Expert Panel Report: the Welsh Assembly needs to grow
12 December 2017
An Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform today recommends that the Welsh Assembly should be expanded in order to hold the Welsh Government to account effectively and deliver for the people and communities of Wales.
The Panel was created in February by the Assembly's Presiding Officer. It is chaired by Professor Laura McAllister of Cardiff University. Its members are leading experts on legislatures, electoral systems and representation, and include the Constitution Unit's Deputy Director, Dr Alan Renwick.
Its core recommendations include the following:
- The number of Assembly Members should be increased from the current 60 to at least 80, and preferably closer to 90. This is needed because the Assembly today has a much greater role than the one it was granted in 1999, and its powers are shortly to expand still further. It cannot be expected to continue functioning optimally at its current size.
- A new electoral system is needed to accommodate this increased size. This should ideally be a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system accompanied by gender quotas, though the Panel sees a Flexible List system of proportional representation as a viable alternative. The report shows that retaining the current Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) system would make it impossible to expand the number of Assembly Members beyond 80 in 2021.
- The minimum voting age in Assembly elections should be reduced to 16. Considerable evidence now suggests that this would boost democratic participation. It is essential that it be accompanied by high-quality education about politics in schools and other places of learning.
Full details are available in the Panel's report .
Alan Renwick comments:
"The evidence in favour of increasing the size of the Welsh Assembly is overwhelming. Assembly Members perform vital roles in representing the people of Wales and holding the Welsh Government to account. Recommending more politicians will never be popular. But in this case it is clearly right, and would help to deliver better government.
"Expanding the Assembly is also an opportunity to revisit the arrangements for electing its members to ensure that they maximally promote effective government and deep democratic participation. Our proposals for a revised voting system, gender quotas and a reduction in the voting age to 16 would place Wales in the democratic vanguard."
Alan Renwick has written in detail on the Panel's proposals on the Constitution Unit blog.