This page gives details of any meetings held which will, or did, discuss the matter, and includes links to the relevant Papers, Agendas and Minutes.
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Assembly Reform Update
The Llywydd provided Commissioners with an update on developments since the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill was introduced on 12 February. Business Committee has agreed the timetable for the Bill, including stage 1 being completed before summer recess, and amending stages taking place over autumn term. The Llywydd would be giving evidence to committees as part of their legislative scrutiny - to Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee on 11 March and Finance Committee on 4 April.
The Llywydd asked Commissioners to play an active role in feeding back issues of concern raised or discussed in in other for a as the Bill continues through the legislative process.
Electoral Reform - update
Commissioners were provided with an update on work on the Assembly reform programme with a particular focus on policy issues relating to the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill.
Commissioners agreed the approach to legislating on the Electoral Commission financing and accountability, noting that that it is subject to the views of Committee(s) and the Assembly at Stage 1.
They discussed further developments in the proposed content of the Bill and Commissioners discussed and noted the Llywydd’s way forward, to finalise the Bill ahead of its introduction.
Commissioners also noted the timetable for introduction and scrutiny of the Bill and the issue on competence; the updated financial assessment of the Bill and their agreed roles and responsibilities in respect of the Assembly reform programme and in particular the scrutiny period for the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill.
Electoral reform update
Oral update from Llywydd
Commissioners considered a number of issues relating to the progression of their electoral reform activity:
Commissioners considered aspects of the work relating to public information and awareness-raising amongst young people in terms of being able to reflect this in the Explanatory Memorandum which will accompany the Bill on introduction. They discussed the importance of ensuring young people are encouraged and supported to exercise their right to vote. Commissioners agreed that officials should work with the Welsh Government and external stakeholders to develop a plan for raising awareness amongst young people ahead of the 2021 elections, and in particular addressing it in schools. They asked to be updated as this work progresses.
As a result of the devolution of powers in the Wales Act 2017, the Electoral Commission (EC) has approached the Llywydd and Welsh Government to propose that the Assembly legislates to make the EC accountable to the Assembly and financed by the Assembly Commission, in relation to devolved elections in Wales (local government and Assembly elections). Commissioners discussed some of the complex issues about how and by when legislative changes could be made. Commissioners felt that there seems to be value in the EC being accountable to the Assembly for its work in Wales. They agreed to take soundings on the principle from their groups on this proposal from the EC, to take changes through in the reform Bill, which is supported by WG.
The Llywydd provided an oral update on feedback she had received about future descriptors for Members and the institution, and proposals she intended to make as a result.
Commissioners discussed the options and agreed that it was necessary for a decision to be reached for the purpose of the introduction of the Bill. The Commission agreed the Llywydd determine this, as the Member in Charge, the Llywydd said that she was looking to take forward the name change that seemed to reflect the majority view of Assembly groups at this time. It was confirmed that should other options subsequently emerge, these could be considered at Stage 2. The plan was therefore that the name change introduced in the Bill should be a monolingual name “Senedd”; and that Members will be referred to as “Aelodau’r Senedd (AS) / Members of the Senedd (MS)” and in the singular as “Aelod o’r Senedd”/Member of the Senedd”. The associated short title of the Bill would be “Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill”. The Commission would be known as “Senedd Commission”.
Assembly reform programme
Commissioners considered an update on work on the Assembly reform programme and the areas where decisions were needed in order to introduce a Bill in January 2019.
Key areas Commissioners considered were:
· policy, implementation and commencement details;
· the introduction of a Bill, including the approach to the short title, the approach to seeking a legislative mandate from the Assembly, and the legislative scrutiny timetable for proposal to Business Committee;
· and the role the Commission should take in raising public awareness of the franchise changes.
Commissioners agreed the Electoral Commission’s recommendations on the treatment of electoral expenses, should be excluded from the preparatory work for the Bill on the basis that Welsh Government would take it forward through subordinate legislation, subject to sufficient assurance from the First Minister about their intentions for the timing of subordinate legislation.
Commissioners noted the plans for legislative scrutiny timetable and the next steps in relation to phase 1 of their legislative programme. They also noted the Commission’s role in providing public information and awareness-raising amongst young people in advance of the 2021 election and requested additional information on the role and associated budget implications.
The Llywydd informed Commissioners that she had received a letter from the Welsh Government concerning the funding and accountability of the Electoral Commission and whether provisions should be made for this as part of the Commission’s Assembly Reform programme regarding the Commission’s future relationship with the National Assembly for Wales. Commissioners noted that discussions with the Welsh Government and Electoral Commission on this matter are ongoing.
Commissioners agreed that the Llywydd would make a written statement w/c 1 October to confirm the Commission’s intention to introduce a Bill in January 2019 and communicating the decisions it has taken. They also agreed the approach to seeking the agreement of the Assembly for the introduction of a Bill.
Assembly reform programme
Commissioners considered an update on work on the Assembly reform programme and a summary of consultation findings following the public consultation, which ran from 12 February to 6 April.
The Commission considered the consultation findings and took a number of decisions in preparation for, or shaping their approach to, making legislative proposals. They agreed:
· in principle to joint working with Welsh Government through a Memorandum of Understanding regarding proposals to change the Assembly franchise.
· to propose legislation on the franchise and name change for implementation prior to the 2021 election. A second Bill on the electoral system and size may follow if cross-party consensus on those matters emerges;
· to reduce the minimum voting age for Assembly elections to 16; and
· to exclude certain policy matters from the scope of the Assembly reform work: prisoner voting, voting rights for legal residents of Wales regardless of their nationality or citizenship, and job sharing for Members.
The Llywydd requested that Commissioners take two specific issues back to discuss with their groups and to provide feedback before the end of term. These were:
• the descriptor for Members post-name change; and
• the issue of disqualification in relation to membership of the House of Lords. This had been recommended by the Fourth Assembly’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee and endorsed by the current CLAC.
Commissioners agreed that the Llywydd would make a written statement communicating the consultation headlines and the decisions it has taken on its legislative strategy, together with the broad scope of the first Bill on electoral reform, before the end of term. They agreed that a summary of the main findings of the consultation would be published within a few weeks, with a full report on the consultation published in the autumn.
Assembly reform programme
Adrian Compton provided the Board with an outline of the paper going to the Commission meeting on 22 January, to update them on the work on Assembly Reform programme and the decisions to be made on the final scope and approach of a public consultation on the Expert Panel’s recommendations, and other issues around reform legislation. Commissioners would consider at their meeting in July whether to introduce an Assembly reform Bill and the overall scope of any legislation.
The Board discussed the timeline for consultation and preparation work being undertaken. Officials were exploring the wider resources needed to support delivery of a reform Bill, although beyond that it was not possible to predict what policy decisions might be and the resulting impact on resources.
The Llywydd was having discussions with political parties and Business Committee on the approach and timing for seeking an explicit mandate from the Assembly for the Assembly reform work.
· The Board recommended clarifying the impact on resources where known, and highlighting the implications around the consultation period timescale.
· Sulafa Thomas to add a requirement for resource implications to be covered in the Commission paper template and re-circulate it with the guidance on paper preparation.
Legislative approach to Assembly reform
Adrian Crompton provided an update on the legislative plans for Assembly reform, including the raft of potential changes to internal organisational arrangements as well as taking forward the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform. The Panel was asked to advise the Commission on the size of the Assembly, the electoral system and the minimum voting age and was due to report soon.
Adrian would also be providing Commissioners with a presentation later in the week, ahead of their meeting on 6 November when they would discuss and provide a steer on how to take the work forward. The Commission were leading an Assembly reform programme to explore how these powers might be exercised.
Assembly Reform programme
At the previous meeting Commissioners had agreed to return to the issue of the Assembly Reform programme having given further consideration to the relationship to the scope of the legislative proposals that the Commission may wish to pursue during this Assembly term as a result of the devolution of new powers under Wales Act 2017.
When the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform reports in autumn 2017, the Commission will consider the full scope of the potential reform programme and the legislative proposals they intend to bring forward, for example as part of a wider package of reform of operational arrangements (such as the disqualification rules, electoral arrangements and the committee system).
Commissioners agreed to propose legislation to change the Assembly’s name to Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru, before the end of this Assembly. Members would become known as Welsh Parliament Members / Aelodau o Senedd Cymru. In leading this work on behalf of the institution, the Commission is aiming to maximise political consensus across all parties.
In the meantime, the Assembly will continue to be officially known by its current statutory name, the National Assembly for Wales, to avoid confusion and to minimise cost and disruption.
The Commission will plan the change so as to minimise the cost, changing just the Assembly’s name, avoiding any wholescale rebrand or a change to the logo.
Commissioners agreed to publish a summary of the consultation findings, along with a formal written statement to the Assembly from the Llywydd on explaining the decision taken and how the Commission intends to proceed.
Assembly Reform programme
Commissioners received information about the results of their consultation on changing the name of the Assembly. They considered a number of options for next steps including related reputational, practical and financial issues.
Commissioners agreed to return to the issue at their next meeting, having given further consideration to the relationship to the scope of the legislative proposals that the Commission may wish to pursue during this Assembly term as a result of the devolution of new powers under Wales Act 2017.
The Expert Panel on constitutional reform
Following discussion at the last Commission meeting, Commissioners were content that work to establish an Expert Panel on electoral reform was progressing.
Continuing their work to address the capacity of the Assembly, the Commission were updated on progress towards the appointment of membership of the Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform.
The Panel will operate independently, and its role will be to make recommendations to the Assembly Commission, by autumn 2017, on the number of Members the Assembly needs, the most suitable electoral system, and the minimum voting age for Assembly elections.
While the Panel will operate independently, it cannot work wholly in isolation from political realities. The Llywydd will also establish, and chair, a Political Reference Group with an advisory role to help the Panel ensure its work culminates in workable recommendations.
Commissioners agreed that the Llywydd should progress with announcements.
Expert panel on constitutional reform
Following discussion at the last Commission meeting, Commissioners were content that work to establish an Expert Panel on electoral reform was progressing. They supported the approach of appointing a Chair with suitable academic integrity (Prof Laura McAllister), and seeking a panel of diverse, appropriately experienced individuals.