Posted: Tue 25th Jun 2024

Landmark Welsh democracy reforms including expanding Senedd to 96 MSs, becomes law

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

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Once-in-a-generation reforms to strengthen democracy in Wales passed into law on Tuesday, June 25, with the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Act gaining Royal Assent.

The landmark legislation, which was passed by a supermajority of Members of the Senedd in May, aims to create a modern, more effective Welsh Parliament to serve and represent the people of Wales.

The new law will significantly enhance the Senedd’s ability to scrutinise policies, laws, spending plans, and hold the Welsh Government to account. Key changes, set to be implemented in time for the 2026 Senedd elections, include:

Expanding the Senedd to 96 Members, elected using a fully proportional, closed list system with all candidates named on ballot papers.

Establishing 16 constituencies across Wales, each electing six Members of the Senedd.

Requiring all candidates and Members of the Senedd to be resident in Wales.

Holding Senedd elections every four years from 2026 onwards.

There is also a commitment to review the changes brought in by the Act after the 2026 election and to consider the practical and legislative implications of job-sharing offices related to the Senedd.

First Minister Vaughan Gething hailed the reforms as a historic moment for Welsh democracy. “During 25 years of Welsh devolution, the Senedd gained greater responsibilities, including law-making and tax-varying powers, but its capacity did not keep pace and that had to change. These once-in-a-generation reforms will redress that imbalance to create a modern Senedd that better reflects 21st century Wales,” he said.

Counsel General Mick Antoniw emphasised the importance of these reforms in addressing representation issues.

“Wales is currently the most under-represented country in the UK. This landmark legislation will strengthen our democracy to better serve people in Wales, both in the Senedd and in our local communities across Wales. It was forged in the fires of the Senedd’s scrutiny to ensure that our Welsh Parliament has the capacity it needs to examine laws, review spending plans, and ensure we deliver for the people of Wales,” Antoniw stated.

The Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill was introduced to the Senedd for scrutiny on 18 September 2023 and agreed by a supermajority (two-thirds) of Members of the Senedd on 8 May 2024.

The Act realises the recommendations of the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform, endorsed by a majority of Senedd Members in June 2022.

Other significant changes include the creation of 16 Senedd constituencies for the 2026 election, each electing six Members, and an increase in the maximum number of Welsh Ministers from 12 to 17, with potential further increases subject to a Senedd vote.

Additionally, the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales will be repurposed and renamed as the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru, tasked with reviewing Senedd constituency boundaries.

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