Reform Society and the chair of the expert panel on Senedd reform suggested that it amounted to putting off and kicking down the road any further investigation of job sharing unnecessarily.

The Llywydd was of the following view, and I quote, 

'as a point of principle I think it's important that we allow the next Senedd and then, ultimately, any committee that's formed to decide on how it wants to do its work. I find binding the hands of a committee in a future Senedd to be not an issue that I would consider that a piece of legislation should involve itself in.'

Well, I agree with the Llywydd, and I agree with the other witnesses, and I agree with fellow Reform Bill Committee members. This section of the Bill is constitutionally problematic and it's unnecessary. It should be a matter for the Senedd and for any future Senedds to determine which committees they want to establish, and allow them to determine their own work programmes. And that's why I've tabled amendment 4, which will delete this section in relation to a review of job sharing and temporarily covering for office holders when someone's absent in its entirety.

Now, with regard to the Welsh Government's amendments in this group, amendment 62 seeks to bring forward the review to any election after 7 November 2025, and amendment 63 is a drafting improvement to the section should it be removed from the Bill. While I have no issue, should this provision remain on the face of the Bill, I have no issue with the drafting improvement proposed by the Welsh Government, I'm afraid I cannot support any amendments that consider it to be appropriate for any parts of this Bill to apply from November 2025, as I do not believe that that's sufficient time for all the parts of this Bill to be implemented.

Indeed, all of the evidence that we received at Stage 1 in committee pointed to the fact that already the schedules, the timescales available for the implementation of this Bill by April 2026 were very tight. So, how on earth the Counsel General thinks that it's appropriate to apply any part of this Bill from as early as November 2025 in the event of an unscheduled Senedd election is beyond me, because even by the Counsel General's own timetable that was published in the Reform Bill Committee report that would be nigh on impossible.

So, I urge people to support and vote for my amendment 4, to reject the Welsh Government's amendment 62, and, should amendment 4 fall, then support amendment 63.

18:05

Mi fyddwn ni'n gwrthwynebu gwelliant 4. Os ydym eisiau sicrhau tegwch i bawb a gwella cynrychiolaeth o fewn ein democratiaeth, ni ellir diystyru'r rôl y gall rhannu swyddi chwarae at y dibenion hynny. Ers blynyddoedd bellach, mae tystiolaeth gan amrywiaeth eang o unigolion a sefydliadau wedi awgrymu y gallai’r opsiwn o rannu swyddi olygu bod pobl yn fwy tebygol o sefyll i gael eu hethol. Yn sicr, mi ges i fy argyhoeddi'n bersonol o hynny wrth gymryd rhan yn y rhaglen Equal Power Equal Voice, a chlywed gan bobl sydd ag uchelgais erbyn hyn o fod yn y Senedd hon am y gwahaniaeth y byddai hynny'n gwneud, ac nid mater sydd ddim ond yn effeithio ar fenywod ydy hyn.

Er ei fod o'n berthnasol o ran apelio i fwy o fenywod sefyll, mae o hefyd yn berthnasol iawn o ran pobl ag anableddau, pobl â chyfrifoldebau gofal plant neu gyfrifoldebau gofal eraill sydd ddim yn ferched, a phobl sydd am gynnal eu gyrfaoedd proffesiynol presennol. Fel nododd adroddiad y Pwyllgor ar Ddiwygio Etholiadol y Senedd yn y Senedd ddiwethaf, gallai rhannu swydd ddarparu dau am bris un o ran sgiliau a phrofiad, a gallai alluogi Aelodau i gadw gwell cysylltiadau â’u bywyd y tu allan i’r Senedd, a allai fod yn berthnasol i waith craffu a chynrychioli. Mi gofiwch chi, er enghraifft, enghraifft Dai Lloyd fel meddyg teulu. Mi oedd hynny'n allweddol bwysig. Dŷn ni ddim yn sôn am bobl yn cadw i weithio mewn swyddi sy'n dod â miliynau o bunnoedd fel dŷn ni'n gweld yn San Steffan. Mae hyn ynglŷn â phrofiad go iawn yn ein cymdeithas. 

Mewn adroddiad gan Women's Equality Network Wales ar y pwnc yma yn Ebrill 2022, nodwyd fod gwleidyddion sydd â phrofiad o rannu swydd wedi adleisio'r pwyntiau hyn. Dywedodd Fleur Anderson, AS Putney, y gallai helpu gweithwyr proffesiynol ifanc i fynd i fyd gwleidyddiaeth, a dwi'n dyfynnu fan hyn: 

We will oppose amendment 4. If we want to ensure fairness for all and improve representation within our democracy, we cannot disregard the role that job sharing can play in meeting these objectives. For some years now, evidence given by a wide range of individuals and organisations has suggested that the option of job sharing could mean that people are more likely to stand in elections. Certainly, I was convinced personally of that when I took part in the Equal Power Equal Voice programme, and I heard from people who have ambitions now of being Members of this Senedd the difference that that provision would make, and it's not just a matter that affects women.

Although it is relevant in terms of appealing to women to stand for election, it's also particularly relevant for disabled people, people with childcare responsibilities or other caring responsibilities who aren't women, and people who wish to sustain their current professional careers. As the report of the Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform of the previous Senedd noted, job sharing can deliver two for the price of one when it comes to skills and experience, and it could enable Members to maintain better connections with their lives outside the Senedd, which could be relevant to scrutiny and representation. You'll remember Dai Lloyd's example as GP. That was vital—his experience in that regard. We're not talking about people in jobs that bring in millions of pounds as we've seen in Westminster. It's about bringing real experience in our society to the Senedd.

In a WEN Wales report on this subject in April 2022, it was noted that politicians with experience of job sharing had echoed these points. Fleur Anderson, Member of Parliament for Putney, said that it could also help young professionals to enter politics, and I quote here:

'People can balance their work and their role in the community. It could go some way to addressing class issues, as it would allow for an in-built mentoring system, and allow people to build and develop confidence in their roles. The job share pair can be a sounding board for one another, sharing questions and insecurities with one another.'

Mae profiad Mohammed Seedat, aelod cabinet yng Nghyngor Lambeth yn 2018, yn awgrymu y gall rhannu swydd hefyd ddarparu cyfleoedd mentora sy’n galluogi ymgeiswyr o grwpiau heb gynrychiolaeth ddigonol i symud ymlaen i rolau uwch, a dwi'n dyfynnu eto:

The experience of Mohammed Seedat, cabinet member at Lambeth Council in 2018, suggests that job sharing can also provide mentoring opportunities that enable candidates of underrepresented groups to move into senior roles, and I quote again: 

'Job sharing with a more experienced Cabinet member has meant I have benefited from a mentoring role...I would never have put my name forward if the role hadn’t been available as a job share.'

Yn wir, mae nifer o gynghorau yng Nghymru yn barod yn rhannu swyddi ar gyfer swyddi o fewn yr awdurdod lleol gan gynnwys aelodau cabinet. Felly, mae yna beryg ein bod ni ar ei hôl hi yn y Senedd hon, ac inni fod yn siarad am gydraddoldeb ond yn methu ei weithredu yn ein trefniadau ein hunain yn y Senedd hon. Rydyn ni'n sôn am Senedd fodern, ddemocrataidd; rydyn ni ar ei hôl hi.  

Trwy gael mecanwaith statudol ar wyneb y Bil, mae'n cynnig gwarant y bydd ystyriaeth flaenllaw ar ddechrau’r Senedd nesaf i symud ymlaen efo’r gwaith pwysig yma ac i hynny roi llwybr at gyflwyno deddfwriaeth i alluogi—.

Indeed, a number of councils in Wales already enable councillors to share jobs for a number of roles within local authorities, including cabinet members. So, there is a risk that the Senedd will be left behind here, and that we talk a good game about equality but are unable to deliver it in our own actions and arrangements as a Senedd. We're talking about a modern, democratic Senedd here; we're being left behind.

Having a statutory mechanism on the face of the Bill would guarantee that consideration would be given at the beginning of the next Senedd term to forge ahead with this work as a priority, and that this should provide a route towards the introduction of legislation—.

18:10

I've been listening to your contribution, and I've been listening to the way you pursued your argument. I have to say I would support job sharing because it would enable people to participate in politics who perhaps aren't able to do so today. But I really don't want this place to turn into a part-time democracy where people are off earning with two jobs, and the rest of it. I think we've really got to think hard about where we are here. Whilst I might support the objective, I think the argument you're pursuing is not an argument I would wish to support.

Nid dyna ydy fy nadl i o gwbl. Os mai dyna rydych chi'n ei glywed, dwi'n meddwl bod hynna'n dweud mwy amdanoch chi a'ch agweddau chi na'r ddadl dwi wedi rhoi gerbron. Yr opsiwn mae hyn yn ei roi, a rhywbeth i edrych arno fo yn bellach. Dydyn ni ddim yn awgrymu bod pob un Aelod o'r Senedd hon yn gwneud job share, ond mae yn bwysig ein bod ni'n edrych ar hyn. Yr hyn mae yn ei roi ydy rheidrwydd bod hyn yn cael ei edrych arno fel bod yna rywbeth yn ei le erbyn 2030—creu Senedd fodern, gynrycholiadol. 

Mae yna hefyd amserlen glir a fframwaith ar gyfer y gwaith i ddigwydd fel y mae o yn y Mesur hwn. Yn ymarferol, does dim i atal pwyllgor o’r Senedd yma rhag dechrau’r gwaith, ond a bod yn realistig mae gennym raglen ddeddfwriaethol lawn yn y Senedd hon. Felly, mae'n annhebygol y bydd modd cyflawni deddfwriaeth ar rannu swyddi o fewn y Senedd bresennol. Mae’r darpariaethau yn y Bil, felly, yn cynnig cyfle i fwrw ati yn syth yn y Senedd newydd, edrych yn drylwyr ar hyn a'r holl bryderon sydd gan rai, ond hefyd i ddysgu gwersi gan lefydd eraill sydd yn gwneud hyn yn llwyddiannus. Mae'n rhaid i ni gael momemtwm tu ôl i'r gwaith hwn, a sicrhau bod ein democratiaeth ni yn adlewyrchu'r hyn sy'n digwydd mewn cymdeithas. 

That isn't my argument at all. If that's what you're hearing, I think that says more about you and your attitude than the argument that I'm making. This provides the option, and something to consider further. We're not suggesting that every single Member of this Senedd should share the job, but it's important that we look at this matter. What this provides is a mechanism for this to be considered so that something is in place by 2030. It's about creating a modern, representative Senedd. 

There is also a clear timetable and framework for the work to be done as it stands in this Bill. In practical terms, there is nothing to prevent a committee of the Senedd from beginning this work now, but to be realistic, we already have a full legislative programme for the Senedd. So, it's unlikely that legislation and job sharing can be delivered during this Senedd term. The provisions in the Bill therefore offer an opportunity to take up the task immediately in the next Senedd, looking at this in detail, and all of the concerns that some may have, but also to learn lessons from other nations that are succeeding in this regard. We have to have momentum behind this work to ensure that our democracy reflects what happens in society.

Diolch, Llywydd. I will first speak to amendment 4, tabled by Darren Millar, which removes the provisions relating to job sharing. I will not be supporting this amendment. The provisions in section 7 are intended to provide a pathway for cross-party consideration by the next Senedd of the feasibility and legislative implications of job sharing a range of offices in the Senedd. Members of the Senedd may choose to accept, reject or amend a motion to this effect tabled by the Presiding Officer. Therefore, I don't think that the provisions do constrain the freedom of a future Senedd, nor does section 7 prevent the current Senedd from undertaking this work if it so wishes. It is important that the provisions remain in the Bill because they do provide a pathway for this important issue to be considered in an appropriate way in the future.

If I can just turn now to my own amendments, amendments 62 and 63, amendment 62 will ensure that, if an extraordinary general election is held in the six months prior to the scheduled ordinary election in May 2026, which would lead to the cancellation of that scheduled election by virtue of section 5(5) of the Government of Wales Act 2006, the provision in the Bill that relates to job sharing would still take effect in that Senedd term. Without this amendment, there is a risk that, should an extraordinary general election be held in the sixth months prior to the next scheduled general election, the duty on the Presiding Officer to table a motion to instigate the job sharing review, as set out in section 7 of the Bill, would not apply until after a subsequent election, what should be the eighth Senedd, and could unnecessarily delay the work. Amendment 63 is a technical amendment advised to make the drafting clearer as to the motion referred to, and to ensure drafting consistency across the Bill. Diolch, Llywydd.

18:15

Thank you, Presiding Officer. The purpose of my amendment 4 was not to discuss the merits, or otherwise, of job sharing, which, it appears to me, is what you wanted to do, Heledd Fychan. It was because of the unusual way in which this Bill will instruct a future Senedd, and a future Senedd Presiding Officer, in a way that is not regular, which is unusual, which is quirky, which is problematic, constitutionally. We can't really accept that. If we do that on this Bill, we'll no doubt have similar provisions on future Bills that might come before the Senedd as well. As you've quite rightly said, why do we need to wait until the next Senedd in order to consider these matters? We don't. In fact, that's what was being suggested by many of the witnesses that came before the Reform Bill Committee. And we've started some work as a Business Committee, as you will know from your role on that committee, already to discuss job-sharing arrangements, potentially, for committee chairs. So, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever why this Senedd can't get on and do a piece of work, and why we should have to wait for this. You also, Heledd Fychan, seemed to suggest that this would guarantee consideration of job sharing by a committee in the next Senedd, but, as the Minister himself has just pointed out in his contribution to this particular debate, a future Senedd could vote down any proposition from the Presiding Officer. So, it's not going to guarantee any discussion on job sharing, or any detailed consideration by a future committee of the Senedd.

One of the other things that is problematic about the requirement for the next Senedd to establish a committee is that this Bill actually imposes two such requirements on the Senedd. We already know that in the explanatory memorandum there's a suggestion that we could have between one and three additional committees of the Senedd. If this Bill imposes two committees already, out of those three—one a review committee for job sharing and temporary arrangements, should someone be unavailable who holds an office, and another in respect of reviewing the operation and implementation of this Act—then that's going to squeeze capacity, isn't it? You're not going to get the benefit of additional scrutiny, which everybody who's a supporter of this Bill says that they want to see. So, that's why I've tabled amendment 4. It's not because we want to put a block on any discussions about job sharing, in the same way that I've accepted that we need to have those discussions already in the Business Committee, and it's a live issue. There's no reason why any committee of this Senedd could not already pick this issue up and make proposals going forward, in this Senedd. We should not necessarily have to wait for such a long time. [Interruption.] Happily.

Is that something that you're proposing to do, then? Are you in favour of job sharing and introducing it as soon as possible?

I've got my views about job sharing and I've made them clear in the past. I've said that my own personal view—I haven't canvassed every single person on the Conservative benches—is that I think it would be very difficult in practice to have a job-sharing Member of the Senedd, for example. I think it's a full-time job—that's what I'm committed to—and I don't think it can be done in conjunction with somebody else, who might, at different times, have different views than I do on matters that are before the Senedd. Whose vote trumps whose in those sorts of circumstances? It's very difficult, isn't it? So, there are practical things that need to be discussed. But they can be discussed by a committee, and perhaps there'll be solutions that could come forward that would satisfy my concerns. [Interruption.] I'd be happy to take another one.

Thank you. I just want to say, as someone who returned to the workplace after having children through the merit of a job share, it is in no way a part-time job. It is in no way less of a role; the way you do it is different. I just want to say that there should be no hierarchy. Women have heard this for decades: that part-time work and job sharing are somehow less than full-time roles. That is not what it's about, and you need to educate yourself about that.

18:20

Thank you for the lecture on these matters. I was simply making the point that, for me, I'm not anti job sharing—[Interruption.] I'm not anti job sharing. You obviously haven't been listening to my contribution in the debate. I simply think that there are practical implications that are difficult to overcome if you're a Member of the Senedd. I've focused just on being a Member of the Senedd, which is the only office-holder job on the list that I've got personal experience of. I think there would be practical issues for all of the different things down that list that need careful consideration.

As I've already said, I've consented, along with other members of the Business Committee, for a review of job-sharing arrangements for Chairs of committees in this Senedd, and I'm happy to do that and happy to look at those things and consider matters in the same way that we have the innovative arrangements in terms of the co-chairing of the special purpose committee on COVID-19.

So, it's not about the issue of whether we're for or against job sharing; my amendment is purely and simply about whether it is appropriate to have such a provision on the face of this Bill that makes demands and requirements of a future Presiding Officer and a future Senedd. That is not regular, it's not normal, and shouldn't be in the Bill. That's why we're proposing deleting it. But I recognise that, if my amendment 4 is not agreed, it is necessary to improve the drafting of the Bill, which is why I've said that we support the drafting improvement that is amendment 63.

I completely and utterly reject any suggestion that any part of this Bill should apply before April 2026, because we've had many discussions about the timetable for the imposition and the introduction of all of the arrangements that this Senedd reform Bill might lead to. It's completely unacceptable for everybody involved to try and bring forward the introduction of the new framework for Senedd elections, the new voting arrangements, the new way that people will have to work as a result of these reforms by six months, because there simply isn't time to be able to implement that in a safe way and to educate the public about it. So, I encourage everybody in this Chamber to vote against the Government's amendment 62.

Y bleidlais nesaf fydd gwelliant 4. Os derbynnir gwelliant 4, bydd gwelliannau 62 a 63 yn methu. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 4? A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad, felly fe wnawn ni agor y bleidlais ar welliant 4. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 15, neb yn ymatal, 41 yn erbyn. Felly, mae gwelliant 4 wedi ei wrthod.

The next vote will be on amendment 4. If amendment 4 is agreed, amendments 62 and 63 fall. The question is that amendment 4 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There is objection. We will therefore open the vote on amendment 4. Close the vote. In favour 15, no abstentions, 41 against. Therefore, amendment 4 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 4: O blaid: 15, Yn erbyn: 41, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 4: For: 15, Against: 41, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Gwelliant—. Na, fe fyddwn ni'n symud nawr nesaf i grŵp 8. Na, dŷn ni ddim. Rydyn ni'n mynd i welliant 62.

Amendment—. No, we will move to group 8. No, we won't. We will move to amendment 62.

Amendment 62 is next.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 62 (Mick Antoniw).

Amendment 62 (Mick Antoniw) moved.

Oes yna wrthwynebiad i welliant 62? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad. Felly, agor y bleidlais ar welliant 62. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 41, neb yn ymatal, 15 yn erbyn. Mae gwelliant 62 wedi ei dderbyn.

Is there any objection to amendment 62? [Objection.] There is objection. Therefore, I open the vote on amendment 62. Close the vote. In favour 41, no abstentions, 15 against. Therefore, amendment 62 is agreed.

Gwelliant 62: O blaid: 41, Yn erbyn: 15, Ymatal: 0

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 62: For: 41, Against: 15, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been agreed

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 63 (Mick Antoniw).

Amendment 63 (Mick Antoniw) moved.

Ydy. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 63? Oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? Nac oes. Felly, mae gwelliant 63 wedi ei dderbyn.

It is moved. The question is that amendment 63 be agreed to. Does any Member object? No, there are no objections. Therefore, amendment 63 is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 12.36.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

Grŵp 8: Y system bleidleisio yn etholiadau cyffredinol y Senedd a dyrannu seddi (Gwelliannau 21, 51, 22, 23, 117, 31, 32)
Group 8: Voting system at Senedd general elections and allocation of seats (Amendments 21, 51, 22, 23, 117, 31, 32)

Grŵp 8 fydd nesaf. Y system bleidleisio yn etholiadau cyffredinol y Senedd a dyrannu seddi yw'r gwelliannau yn y grŵp yma. Gwelliant 21 yw'r prif welliant yn y grŵp, a dwi'n galw ar Darren Millar i gynnig y gwelliant.

We move now to group 8, which relates to the voting system at Senedd general elections and allocation of seats. The lead amendment is amendment 21, and I call on Darren Millar to move the amendment.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 21 (Darren Millar, gyda chefnogaeth Jane Dodds).

Amendment 21 (Darren Millar, supported by Jane Dodds) moved.

Diolch, Llywydd. I rise to speak to and move amendments 21, 22 and 23, tabled in my name, and also to support amendments 31, 32 and 51, tabled in the name of Jane Dodds.

One of the elements of this Bill that has been heavily criticised, and rightly so, is the shift to a voting system that will see 100 per cent of seats in the Senedd elected by a closed list voting system. It's a system that amounts, frankly, to a power grab by political parties, ripping power away from the hands of voters by preventing them from being able to vote for an individual candidate of their choice and putting the power firmly into the hands of political party members, who will dictate the order of candidates on lists, and therefore determine those who are most likely to be elected to this Senedd. It's a hugely detrimental step for Welsh democracy.

The whole purpose of our representative democracy here in Wales is for Members of the Senedd to put forward the views of their constituents, and for those to be first and foremost in the minds of Members of the Senedd when they are standing in this Chamber, not to put first and foremost the views of their respective political party members. I'm afraid that that will absolutely be the case should this system go forward.

Now, the Reform Bill Committee took a great deal of evidence on the closed list voting system proposed by this Bill, and, indeed, some of the alternatives to it. Committee members recognised that there was a desirability for all Members of the Senedd to have a system whereby Members are elected with the same mandate, not a dual-mandate system as we have at the moment, with constituency and regional Members, so elected using the same mandate, which is easy to understand for voters and easy to implement for electoral administrators. But the abolition of a system that denies voter choice in favour of one that gives enormous powers to political parties to determine who gets elected and who doesn't will result in a Parliament where MSs' loyalty to their political parties will trump their loyalty to their constituents, and that can never, ever be a good thing in a democracy.

Now, I acknowledge that there's some familiarity with the current regional closed list voting system for Senedd elections, but we have to remember that two thirds of Members of this Welsh Parliament have an individual mandate as they are first-past-the-post representatives. Our names are on the ballot paper. People can pass their judgment on our performance as their local representative regardless of the colour of the rosette that that we wear on election day. Now, I understand that many people choose to vote for Members of this Senedd because they represent a political party, but under the current voting system we can see that there are differential results for first-past-the-post elections in each of our constituencies and then the votes on the regional ballot. We see that, don't we? So, we know that voters make a conscious choice sometimes to choose an individual Member who may not represent the political particular party viewpoint that they may have, but they think that that particular person does a good job for them locally, and they get the benefit of that in an individual vote on the first-past-the-post list. It's this element of voter choice and this direct accountability that are precious, and we should not do anything, in my view, to undermine them.

It's because of that and it's because of the lack of voter choice in the new arrangements that are proposed by the Welsh Government that the Reform Bill Committee recommended that the Member in charge should work with all political parties in this Senedd to reach agreement on how the Bill could be amended at Stage 2 to ensure that the electoral system provides for greater voter choice and improved accountability for future Members to their electorates. Now, regrettably, the Member in charge rejected that recommendation and there has been no attempt whatsoever to address the concerns it raised in relation to the lack of voter choice under the new system. The Minister's excuse for not getting to grips with that recommendation—which, of course, was a cross-party recommendation made by everybody in that Senedd reform committee—was because he feels that the only voting system that's going to command a supermajority in the Senedd is the one that's before us today. In other words, what he's saying is that party whips on the Labour and Plaid benches will force Members to vote for it, even if it's against their better judgment.

Of course, we've already seen the fact that Labour and Plaid are joined at the hip with these reforms, because they've voted together on every single amendment so far, and spoken for or against every single amendment consistently, as though they're reading the same notes and receiving the same whipping advice. So, it's because of that that I've tabled my amendments in this group, and what they will do is they'll make a small but significant change to the arrangements that are proposed under the Senedd reform Bill. They will not prevent political parties from ranking candidates onto lists. What they will do is introduce flexible lists, and my amendment 21 will give voters the ability to either vote for a party or an individual candidate on the party list. So, someone would be given a ballot paper and told, 'You can vote for a party or you can vote for a person. The choice is a matter for you.' The voter choice: the voters will have a choice to reject someone who might be at the top of a candidate list in favour of someone who might actually be at the bottom that they think could do a better job.

Amendment 22 would deal with the practicality of requiring those votes for individual candidates to be added up, and amendment 23 would enable any candidate with more than 10 per cent of the total votes cast for their party to go to the top of their list, and if more than one candidate secures more than 10 per cent of their party's votes, then those at the top of the list would be ranked in order of the number of votes cast. Now, why a threshold of 10 per cent? Well, that is the threshold that was proposed by the expert panel on Senedd reform when it undertook work on this matter some years ago, and, of course, it has looked at all of the international examples of where systems like this, flexible list systems, are used. And I have to say, there are very, very few examples now in the world of closed list systems; most people are shifting to flexible listed systems, so we're going back to the dark ages as far as closed list systems are concerned. And what it would do is—. They considered all these international examples of the thresholds that are used in flexible list systems around the world, and they felt that a 10 per cent threshold would be the most appropriate for us here in Wales. So, this change, this change from closed to flexible lists, is minor, but it would allow for significant benefits in terms of voter choice. It would still allow a significant package of reform, it would still allow for a more proportional Senedd—or the ought-to-be more proportional; there's no guarantee of that—but it should still allow for a more proportional Senedd, but, fundamentally, it would keep that direct accountability between Members of this Senedd and the people that we serve.

Now, turning briefly to the other amendments in this group: Jane Dodds's amendments complement this flexible list system. Amendment 31 would require returning officers to use the reordered lists when notifying the Presiding Officer when a Senedd vacancy arises. So, if a candidate has gotten to the top of the list who wasn't previously at the top of the list, that person would be the next person on the list to go in, rather than the person, perhaps, that was placed there by the party.

Amendment 32 is consequential to amendment 31, and very importantly, so that this system could work, amendment 51 requires that the names of all candidates are on the ballot paper, something that at the moment is not required currently on the face of the Bill. So, while that is necessary for a flexible list system, it is also, of course, absolutely necessary, in my view, for transparency with a closed list system too. So, no matter what happens, that has to be an amendment that I think we should all agree to.

And finally, amendment 117 would require the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru to undertake a review of the candidate threshold of 10 per cent after each Senedd election, to make sure that it was appropriate. So, there is some confidence that even if that 10 per cent threshold is insufficient in the first instance to cause a reordering of the lists, it can be tweaked in some way in the future.

So, I support all of the amendments in this group, and I encourage every other Member of this Chamber to do likewise.

18:30

Diolch, Llywydd. Fel y gwyddom ni oll, mae nifer o baneli a phwyllgorau a chomisiynau wedi cytuno bod ein Senedd heb ei chyfansoddi yn iawn i wneud y gwaith mae pobl Cymru wedi gofyn iddi wneud. Bu llawer o drafod hefyd am be ddylai’r system ddelfrydol fod, a'r ateb yn dibynnu, i raddau helaeth, ar bwy dŷch chi’n gofyn. Fel y dywedais ar ddechrau'r ddadl hon, mae’n gwbl hysbys mai system STV neu restrau cyfrannol agored neu hyblyg y byddem ni, fel Plaid Cymru, yn ei ffafrio. Mi oedden ni'n berffaith onest: cyfaddawd ydy hwn—cydweithio, tir canol er budd ein cymunedau. Does yna ddim byd cyfrinachol am hynny ac mi ydyn ni wedi cael cydsyniad Aelodau Plaid Cymru er mwyn bod o'r farn honno wrth ddod â'r cytundeb cydweithio ger eu bron nhw. Felly, mae hyn yn dangos aeddfedrwydd o ran gallu cyfaddawdu, tra hefyd yn datgan yn glir beth fyddem ni wedi'i ffafrio.

Ein blaenoriaeth ni heddiw, fodd bynnag, ydy sicrhau bod pecyn beiddgar o ddiwygiadau yn eu lle erbyn 2026 ac, fel dwi wedi pwysleisio droeon erbyn hyn,  fod yr adolygiad yn un gwirioneddol a fydd yn galluogi rhagor o newid erbyn 2030.

Mi ydyn ni'n cydnabod yr heriau sydd yn gysylltiedig gyda’r system ar wyneb y Bil ar hyn o bryd. Ond mae'r Bil, fel rhan o’r pecyn o fesurau sydd wedi’u cytuno rhwng ein dwy blaid, yn darparu ar gyfer mecanwaith adolygu lle bydd y Senedd ei hun yn gallu dychwelyd yn syth ar ôl etholiad 2026 at drafodaeth am yr union ffurf o gynrychiolaeth gyfrannol i'w defnyddio.

Thank you, Llywydd. As we all know, there have been a number of panels, committees and commissions that have agreed that our Senedd isn't properly constituted to deliver what the people of Wales requires it to do. There's been a great deal of discussion too on what the ideal system should look like, and the answer depended, to a great extent, on who you spoke to. As I said at the beginning of this debate, it is well known that we, as Plaid Cymru, would favour STV or flexible or proportional open lists. We were entirely honest: this is a compromise—collaboration, finding the middle ground for the benefit of our communities. There is nothing secretive about that and we have got the consent of Plaid Cymru Members in order to bring the co-operation agreement before them. So, this shows maturity in terms of being able to compromise, whilst also clearly stating what we would have favoured.

Our priority today, however, is to ensure that this bold package of reforms is in place by 2026 and, as I have emphasised time and time again, that the review is truly meaningful and can provide further change by 2030.

We recognise the challenges related to the system on the face of the Bill at the moment. But the Bill, as part of the package of measures agreed between our two parties, provides for a mechanism of review where the Senedd itself will be able to return immediately after the election in 2026 to this discussion on the exact form of proportional representation that should be adopted.

18:35

Heledd, ydy e'n iawn—[Anghlywadwy.]

Heledd, is it okay—[Inaudible.]

Dŷch chi wedi sôn am gydweithio.

You've spoken about co-operation.

You've talked about working together and making compromises. As I asked earlier, though, most compromises are made on the basis of knowing the reason for the compromise—knowing the reason why you're being asked to follow a certain route. So, really, I ask you again: what is, as you understand, the Labour reason for not supporting a different system to closed lists, which would then allow you, perhaps, to make a more informed decision about why you want to support it? Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Dŷn ni mewn cytundeb cydweithio—dydy hynny ddim yn golygu bod gen i fewnwelediad i feddylfryd y Blaid Lafur, felly, byddwn i'n awgrymu eich bod chi yn gofyn y cwestiwn hwnnw i'r Cwnsler Cyffredinol ei hun. Oherwydd, medraf i gyfiawnhau pam fod Plaid Cymru yn fodlon cyfaddawdu, ond dwi'n meddwl ei fod o i fyny i'r Blaid Lafur egluro pam eu bod nhw mor daer mai dyma'r unig system y bydden nhw'n fodlon mynd ymlaen â hi, oherwydd dŷn ni wedi trio eu cael nhw i symud ar hynny.

Mi ydyn ni—. Sori, dwi wedi colli fy lle. Y pwysigrwydd o ran hyn i gyd ydy ein bod ni'n cael y diwygiadau hyn ar waith rŵan, oherwydd bod amser yn ein herbyn gydag ychydig dros ddwy flynedd i fynd tan etholiad Senedd 2026, a sicrhau mai dim ond ar gyfer yr etholiad cyntaf o dan y system newydd y defnyddir y rhestrau caeedig. Byddwn yn ceisio sicrhau bod y mecanwaith adolygu yn cael ei ddefnyddio i alluogi newid.

Er efallai nad y system yw'r un ddelfrydol, fel dŷn ni wedi clywed eisoes, mae'r achos dros Senedd briodol gyda digon o Aelodau yn y Senedd i ddwyn y Llywodraeth i gyfrif a chael gwared ar y system hen ffasiwn cyntaf i'r felin, a chyflwyno yn ei lle system lle mae nifer y pleidleisiau a fwriwyd yn adlewyrchu'r seddi a enillwyd, yn glir i mi—mae o yn gam ymlaen.

We're in a co-operation agreement—that does not mean that I have great insight into the thinking of the Labour Party, so I would suggest that you ask that question of the Counsel General himself. Because I can justify why Plaid Cymru is willing to compromise, but I think it is up to the Labour Party to explain why they are so set on this being the only system that they would be willing to proceed with, because we have tried to get them to move on that.

We are—. I apologise, I've lost my place. The importance in all of this is that we get the reforms in place now, because time is against us with only a little over two years until the Senedd elections in 2026, and ensure that it's only for that first election that the new closed list system is used. We will try to ensure that the review mechanism is used to enable change.

Although perhaps the system isn't an ideal one, as we've already heard, the case for an appropriate Senedd with sufficient numbers in the Senedd to hold the Government to account, getting rid of the antiquated first-past-the-post system and introducing in its place a system where the number of votes cast reflects the seats won, is clear to me—it is a step forward.

I heard a very romantic view of first-past-the-post from Darren Millar, one that I don't subscribe to. I think that, when people do—. You mentioned the differential in terms of constituency and regional votes—people often tell me that they would like to vote Plaid Cymru, but that they fear that vote in a constituency. We see posters and leaflets time and time again, 'Vote Tory to keep out Labour' or vice versa—[Interruption.] Sorry?

That wasn't an intervention, sorry, that was a comment.

But I think what we are talking about now is having a more proportional system so that people feel empowered with their voting. So, I do see this as a step forward and we need to admit that there are huge flaws with the first-past-the-post system—that people don't feel that that vote counts, and, actually, there's a disengagement with politics.

I'r sawl sy'n dweud y dylem ni geisio newid y system bleidleisio a chwalu’r cytundeb ar y pecyn o ddiwygiadau rŵan, fel y byddai derbyn gwelliant Darren Millar a Jane Dodds yn ei wneud, mae gen i ofn y byddai hynny'n mynd â ni yn ôl at y dechrau. Nid dewis rhwng y pecyn hwn a’r pecyn perffaith ydyn ni ar y pwynt yma, ond dewis rhwng y pecyn hwn neu dim un o gwbl. Y gwir amdani ydy fod y pecyn hwn yn gam pendant tuag at greu Senedd briodol, sy'n addas ar gyfer gwlad annibynnol yn y dyfodol ac mae'n rhaid inni fanteisio ar y cyfle.

Ond rhaid cofio hefyd fod y system yma ar wyneb y Bil hefyd yn hwyluso cyflwyno datblygiad radical arall: mecanwaith statudol i wreiddio’r addewid o Senedd fwy cynrychioliadol o'r dechrau, sy’n rhan greiddiol o’r ymrwymiad ar ddiwygio yn y cytundeb cydweithio. Mae’r ddwy blaid, yn ôl y cytundeb, yn cytuno i gefnogi cynlluniau i ddiwygio’r Senedd yn seiliedig ar, ymhlith pethau eraill, gwotâu rhywedd statudol wedi’u hintegreiddio yn y system etholiadol. Oherwydd, wrth ehangu'r Senedd a chreu Senedd wirioneddol gynrychioladol, rydym yn benderfynol o gywiro’r sefyllfa annerbyniol bresennol lle mae merched wedi’u tangynrychioli yn y lle yma, sy’n effeithio yn andwyol ar allu’r Senedd i weithredu’n effeithiol a’i gallu i adlewyrchu’r wlad y mae’n ceisio ei chynrychioli yn llawn.

Mi oeddwn i'n falch o weld y Bil Senedd Cymru (Rhestrau Ymgeiswyr Etholiadol) yn cael ei gyhoeddi yn y datganiad busnes y prynhawn yma ac edrychwn ymlaen at weld y Bil yn cael ei gyflwyno wythnos nesaf, ac i bob plaid, gan gynnwys fy un i, sicrhau y bydd yr ymgeiswyr a ddewisir yn 2026 yn gwarantu ethol Senedd fodern sy'n adlewyrchu ein cenedl. Does dim byd yng ngwelliant 23 sy’n esbonio sut byddai’r rhestrau hyblyg maen nhw’n eu cynnig yn gweithio ochr yn ochr â’r elfen cwbl greiddiol o’r pecyn i sicrhau Senedd gynrychioladol drwy gwotâu rhywedd statudol. Hyd y gwelaf, gallai’r pleidiau fod yn cyflwyno rhestrau yn unol â’r egwyddor honno, ond heb ddim i atal y rhestrau rhag cael eu hail osod gan yr etholwyr wedi’r etholiad i roi dynion ar y top. Mae’r gwelliannau sy’n gysylltiedig efo hwn hefyd ynghylch rhoi dyletswydd ar y comisiwn ffiniau i adolygu’r trothwy ar gyfer y rhestrau hyblyg yn tanseilio annibyniaeth y comisiwn ffiniau oddi ar y system wleidyddol, rhywbeth rydyn ni’n ceisio ei gryfhau drwy welliannau eraill sydd wedi’u gosod. Swyddogaeth y Senedd hon yw cytuno ei system etholiadol, felly nid yw’n briodol ceisio tynnu corff arall sydd i fod y tu allan i'r system wleidyddol i mewn i'r darlun.

Mi wnaeth Darren Millar gydnabod bod cyflwyno rhestr o ymgeiswyr yn golygu nad yw pleidleiswyr yn gwybod pwy maen nhw'n pleidleisio drostyn nhw ddim yn cael ei adlewyrchu yn ein hanes ni yng Nghymru o ran ei grŵp fo ei hun.

For those who say that we should try to change the voting system and destroy the agreement on the package of reforms now, as what accepting the Darren Millar and Jane Dodds amendment would do, I fear that that would take us back to square one. It's not a choice between this package and the perfect package at this point, but a choice between this or nothing at all. The truth of the matter is that this package of reforms is a certain step towards creating a strong Senedd that is appropriate for an independent nation in the future and we must take that opportunity.

But we must also bear in mind that this system on the face of the Bill also facilitates the introduction of another radical development: a statutory mechanism to put in place a more representative Senedd, which is a core part of the commitment on reform in the co-operation agreement. Both parties agree on policies to reform the Senedd based on, among other things, statutory gender quotas integrated in the electoral system. Because, in expanding the Senedd and creating a truly representative Senedd, we are determined to put right the unacceptable status quo, where women are underrepresented in this place, which has a detrimental impact on the ability of the Senedd to operate effectively and its ability to reflect the nation that it seeks to represent fully. 

I was pleased to see the Senedd Cymru (Electoral Candidate Lists) Bill listed in the business statement today, and I look forward to seeing the Bill introduced next week and for all parties, including my own, to ensure that the candidates selected in 2026 will guarantee the election of a modern Senedd that reflects our nation. There is nothing in amendment 23 that explains how the flexible lists proposed would work along with the core element of the package to ensure a representative Senedd through statutory gender quotas. As far as I can see, the parties could introduce lists in accordance with that principle, but with nothing to prevent those lists from being reordered by the electors following the election to put men at the top. The amendments related to this are also about putting a responsibility on the boundary commission to look at the boundaries for the flexible lists, and that undermines the independence of the boundary commission from the political system, something that we are trying to strengthen through other amendments tabled. The function of this Senedd is to agree its electoral system, so it's not appropriate to try and bring another body that is supposed to be outwith politics into that picture. 

Now Darren Millar recognised that introducing a list of candidates would mean that voters wouldn't know who they are voting for, and that hasn't been reflected in our history in Wales in terms of his own group. 

You suggest that your leader isn't currently accountable because of the way he is elected. 

O dan system gyntaf i'r felin San Steffan i ethol Aelodau Seneddol, mae pleidleiswyr mewn gwirionedd yn dewis rhwng rhestr gaeedig o un a ddewiswyd gan blaid. Felly, mae'n rhaid inni fod yn onest ynglŷn â faint o ddewis sydd gan etholwyr ar y funud o ran pwy sydd yn sefyll mewn etholiad. Mae'r syniad bod y math penodol o gynrychiolaeth gyfrannol y darperir ar ei gyfer yn y Bil hwn yn ddiwedd ar ddemocratiaeth yng Nghymru neu ddiwedd datganoli yn or-ddatganiad. Ac ymhell o fod yn ddiwedd, mae hwn yn gam arwyddocaol iawn ymlaen a dylid ei gydnabod felly. Am y rhesymau hyn oll felly, nid ydym yn gallu cefnogi gwelliannau 21, 22 a 23 yn enw Darren Millar, nac ychwaith gwelliannau 31 a 32.

Ar y gwelliannau eraill o fewn y grŵp yma, mi ydym ni'n gefnogol o welliant 51 yn enw Jane Dodds. Mae’n bwysig bod enwau unigolion i'w gweld ar y rhestr, fel ei bod hi'n glir pwy fydd yn cael eu hethol. Dyma yw’r arfer ar hyn o bryd ar bapurau balot rhestrau rhanbarthol, ac rydym o'r farn y dylai hynny barhau, felly rydym ni'n falch o gefnogi hwnnw.

Under the first-past-the-post system in Westminster to elect MPs, voters in reality are choosing from a closed list of one selected by a party. So, we do have to be honest about how much choice electors currently have in terms of who stands for election. The idea that the particular kind of proportional representation provided for in this Bill is the end of democracy in Wales or the end of devolution is an overstatement. Far from being the end, this is a significant step forward, and it should be recognised as such. For all of these reasons, therefore, we cannot support amendments 21, 22 and 23 in the name of Darren Millar or amendments 31 and 32.

On the other amendments in this group, we are supportive of amendment 51 in the name of Jane Dodds. It is important that the names of individuals are seen on the list, so it is clear who will be elected. That is current practice on the regional list ballot papers, and we are of the view that that should continue, so we are pleased to support that. 

18:40

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd. I just really want to start from a place where we're just really clear that progressive parties, as I would call them, in this Siambr are absolutely delighted to see the end of first-past-the-post. That's not the issue. The issue here is what's the voting system we now put in place instead of first-past-the-post.

Being on the two committees, we heard not one piece of evidence in favour of the proposed closed list system. Not one expert, not even half an expert, came and said, 'Maybe it's okay.' So, my question is: what is the point of having experts come to us in the committees, not just in this committee but in the previous committees as well? Because we heard time after time after time that closed list systems put power in the hands of the party not in the people.

This is the most important group of amendments to me. There's no need for me to remind the Siambr of where I and the Welsh Liberal Democrats stand. We stand very clearly for STV. And somebody's asked me today why am I not speaking in favour of STV—well, I know it's not going to get anywhere close to being considered, because I think if we consider here, in this Siambr today, a movement to flexible open lists then maybe we'll get to STV in 2030. The time is disappearing. It is not good enough just to settle on a half-hearted closed list system that nobody, none of the experts, who have far more experience than us here in the Siambr, none of them, support.

I do speak in favour of lead amendment 21 by Darren Millar. Reforming and expanding this Senedd is undoubtedly vital if we are to become a truly legislative body, but I must emphasise that this landmark Bill represents that once in a lifetime, that once in a generation opportunity to revolutionise our democracy here in Wales. It's really something we need to be proud of. It's really something we need to seek our conscience on. As a member, as I've said, of the two committees, the Reform Bill Committee and the special purposes committee, for which I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be on those committees, as I say, no compelling case was made at all for a closed list system.

You will know that democratic and meaningful reforms such as STV do empower voters. Yet now, astonishingly, we find ourselves considering an electoral system of closed party lists that the very experts that we relied on have roundly criticised as undemocratic. We know the evidence shows closed lists reduce voter choice and autonomy over candidate selection. We know respected voices, such as Professors Renwick and McAllister, have sounded the alarm, warning that closed lists could render Wales an outlier, disconnected from democratic norms.

In stark contrast, the flexible list system retains the foundational elements of proportionality that have brought us here thus far, while crucially adding the critical layer of voter empowerment and candidate accountability that is glaringly missing from closed lists. Under a flexible list, voters could directly influence the ranking and selection of candidates from each party through their own preferences marked on the ballot.

A flexible list system could offer a much more long-term and sustainable solution, but I must reiterate, as I've said previously, I've yet to hear a single credible, compelling reason for changing to a closed list voting system. I'm afraid, once again—and I'll say it—this proposal has all the hallmarks of a backroom deal, a stitch-up decided behind closed doors, designed to present closed lists as a fait accompli.

I have asked the Member in charge on a number of occasions—just as I'm sorry to have harangued Heledd Fychan to ask the same question—what is the issue that means that the Labour Party here in the Welsh Parliament cannot support a fair and open democratic system, which would then mean that Plaid Cymru could support it? I have never had an answer. Maybe that will come to us this evening, and I will be asking for that to come from the Member in charge.

Turning to my amendments, amendment 117 has been tabled in my name. This amendment would amend section 9A of the Bill to require the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru to carry out a regular and robust review of the allocation of seats after each general election. The commission would have to consult widely with the Electoral Commission, third sector bodies and other appropriate persons, and, importantly, make an assessment of the 10 per cent figure used in the allocation calculations. They would need to make recommendations on whether to reduce the figure in order to improve proportionality. This amendment is modest, yet crucial, and would lead to the flexible list system being more proportional.

Amendment 51 would similarly modestly require the ballot papers used in constituency votes to include the names of all candidates, and I'm grateful for the support, as stated by Plaid Cymru, to this amendment. This would help ensure the public actively would see who they were voting for to represent them in the Senedd, unlike under a closed list system.

Amendment 31 would ensure that, when a party's regional list has been reordered under a flexible system, the constituency returning officer must use the reordered list when notifying who should fill the vacancy, and amendment 32 would add to this by clarifying the wording surrounding the notification process. By supporting all these amendments and the flexible list amendment, Members will be crafting a truly responsive, proportional and democratic system that is a genuine step forward rather than a step backwards.

I do encourage all Members to support these amendments. And in summary I say this to Labour Members and to Plaid Cymru Members: follow your heart. This is an emotional issue. This is really about a system that gives power to the people, not to the parties. [Interruption.] I'm just about to finish. Diolch.

18:50

Gaf i jest gofyn? Un peth doedd ddim yn glir o'ch cyfraniad chi oedd sut mae'r gwelliant yma rydych chi wedi sôn amdano fo i fod i weithio gyda'r cwotâu, oherwydd beth fyddai'n atal rhestr gydradd o ran rhywedd wedyn rhag cael ei aildrefnu? Os byddech chi'n gallu jest ymateb ar y pwynt yna.

Can I just ask? One thing that wasn't clear from your contribution is how this amendment is supposed to work with quotas, because what would prevent such a list that was equal in terms of gender from being reordered? If you could just respond on that point.

Ie, siŵr.

Yes, sure.

So, it would make sure that if a party came forward under the flexible list system then that could be reordered by the constituency returning officer, and that would mean that a vacancy would not go unfilled. So, that's the purpose of that. That's amendment 31.

So, I was just about to finish. So, really, my closing words are to say to you that there are details here, but the clear issue is that a closed list system does nothing for our democracy here in Wales. A flexible list system is a step in the right direction, and I do urge you, and I do urge my colleagues here in Plaid Cymru who I know, in their hearts, support this, to really think again and to really look at how they can support this going forward. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

I'm grateful to you, Presiding Officer. I'll intervene very briefly in this debate this evening. In many ways, I would agree with much of what has just been said by the Liberal Democrats here. I would like to be making a speech in favour of STV this evening. I strongly support STV, and I think there are very few Members in this Parliament who have made as many speeches as I have supporting STV, and I've come back to it, and I know I've bored colleagues and opponents equally, I hope. But there's also a point at which you accept where we're moving, and you accept, perhaps, the greater prize rather than what your actual ambition is. You invited us, Jane, to vote with our hearts rather than our heads. I'm going to vote with my head, I'm afraid, because I want this to work and I want to change for democracy—

Would you take an intervention? Can you tell me what reason you've been given as an individual Member—

I knew you were going to say that. I should never take interventions. [Laughter.]

—what reason you have been given to change, to change your head, to really rationalise it so that you are not voting for a system that's more proportional?

It is the 'head' bit, if you like, that has persuaded me to compromise with my colleagues, who are not as persuaded as you are, who are not as persuaded as I am, of the need for STV. Now, as I look at you, Jane, I look past Mike Hedges, who is not known as the greatest advocate to proportional representation in this place. And it is right and proper that we find common ground with each other in order to make improvements and in order to strengthen our democracy. Now, that isn't a compromise that we all want to make all of the time. I recognise that. And that isn't a compromise I would search for. But it's a compromise I make because I think that the democractic prize that we have on offer is greater. And so one step forward is better than no step forward. And I accept—[Interruption.] It's another intervention.

So, this is not about a compromise between STV and closed lists. You're being asked to consider a better list system, which will give you all the benefits of closed lists, while still maintaining some of those benefits of first-past-the-post, where people can vote for an individual person. What is the problem with that? Have you had that articulated to you and explained to you, because we still haven't? Even in the Reform Bill Committee, we were baffled as to why there was no movement.

18:55

I've listened to you. I've listened to the arguments around a flexible list this afternoon, and I have to say, I'm sorry, I haven't been persuaded by them in what I've heard in the debate today. But what I am persuaded of—and this is the point I want to make, Darren—what I am persuaded of is the requirement for us to make progress in strengthening our democracy. And for us to do that today, this evening, now, means to accept where we are and not believe that we're somewhere else. And that means, for those of us who have campaigned throughout our adult lives for STV and for proportional representation, to make that compromise. And I think it is important that, in making progress, we recognise that not everybody is moving, perhaps, at the same pace, or even wants to be on that journey at all. And, by doing so, we do strengthen our democracy—and I do believe that this Bill strengthens our democracy—and by making the compromise, we bring people with us. 

Now, I recognise that Darren is in a different place. I recognise the Conservatives are conservative. They do not want to see progress, and that has been their role in our constitution, in our democracy, down the decades and down the years. Now, they enjoy, they welcome—[Interruption.] I'm going to carry on. They welcome first-past-the-post because it enables them to govern on a minority of the vote. And that satisfies them. That makes them happy. It means that they can impose policies on this country without any democratic mandate, and without seeking the support of the people. And I don't blame them for that, as it happens. That is what a Conservative does. But we are different. We, in the progressive parties in this country, want to see change. It is as progressive parties that we have to work together in order to deliver change. And I do believe, therefore, that this is a compromise that isn't simply a backroom deal, but a compromise that takes us forward. 

And what I'll say to Darren is this: when he opened his remarks by talking about the power of the political party in order to impose control, and that the Conservatives didn't want any of this, I was just thinking to myself, 'I wonder what David Melding thinks, I wonder what Suzy Davies thinks', because some of us saw a political party imposing change in the way that Darren described, and many of us thought it was pretty ugly. So, let me say this: political parties have power and we all recognise that. Anybody who simply says that a political party does not have power to affect the position of a candidate in a constituency such as mine in Blaenau Gwent doesn't understand political parties, or has a very rosy view of political parties. And anybody who wants a lesson in that can look at Rochdale last week.

So, let us say this—let us say this—let us as progressives move our democracy forward. Let us as progressives accept that we don't win the prize that we seek immediately. But let us as progressives also do this: accept today's compromise, accept where we are today, but redouble our efforts, and when we have the opportunity to review this legislation, and when we have the opportunity to review the operation of this electoral system in five or six years' time, let us make the case for proportional representation, for STV, and let us build the majority to win it at that occasion. Thank you. 

Diolch, Llywydd. I will not be supporting amendments 21, 22, 23, 117, 31 or 32. [Interruption.]

I do really want to hear what the Counsel General has to say on this. A number of people have requested to hear what the Counsel General has to say on this group. So, can we hear it in some quiet, please?

Some people will not sleep tonight well if they don't hear what I have to say. [Laughter.]

I will not be supporting amendments 21, 22, 23, 117, 31 or 32, which would give effect to a flexible list system, and a mechanism for subsequently reviewing its associated threshold. It is my opinion that the closed list proportional representation system provided for in this Bill can both command the necessary supermajority for it to be passed, and can be superior to our current electoral system. A closed list system will remove the existing disproportionate element of first-past-the-post in our current electoral system, ensuring that every vote counts. It will ensure there will be a single route to election. It simplifies the current system. Voters will have one ballot paper instead of two ballot papers, and it is a system that is already familiar to voters, being used for the current regional list ballots and formerly for the election of Members of the European Parliament. And I will add that it will also increase real opportunity for political parties to increase diversity.

19:00

Thank you so much. Diolch yn fawr iawn. You mentioned there about this commanding a supermajority, and we've heard, haven't we, that there are some people on the Labour benches who are not in favour of either STV or the flexible list system, or perhaps even the closed list system that's been suggested. Is it the case in the Labour party that there are times when not everybody agrees with a specific vote, but they are whipped? They are whipped. And, therefore, what stops the Labour leadership here, this evening, whipping the Labour Members, and therefore allowing Plaid Cymru to support a flexible list system? What is the actual reason that says, 'We want to support a more proportional system and we will ensure that our Senedd Members here this evening do support the flexible list system'? Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Well, the reason is quite simple, that we have very detailed discussions, we share a variety of different positions and disagreements over the way forward, the different systems that there might be, and we come to a collective position as to one that we feel that we can all buy into, and I think that is very important. It's the same way in which we operated when we effectively collated another form of closed list system when we introduced all-women shortlists, which have actually transformed, I think, the representation in this particular Senedd. I think it also provides a very real opportunity in terms of actually increasing and improving the diversity within this Senedd as well.

But, above all, what it does do, it does two things. Firstly, it represents a much more democratic and fairer system, so it is an enormous improvement on the system that we have at the moment. And, secondly, it provides an opportunity and a mechanism where the experience that we have in 2026 can be reviewed. And I think those are important objectives. But the objective above all else, if we don't have a two-thirds majority, then nothing changes, and we are left with a system that is far less desirable than the one that is being proposed by this legislation. So, this legislation is a significant improvement in our democratic system.

Can I also say that a closed list system does not remove from voters a choice that they currently have? Parties currently select their constituency candidates for the first-past-the-post system and, as they will do so, the same in a list system. The choice for the voter is then to vote for the candidate selected by any party or to vote for an independent candidate. Heledd was absolutely right when she said that what you actually have is a closed list system on first-past-the-post in Westminster, but you have a list of one. I think that if you look at this package overall, if you look at the proposals overall, I think they are a very, very significant improvement.

The post-legislative review, as provided for in section 19 of the Bill, is also an important mechanism, which facilitates a committee of the next Senedd to consider the operation and effect of this legislation. So, while the exact scope of that review will be a matter for the next Senedd, the explanatory notes to the Bill set out that it may include the experience of closed lists.

Can I also say, in respect of the Member Jane Dodds's amendment 51, I'm happy to support amendment 51? It has always been Welsh Government's position that candidates’ names should appear on the ballot paper, just as they currently do in Senedd regional elections, and as such I’m happy to support this amendment, which would require the conduct order to provide for the ballot paper used at a general election in a Senedd constituency to include the names of the candidates. I'm very grateful to the Member for the way we've been able to engage over that particular amendment. Diolch yn fawr.

19:05

Diolch, Llywydd. It's a shame that the Government is not supporting this proposal to shift to a flexible list system. Nobody is arguing in favour of—. We're not trying to change this system back to a first-past-the-post system; we're accepting it's going to change, so I don't really know why people have been trying to make the arguments back to us about, 'Why are you supporting a first-past-the-post system?' Everybody knows that that's our preferred system because of the direct accountability, but we're not seeking to amend the Bill to a first-past-the-post system; what we're seeking to do is to maintain the benefit of a first-past-the-post system in terms of direct accountability of Members of this Senedd to their constituents, because you'll have to work hard to earn their votes in order to get the crosses in the box next to your name to go up to the top of the list, rather than giving that power to political parties to rank you in accordance with who's the favourite amongst the party faithful.

I'm sorry, but having the opportunity to represent our constituents is the biggest privilege that we will ever have, and they command my loyalty; they obviously don't command the loyalty of everybody in this Chamber, because your party whips are the ones that you're giving your loyalty to today and you're giving away your loyalty from your constituents and giving it directly to the parties that selected you. That is detrimental to our democracy. [Interruption.]

So, I've not argued to keep first-past-the-post; I'm arguing to try and make this new Senedd reform system better, to improve it. That's what we said we were going to do at the very start of this process, recognising the arithmetic in this Senedd and the fact that a Bill is likely to succeed. 

Now, I've heard about people preferring STV. Jane Dodds was very honest when she said, 'Look, it's quite clear that an STV amendment is never going to get anywhere in here', so she hasn't tabled one. It's a great shame that Plaid Cymru seem to have abandoned that principle and just rolled over to the demands of the Labour Party, when they've clearly been told, 'It's this way, or you can shove your Senedd reform and expansion programme.' Because it appears to me that that's frankly what you've been told, and you're prepared to kowtow to the Labour Party as the little lap dogs that we've seen over the years in this Chamber. [Interruption.] I would have thought—[Interruption.] I would have thought and hoped that you'd have a better backbone than that, frankly, but unfortunately it's what we see time and time again. And, yet again, we're going to see your party voting hand-in-hand with the Labour Party in terms of this particular set of amendments, slavishly following the Labour Party and dancing to their tune. It's nothing new, and, of course, people are starting to see through that, which is why you've had some trouble with farmers of late, for example. 

But if we can just—[Interruption.] I'll happily take an intervention.

I mean, there's no more trouble to be had with farmers than a party that votes down a proposal for the full basic payment to reach the front line of farming in Wales next year.

You've just voted for the Welsh Government's budget, for goodness' sake. You've facilitated—[Interruption.] You've facilitated—as you have done for many years now—yet another dreadful Welsh Government budget that's going to have a devastating impact across the country.

But, let me get back to this set of amendments, if I can. Now, people have been arguing that this new system is going to be more proportional than the current system that we have; there's no guarantee that it will. That's what we were told as a Reform Bill Committee: there's no guarantee that this new system is going to be any more proportional than the system we currently have that elects people to this Senedd.

We were told a few moments ago that 'every vote will count', I think the Minister said, the Counsel General said. No, they won't, not if you vote for a party that gets under 12 per cent of the vote in your particular area, because that's the threshold that a party will need to reach to have a single Member in each new constituency. So, not every vote will count. At the moment, if you get over 7 per cent of the vote, roughly, you'll get a seat on a regional list, but not under these new arrangements, so not every vote will count. There's no guarantee it will be more proportional at all. This is one small change to a system that will deliver all of the benefits of first-past-the-post in terms of that direct accountability. And I still have not heard a single reason as to why such a sensible, small move cannot be accepted by the Labour Party.

I think, frankly, if you were told by the Labour Party, 'Vote for flexible lists', you'd do it, so I haven't got that much of a gripe with Plaid Cymru. It's with the Labour Party here that I have my gripe, because it's not clear. It's still not clear—and I'm happy to take an intervention, if you want to give me an intervention, Minister—as to why flexible lists can't achieve all of the things that you've listed in terms of a superior system, according to your words—a superior system that is better than present, a system where every vote will count. Well, they won't under your new arrangements, and they still won't under a flexible list, but at least it will still meet your test. A simple system: well, what's more simple than saying, 'You can vote for a person or a party'? It happens in loads of other countries around the world and people there don't seem to have any trouble trying to understand that instruction and casting their ballots. A system that's familiar: well, a single piece of paper is quite easy to deal with.

On increased diversity—I heard you ask the question to Jane Dodds, and I don't think Jane quite understood the context of the question that you were asking—all of the experts tell you you can still deal with gender quotas, if that's the thing that you're talking about, with a flexible list system, because what would happen is the list would be reordered. If the first person on the list happened to be a woman, then that person would be elected first, and then, if the second person on the list was a woman but the third was a man, it would go to the man as No. 3. And, likewise, if it was a man at the top of the list and a man at No. 2 and a man at No.3, the man would get elected and the second person would jump up from four, if it was a woman, to the second place. So, it's perfectly easy, according to all of the academics, to have a flexible list system that would still be able to incorporate a gender quota, or any other diversity quota, for that matter. So, there's no argument whatsoever that I can see as to why this system is not more superior than the closed list system that is being suggested by the Labour Party and forced upon Plaid Cymru, who are being, obviously, instructed to vote for it.

Now, I've heard this other argument as well this afternoon, that this is just a stepping stone to further reforms, right? So, the argument is, 'Well, look, this is how far we can get in this Parliament, but, look, don't worry, because there'll be another review in the next Parliament, and we'll tinker again with the voting system'. So, how is that going to make it straightforward for people and easy to understand, Counsel General, at the next ballot box, when you tell them, 'Well, this is the system just for this election, and then there'll be a change again in another four years' time for the next Senedd election, which could be STV, could be flexible lists or we could go back to square one'?

You made the argument as well that we would be tying the hands of the boundary commission and interfering with its operational independence by asking it to undertake an independent review of a 10 per cent threshold and to make recommendations to change it. I don't see how that is interfering with the independence of the new Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru at all. So, I simply do not see and I still haven't heard a single argument as to why this isn't more superior, why it can't meet all of the tests that you've set for yourself, Counsel General. I'd be happy to hear from the First Minister; I would welcome the First Minister's intervention as to why this—[Interruption.] Oh, yes, happy.

19:10

Can you accept one thing, then, which is that despite the disagreement that we have over the particular issue of closed as opposed to flexible lists, these proposals are a significant improvement in our electoral system and much more democratic than what we have at the moment, and, therefore, despite this, this is something you would therefore be supporting?

There is significant change, I'll give you that. Whether they're better or not, I think the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. They may not throw up a more proportional result. You hope that they will, but that may not be the case, according to the experts that we listened to.

But I would challenge the First Minister. I would be really grateful, First Minister, to hear from you. I know you don't want to answer questions—that's been the whole theme of the afternoon in this Chamber—but this is a straightforward question—[Interruption.] But this is a straightforward question. It's a straightforward question: I would ask, First Minister, please can you explain to this Chamber why there's an objection to a flexible list system versus a closed system, when it's clearly superior, in the views of every witness that we listened to, as a Senedd reform committee? Please—

19:15

The Member in charge is the Member in charge at this point. I don't think you can just ask any Member in this Chamber to respond to you.

I appreciate that, but he obviously doesn't know because he hasn't given us the answer. So, I'm asking the person who did the deal with the former leader of Plaid Cymru to answer on his behalf, because, clearly, the Counsel General does not know. We've asked this question countless times in committee and countless times in this Chamber this afternoon, and we're still devoid of an answer. There's a complete vacuum there. So, I'm asking the First Minister to fill it, and to answer the question as to why this system is better than a flexible list system. It doesn't work, does it? I can hear the silence. And if you just want to slavishly vote with the whip, then that's your choice, but I think, frankly, that it's a disgrace that we haven't had an answer to that simple question.

Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 21? A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad, felly symudwn i bleidlais ar welliant 21. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Felly, mae gwelliant 21 wedi ei wrthod.

The proposal is to agree amendment 21. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There is objection. We will therefore move to a vote on amendment 21. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, 40 against. Therefore, amendment 21 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 21: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 21: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Gwelliant 51, yn enw Jane Dodds. Ydy e'n cael ei symud?

Amendment 51, in the name of Jane Dodds. Is it moved?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 51 (Jane Dodds, gyda chefnogaeth Darren Millar).

Amendment 51 (Jane Dodds, supported by Darren Millar) moved.

Ydy, mae e'n cael ei symud. A ddylid derbyn gwelliant 51? A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? Does yna ddim gwrthwynebiad i welliant 51, felly mae gwelliant 51 wedi ei gymeradwyo.

Yes, it is being moved. The question is that amendment 51 be agreed to. Does any Member object? There are no objections to amendment 51, therefore amendment 51 is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Tynnwyd gwelliant 18 yn ôl.

Amendment 18 withdrawn.

Darren Millar, ydy gwelliant 40 yn cael ei symud?

Darren Millar, is amendment 40 being moved?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 40 (Darren Millar).

Amendment 40 (Darren Millar) moved.

Ydy. A oes yna unrhyw wrthwynebiad i welliant 40? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes. Felly, agor y bleidlais ar welliant 40. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Mae gwelliant 40 wedi ei wrthod.

It is. Is there any objection to amendment 40? [Objection.] There is. So, open the vote on amendment 40. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, 40 against. Amendment 40 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 40: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 40: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Gwelliant 22. Ydy e'n cael ei symud, Darren Millar?

Amendment 22. Darren Millar, is it being moved?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 22 (Darren Millar, gyda chefnogaeth Jane Dodds).

Amendment 22 (Darren Millar, supported by Jane Dodds) moved.

Ydy. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 22? A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes. Felly, fe gawn ni bleidlais ar welliant 22. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn, felly mae gwelliant 22 wedi ei wrthod.

It is. The question is that amendment 22 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Yes. We will therefore move to a vote on amendment 22. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, 40 against, so amendment 22 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 22: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 22: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Ydy gwelliant 23 yn cael ei symud, Darren Millar?

Is amendment 23 being moved, Darren Millar?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 23 (Darren Millar, gyda chefnogaeth Jane Dodds).

Amendment 23 (Darren Millar, supported by Jane Dodds) moved.

Ydy. Os gwrthodir gwelliant 23, bydd gwelliant 117 yn methu. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 23? A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad. Pleidlais ar welliant 23. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Felly, mae gwelliant 23 wedi ei wrthod.

It is. If amendment 23 is not agreed, amendment 117 falls. The question is that amendment 23 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Yes, there is objection. We'll move to a vote on amendment 23. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, 40 against. Therefore, amendment 23 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 23: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 23: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Methodd gwelliant 117.

Amendment 117 fell.

Cyn i ni symud i grŵp 9, fe wnawn ni gymryd toriad byr o ryw 20 munud. Fe wnawn ni ganu'r gloch bum munud cyn i ni ailgychwyn.

Before we move to group 9, we will take a short break of some 20 minutes. We will ring the bell five minutes before we reconvene.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 19:18 ac 19:49.

The meeting adjourned between 19:18 and 19:49.

19:45
Grŵp 9: Seddi gwag na ellir eu llenwi yn unol ag adran 11 newydd o Ddeddf Llywodraeth Cymru 2006 (i’w mewnosod gan adran 9 o Fil Senedd Cymru (Aelodau ac Etholiadau)) (Gwelliannau 29, 30, 33, 34, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123)
Group 9: Vacant seats that cannot be filled in accordance with new section 11 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 (to be inserted by section 9 of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill) (Amendments 29, 30, 33, 34, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123)

Fe wnawn ni nawr ailddechrau, a grŵp 9 yw'r grŵp nesaf o welliannau. Mae'r rhain yn ymwneud â seddi gwag na ellir eu llenwi yn unol ag adran 11 newydd o Ddeddf Llywodraeth Cymru 2006. Gwelliant 29 yw'r prif welliant yn y grŵp yma, a dwi'n galw ar Jane Dodds i gynnig y prif welliant. 

We will reconvene, and group 9 is the next group of amendments. These amendments relate to vacant seats that cannot be filled in accordance with the new section 11 of the Government of Wales Act 2006. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 29, and I call on Jane Dodds to move the lead amendment.    

19:50

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 29 (Jane Dodds, gyda chefnogaeth Darren Millar).

Amendment 29 (Jane Dodds, supported by Darren Millar) moved.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd. I formally move the amendments in this group tabled under my name. I don't feel as passionately about these as I did the ones before. [Laughter.] So, I won't be as feisty, but there we are. I'm going to discuss them all as one, Llywydd. These amendments collectively address how we handle casual vacancies that arise when a Members of the Senedd leaves their seat potentially before the end of the term. As the Bill currently stands, it solely relies on party lists to fill such vacancies. While this approach works in many cases, there are situations where party lists could be exhausted or unable to produce viable replacement candidates. In such scenarios, we risk leaving seats vacant and constituents under-represented, potentially for years if a seat becomes vacant early in the parliamentary term with years remaining until the next scheduled election. This scenario becomes even more likely when parties are unable to form full lists at the Senedd election. This is a scenario that must be avoided to uphold the integrity of our democracy. 

These amendments seek to rectify this deficiency by proposing a backstop mechanism to allow by-elections to be called in Senedd constituencies when necessary. This provision would apply whether the vacancy arose for a directly elected constituency Member or a Member returned from the party's list. The process would be straightforward: when a vacancy occurs and cannot be filled by the party lists, a by-election must be called in that Senedd constituency within three months. A by-election would not be held in the event it would fall three months before the next ordinary election.

We have regional lists now, don't we, and, on the regional lists, when somebody drops out, the next person on the list comes in. I've seen some of those regional lists from some parties, and they're awfully long. You'd need a very serious set of events to make your way through all of those, and it's up to the political parties to put enough candidates there—10 or 12 would almost certainly be more than enough. 

Thank you for your intervention, and that gives me more opportunity to explain. Thank you very much for that. Of course, the major parties—and I would include myself, hopefully, in that—would be able to provide an ongoing list, but there will be situations, I think, moving forward where we might have independents or small parties, and they would not have the opportunity to have run a full slate or even a longer list. So, this, I hope, would then create a situation where it doesn't leave us with a seat that's not filled.

In drafting these amendments, careful consideration was given to identifying the best solution to swiftly fill vacant roles, and this is where I must put my tin hat on. While the Welsh Liberal Democrats and I do not the first-past-the-post system and would welcome a more preferential system, we recognise the pressing need for a system that is easy, quick and simple to implement in such circumstances. It is for these reasons that I strongly encourage all Members to support these amendments this evening. I urge you to support this commonsense amendment that will improve the resilience and responsiveness of our electoral system, and act pre-emptively to close the democratic deficit created by vacant seats. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd.

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I rise to speak in support of all of the amendments in this group. The Reform Bill Committee made a clear recommendation that the Member in charge should bring forward amendments to ensure that vacancies arising between elections can be filled, but he hasn't actually done that. Leaving constituencies with less representation in the event of a vacancy occurring, as is currently proposed, is wholly unacceptable and extremely unfair to the constituents who will not have a full complement of Members of the Senedd to represent them in this place.

And I know that the likelihood of such vacancies is small, as Mike Hedges and Jane Doods have indicated. In most cases, very simply, you could go to the next person on the list, but the reality is that there will be, potentially, times where perhaps an independent candidate is elected or, as Jane Dodds has said, you have a small party that can't field the sorts of numbers of candidates that larger political parties might have, and the list is exhausted with just one or two Members. So, I think it is important to make sure that there's a proper mechanism, and the proposals to hold by-elections under such circumstances are the most straightforward and sensible solution to that problem.

Of course, if you look at the situation in terms of how vacancies are filled currently in the Senedd should a constituency Member vacate their seat, then of course we have a by-election. That gives an opportunity for the mood of that constituency and the views of people in that constituency to be tested. I think that’s a good thing mid term. I don’t think it’s appropriate to necessarily crystallise the Senedd and its political colours just at the start of a term, and leave it like that perhaps for four years. So, that’s why we support the principle of holding a by-election, to be able to fill those vacancies, and in the absence of anything else, first-past-the-post seems to me to be the easiest and most sensible solution to be able to resolve that. 

I appreciate it’s going to introduce a different mandate for those Members that are elected under such circumstances, and that’s not something that we would prefer, but it is better than leaving constituents with less of a voice in the Senedd. And of course, it will only apply on a temporary basis until the next Senedd election. That’s why I would encourage every Member of this Chamber to support the amendments tabled in the name of Jane Dodds.

19:55

Diolch, Llywydd. Fel y dywedodd Mike Hedges, mae'r mecanwaith ar gyfer llenwi seddi gweigion yn adlewyrchu i raddau helaeth yr hyn sy’n digwydd o dan y system rhestrau rhanbarthol presennol. Rydyn ni hefyd yn mynd i fod y ddeddfwrfa genedlaethol gyntaf ym Mhrydain i gael gwared ar y drefn cyntaf i'r felin yn llwyr, yn gyfnewid am sefyllfa ble caiff pob Aelod ei ethol yn llwyr drwy gynrychiolaeth gyfrannol.

Does dim rhesymeg, felly, mewn creu sefyllfa lle byddai system etholiadol ar gyfer llenwi llefydd gweigion yn wahanol ar gyfer y prif ffrwd o ethol aeloadu i'r Senedd newydd gyda’r system fwy blaengar y byddwn wedi ei roi mewn lle. Mae hefyd, wrth gwrs, yn debyg o ffafrio pleidiau mwy, ar draul pleidiau llai. Drwy wrthod y gwelliannau yma, rydyn ni’n galw am i'r holl faes yma gael ei ystyried gan y pwyllgor safonau yng nghyd-destun y gwaith ar adalw Aelodau, gan mai’r un yw’r hanfodion, yr egwyddorion a’r rhwystrau, ac yna yng nghyd-destun, wrth gwrs, y mecanwaith adolygu yn 2026.

Thank you, Llywydd. As Mike Hedges said, the mechanism for filling vacancies reflects, to a great extent, what happens under the current regional list system. We're also going to be the first national legislature in Britain to abolish the first-past-the-post arrangement entirely, in exchange for a system where every Member is elected in full via proportional representation.

There is no rationale or sense, therefore, in a situation where the electoral system for filling vacant seats would be different to the main method of electing Members to the new Senedd, with the more progressive system that we would have put in place. It's also likely to favour larger parties at the expense of smaller parties. By rejecting these amendments, we call for this matter to be considered by the standards committee in the context of its work on recalling Members, as these are the fundamental issues, principles and barriers, and then in the context of the review mechanism in 2026.

Diolch, Llywydd. I suppose the starting point is what everyone recognises, that it is something that is possibly never going to happen, is very unlikely or very remote, but is a possibility. I can say that in discussions I’ve had with Members I have given this very considerable and careful consideration, and there are some quite finely balanced arguments. However, I have to say I’ve come to the position that I don’t think I can support the amendment, so I won’t be supporting the amendments in this group.

Determining if and how vacancies that occur in a proportional system should be filled does require a trade-off between representation, proportionality and legitimacy, and the Bill provides an appropriate mechanism for filling seats that were won by parties in a way that appropriately balances these matters. The approach seeks to minimise the risk of not being able to fill vacant seats that were won by parties, allowing parties to have up to eight candidates on their list. The trade-off arises in respect of vacant seats that are won by independent candidates, and where, for whatever reason, a vacant seat won by a party cannot be filled by that mechanism.

Whilst a first-past-the-post by-election as proposed by amendment 34 would aim to ensure that complete representation is retained, such a system would inherently benefit the largest party in that constituency at a by-election, which may well not be the party that held the vacated seat. It could also result in Members representing the same constituency having been elected via two different electoral systems. Whilst currently there are clear distinctions in the Government of Wales Act 2006 between constituency and regional Members, all constituency Members are elected on the same basis, and all regional Members are elected on the same basis. There are also significant challenges in giving effect to a by-election system based on the first-past-the-post system within an overarching system that is based on multi-member lists, and also where there are paired constituencies.

In the development of the Bill, other options for filling vacancies were considered, based on examples in other countries. We looked at a system including a countback mechanism—that is where a vacant seat is filled with reference to the vote at the most recent general election, but with the individual candidate, or the party whose list is exhausted, being discounted. Whilst this would ensure complete representation, it leads to one party or individual candidate, i.e. that which then wins the vacant seat, having a disproportionately large share of seats, as compared to votes, in that constituency.

A system of party nomination, or co-option, was also considered, whereby a party whose list had become exhausted can nominate a replacement. Whilst this would retain both representation and proportionality levels, there, again, are significant legitimacy concerns in a system that could result in a Member of the Senedd who had not been put in front of voters. I consider that retaining a vacancy in the unlikely scenario where an unfilled vacancy arises best balances the considerations of representation, proportionality and legitimacy. It is also a continuation of the list-based system that currently operates in the electoral regions. It is also important to remember that vacancies in any event are rare scenarios—[Interruption.] Yes, certainly.

20:00

What analysis have you done around whether, if the parliamentary arithmetic changed and it created paralysis in the Senedd, that could, effectively, render the Government unable to pass any legislation due to a vacancy arising? Is that something that you've taken into consideration when formulating your view on this matter?

You have to form a view as to how balanced politics has always been in this place, will still be, I think, even with the reforms in question, and how one seat could have a significant or overbalanced effect, as well as distorting the entire system, and having one person elected on a first-past-the-post system for a paired constituency, which doesn't exist in any other format within the Senedd. Those are the reasons why I think there are real concerns over representation, proportionality and legitimacy.

It's also important to remember, as we discussed earlier, that we know it's on a very, very rare occasion that this might actually happen. Applying those factors to a Senedd with a four-year term and 96 Members would indicate that four to five vacancies could be expected during a term. To date, in all the information we have, all the data we have is that no vacancies that have occurred on regional lists were unable to be filled. 

In summary, I oppose the amendments, but I do so with a heavy heart, because it is something that I would like to see different.

Can I just put to you a scenario whereby there could be a situation where—I don't know—a party conference could be the target of a terrorist attack? This Chamber could be the target of a terrorist attack. If there are, therefore, a number of casualties, perhaps all of the people representing a constituency may pass away, and that would create a vacancy. Would it be fair to leave that constituency with not a single representative, which, hypothetically, could happen on the basis of the proposals in this Bill?

I think, if you had a situation of such magnitude, there would be an emergency piece of legislation that would be brought in, if ever there were to be such a tragedy on such a scale. I don't think the point you raised actually deals with the reasons that have shifted me, on balance, to go against accepting the amendments. It is, obviously, a matter where there will be a further review, after 2026. I could not bring myself, I think, to justify it, on balance, on this occasion, at this stage.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd. I'm very disappointed at your approach, Minister. I guess my view is that it's no big deal that you're actually baking this in to the Bill at this stage. You're really clearly saying that we don't want a vacancy, but you have said that, actually, the balance should be that we'll maintain a vacant seat. Well, that's not really our decision. That should be something that lies with the people in that constituency, and that's what I'm trying to say. Actually, this process, which we could have right now—. And I do concede that it would be very unusual to have a situation where you have that vacant seat, but nevertheless it should be unacceptable. It could be on day 2 or month 1 after a Senedd election. It seems to me that what you're saying is that you're quite happy for that particular constituency to be one Member down for the remaining length of that Senedd term. I just don't think that's acceptable.

We've got different views on where the power lies. I've said the power should be with the people, and I still maintain that, not here with a party or with the Senedd. That's not accepted by yourself. I would ask people to consider—I don't suppose I'm going to get there because you've all been whipped, but nevertheless I'm just asking you all to consider, over on this side of the Siambr—whether you would really want a situation where a constituency does not have a representative for them. This set of amendments is a very simple process, which is actually going to make sure that that never happens. That's really important to me. So, I do urge you to vote for this set of amendments. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd.

20:05

Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 29? A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad, felly fe gymerwn ni bleidlais ar welliant 29. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn, ac felly—. Na. Ymddiheuriadau. Canlyniad y bleidlais ar welliant 29, felly, yw fod 16 o blaid, neb yn ymatal, 39 yn erbyn. Felly, mae gwelliant 29 wedi ei wrthod.

The proposal is to agree amendment 29. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There is objection. We will therefore turn to a vote on amendment 29. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, 40 against, and so—. No. Apologies. The result of the vote on amendment 29 is that there were 16 in favour, no abstentions, and 39 against. Therefore, amendment 29 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 29: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 39, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 29: For: 16, Against: 39, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 30 (Jane Dodds, gyda chefnogaeth Darren Millar).

Amendment 30 (Jane Dodds, supported by Darren Millar) moved.

Oes yna unrhyw wrthwynebiad i welliant 30? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad, felly fe gymerwn ni bleidlais ar welliant 30. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Mae gwelliant 30 wedi ei wrthod.

Is there any objection to amendment 30? [Objection.] Yes, there are objections. We will therefore move to a vote on amendment 30. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, 40 against. Therefore, amendment 30 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 30: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 30: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 31 (Jane Dodds, gyda chefnogaeth Darren Millar).

Amendment 31 (Jane Dodds, supported by Darren Millar) moved.

Ydy, wedi'i gynnig. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 31? Oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad. Fe gawn ni bleidlais ar welliant 31. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Mae gwelliant 31 wedi ei wrthod.

It is. The question is that amendment 31 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There are objections. We will move to a vote on amendment 31. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, 40 against. Therefore, amendment 31 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 31: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 31: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Ydy gwelliant 32 yn enw Jane Dodds yn cael ei gynnig?

Amendment 32 in the name of Jane Dodds, is it moved?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 32 (Jane Dodds, gyda chefnogaeth Darren Millar).

Amendment 32 (Jane Dodds, supported by Darren Millar) moved.

Ydy. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 32? Oes yna wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad. Pleidlais, felly, ar welliant 32. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Mae gwelliant 32 wedi cwympo.

It's moved. The question is that amendment 32 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There are objections. We'll vote, therefore, on amendment 32. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, 40 against. Amendment 32 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 32: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 32: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Ydy gwelliant 33 yn cael ei gynnig gan Jane Dodds?

Is amendment 33 moved by Jane Dodds?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 33 (Jane Dodds, gyda chefnogaeth Darren Millar).

Amendment 33 (Jane Dodds, supported by Darren Millar) moved.

Ydy. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 33? Oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae gwrthwynebiad. Fe gymerwn ni bleidlais, felly, ar welliant 33. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Felly, mae gwelliant 33 wedi ei wrthod.

The question is that amendment 33 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There are objections. We'll move to a vote on amendment 33. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, 40 against. Therefore, amendment 33 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 33: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 33: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

20:10

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 34 (Jane Dodds, gyda chefnogaeth Darren Millar).

Amendment 34 (Jane Dodds, supported by Darren Millar) moved.

Ydy, gan Jane Dodds. Os gwrthodir gwelliant 34, bydd gwelliannau 120, 122 ac 123 yn methu. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 34? A oes gwrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad, felly byddwn yn cymryd pleidlais ar welliant 34. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Felly, mae'r gwelliant yna wedi ei wrthod.

It is, by Jane Dodds. If amendment 34 is not agreed, amendments 120, 122 and 123 will fall. The question is that amendment 34 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There are objections, we will therefore move to a vote on amendment 34. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, and 40 against. Therefore, that amendment is not agreed.

Gwelliant 34: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 34: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Methodd gwelliannau 120, 122 ac 123.

Amendments 120, 122 and 123 fell.

Ydy gwelliant 118 yn cael ei gynnig?

We'll move to amendment 118—is it being moved?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 118 (Jane Dodds).

Amendment 118 (Jane Dodds) moved.

Ydy, gan Jane Dodds. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 118? Oes gwrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, mae yna wrthwynebiad. Gwnawn ni gymryd pleidliais, felly, ar 118. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Mae gwelliant 118 wedi ei wrthod.

Yes, moved by Jane Dodds. The question is that amendment 118 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There are objections. We will therefore move to a vote amendment on 118. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, and 40 against. Therefore, amendment 118 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 118: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 118: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 119 (Jane Dodds).

Amendment 119 (Jane Dodds) moved.

Ydy, mae'n cael ei gynnig ac—. [Gwrthwynebiad.] Ie. [Chwerthin.]

It is moved. [Objection.] Yes. [Laughter.]

I think the answer was given before the question was asked. So, I'll take it as an objection to—

—un un naw. Felly, agor y bleidlais ar welliant 119. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Felly, mae gwelliant 119 wedi ei wrthod.

—amendment 119. Therefore, open the vote on amendment 119. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, 40 against. Therefore, amendment 119 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 119: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 119: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 121 (Jane Dodds).

Amendment 121 (Jane Dodds) moved.

Mae'n cael ei symud gan Jane Dodds. Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 121? Oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Oes, gwrthwynebiad. Felly, gwnawn ni gymryd pleidlais ar welliant 121. Agor y bleidlais. Cau'r bleidlais. O blaid 16, neb yn ymatal, 40 yn erbyn. Mae gwelliant 121 wedi ei wrthod.

It's moved by Jane Dodds. The question is that amendment 121 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] There are objections. We will therefore move to a vote on amendment 121. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 16, no abstentions, and 40 against. Therefore, amendment 121 is not agreed.

Gwelliant 121: O blaid: 16, Yn erbyn: 40, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant

Amendment 121: For: 16, Against: 40, Abstain: 0

Amendment has been rejected

Grŵp 10: Gwelliannau cysylltiedig at ddibenion Rhan 2 o Fil Senedd Cymru (Aelodau ac Etholiadau) (y system bleidleisio yn etholiadau cyffredinol y Senedd a dyrannu seddi) (Gwelliannau 64, 65, 66, 67)
Group 10: Related amendments for the purposes of Part 2 of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill (voting system at Senedd general elections and allocation of seats) (Amendments 64, 65, 66, 67)

Grŵp 10 o welliannau sydd nesaf. Grŵp 10: mae'r grŵp yma o welliannau yn ymwneud â gwelliannau cysylltiedig at ddibenion Rhan 2 o'r Bil. Gwelliant 64 yw'r prif welliant. Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol i gynnig y gwelliant hwnnw. Mick Antoniw.

Group 10 is next. This group of amendments contains related amendments for the purposes of Part 2 of the Bill. The lead amendment in the group is amendment 64. I call on the Counsel General to move that amendment. Mick Antoniw.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 64 (Mick Antoniw).

Amendment 64 (Mick Antoniw) moved.

Diolch, Llywydd. This is a group of four technical amendments that provide for consequential amendments to a range of existing legislation on the statute book that are associated with the change in the electoral system. Amendment 64, for example, omits reference to by-elections currently held under section 10 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 from section 7B of the Representation of the People Act 1983. The Bill omits section 10 of the 2006 Act.

Similarly, amendment 65 omits reference to by-elections held under section 10 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 from section 4A of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, while amendment 66 removes such references from Schedule 1 to the same Act.

Finally, amendment 67 substitutes the definition of an 'electoral area' in section 44 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006, removing reference to 'an Assembly constituency' and 'an Assembly electoral region' in substitution for 'a Senedd constituency.' Diolch, Llywydd.

Darren Millar—. Does yna neb arall i siarad. Felly, ydy'r Cwnsler Cyffredinol eisiau dweud unrhyw beth yn fwy? Na. Felly, y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 64? A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? Na, does yna ddim gwrthwynebiad. Mae gwelliant 64 wedi ei dderbyn.

Darren Millar—. I have no other speakers. Does the Counsel General wish to add anything? No. The question is that amendment 64 be agreed to. Does any Member object? There is no objection. So, amendment 64 is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol yn cynnig gwelliant 65—

Counsel General, do you move amendment 65?

Formally.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 65 (Mick Antoniw).

Amendment 65 (Mick Antoniw) moved.

Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 65? Unrhyw wrthwynebiad? Na, dim gwrthwynebiad, felly mae gwelliant 65 wedi ei dderbyn.

The question is that amendment 65 be agreed. Does any Member object? No, there are no objections, therefore amendment 65 is agreed.

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Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Gwelliant 66 yn cael ei symud gan y Cwnsler Cyffredinol.

Amendment 66—is it moved by the Counsel General?

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 66 (Mick Antoniw).

Amendment 66 (Mick Antoniw) moved.

Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 66? Unrhyw wrthwynebiad? Nac oes, felly mae gwelliant 66 wedi ei dderbyn.

The question is that amendment 66 be agreed. Is there objection? No, therefore amendment 66 is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 67 (Mick Antoniw).

Amendment 67 (Mick Antoniw) moved.

Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 67? Unrhyw wrthwynebiad? Na, felly mae gwelliant 67 wedi ei dderbyn.

The question is that amendment 67 be agreed. Does any Member object? No, therefore amendment 67 is agreed.

Derbyniwyd y gwelliant yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.34.

Amendment agreed in accordance with Standing Order 17.34.

Grŵp 11: Adalw Aelodau o’r Senedd (Gwelliannau 124, 125)
Group 11: Recall of Members of the Senedd (Amendments 124, 125)

Daw hyn â ni at grŵp 11 o welliannau. Mae'r grŵp yma yn ymwneud ag adalw Aelodau o'r Senedd. Gwelliant 124 yw'r prif welliant yn y grŵp. Darren Millar i gynnig y prif welliant.

That brings us to group 11. This group relates to recall of Members of the Senedd. The lead amendment is amendment 124. I call on Darren Millar to move the lead amendment.

Cynigiwyd gwelliant 124 (Darren Millar).

Amendment 124 (Darren Millar) moved.

Diolch, Llywydd. I move amendments 124 and 125 tabled in my name.

One of the things that all Members on all sides of this Chamber have suggested should be incorporated into this Bill is provision for a system of recall for Members of the Senedd. Systems of recall are designed to provide an additional disciplinary mechanism to increase the accountability of elected representatives to their constituents. There are examples in a number of nations and legislatures around the world, including here in the United Kingdom, and while they're often used rarely, they do give an opportunity to promote high standards of behaviour and professionalism from parliamentarians who may otherwise face the consequences of losing their seats midterm.

Now, in my view, and I know it's a view shared by others in this Chamber and across Wales, constituents should be able to express their view on Members of the Senedd when their MS has committed serious wrongdoing, and it's for these reasons that I've brought forward these two amendments today. So, during the Reform Bill Committee's consideration of this issue at Stage 1, Members sought views on whether a system of recall should be introduced for Members of the Welsh Parliament. Many contributors supported the need for a system of recall that was similar to the model in the Recall of MPs Act 2015, which is currently used for Westminster MPs. Some suggested that this could be modified to reflect that any vacancies arising from a recall petition should be filled by the next candidate on a list, rather than by a by-election, while the commissioner for standards suggested that it would be better to explore strengthening the disqualifications that currently apply to Members and having a wider range of sanctions available for the use of the Senedd Standards of Conduct Committee when a complaint by a Member is upheld. So, the overwhelming majority of people who expressed a view indicated that we needed to strengthen our accountability mechanisms for Members of the Senedd and that a system of recall should be introduced.

Now, having taken into account these views and explored international recall mechanisms, I've tabled amendments that seek to add a new section to the Bill to introduce a system of recall for Members of the Senedd. The system is similar to that in the Recall of MPs Act 2015, although it's been amended to reflect our circumstances here in the Senedd. If agreed, it would introduce a requirement for a Member of the Senedd to be the subject of a recall petition if they are either convicted of an offence and sentenced or ordered to be imprisoned or detained or suspended from Senedd proceedings for a period of 10 sitting days or more by the Senedd's committee on standards of conduct, and if either of these conditions are met, arrangements would then need to be made in a Senedd constituency for registered electors to sign a petition calling for a Member of the Senedd to lose their seat in the Senedd. And if more than 10 per cent of electors in that constituency signed that petition, a by-election would then need to be held. Now, why a by-election rather than filling the vacancy with a list candidate? Well, for two reasons. Firstly, because of legal reasons in relation to human rights, an MS who has been the subject of recall petition cannot be prevented from the opportunity to fill a vacancy that is then created. So, they must have the ability to be able to stand in an election following a successful petition to remove them from office. Because, of course, only 10 per cent of that electorate will have been able to express an opinion through the recall petition process. And the second reason not to simply fill a vacancy created by a recall petition by the next candidate on the list is because, as we have seen with the recall system for MPs, members of the public rarely want to be represented by an MP of the same political party in a by-election following a recall.

Welsh voters I believe should be given the same rights to cast such judgments on their Members of the Senedd and the political parties that they represent too. So, further details of the recall process are set out in my amendment 124, including a requirement for the Member of the Senedd to inform the Presiding Officer if they've been convicted, appeals processes for Members, how petitions should be conducted, actions to address double signing and other matters. And as I've indicated earlier, most of these have been lifted directly from the Recall of MPs Act 2015 and adapted for our context here in the Senedd.

Amendment 125 is consequential to amendment 124, and I hope that Members will agree that these amendments should be made to the Bill before us today. If there are other proposals for alternative recall mechanisms, then I'll be very happy to listen to them and consider them. Thank you.

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