Welsh assembly in ‘urgent need’ of changes says AM

A prominent Labour AMs has called for an increase in the number of members of the Welsh Assembly.

A prominent Labour AMs has called for an increase in the number of members of the Welsh Assembly, arguing that the current system makes Welsh politics too “tribal”.

Julian Morgan, the Cardiff North AM, former MP and wife of the former first minister Rhodri Morgan, has argued that there are too many Labour AMs in positions that make them unable to voice constructive criticism of the government, exacerbated by Labour having exactly half, but no more, of the seats in the Senedd.

Declaring there to be an “urgent need” to examine the issue, Ms Morgan has said:

“I know the public is not crying out for more politicians, so I’m aware that it’s not a publicly popular thing to say that we need more Assembly Members.

“But I really do think we urgently need it if we’re going to continue to develop in the way that we have developed, in the terms of getting more powers.

“I think we need more government backbenchers. Part of the role of the backbenchers is to criticise the government. It’s an accepted role of the backbench role that you do praise them and try and push your policies and that sort of thing.”

It continued:

“It would be commonly accepted in Westminster that a government minister would be given a hard time – or questioned very acutely in a very challenging way – by people from his or her own side. That would be completely accepted as part of the culture. But because it’s so small here, it’s quite difficult to do that. I think it makes it more tribal really.”

In 2004, the Richard Commission report into the powers and electoral arrangements of the Assembly argued that in the event of it gaining primary law making powers, which it now enjoys, the number of new members needed to increase from the current 60 to 80 in order to ensure sufficient capacity to cope with such a change.

The need for an increase in the size of the Assembly has more recently been echoed as well in a  report published in October by the Electoral Reform Society Cymru and the UK’s Changing Union project. It concluded:

“A comparative analysis of equivalent small nation and ‘Regional’ legislatures elsewhere in the world indicates that 60 members are extremely few for a legislative Assembly that also provides an Executive. The analysis finds that for an institution with the National Assembly’s functions, at least 100 representatives is the norm.

“A history of the half-century leading to democratic devolution in 1999 illustrates the arbitrary way in which the number of 60 Members came about. In all previous proposals the recommended membership never fell below 75, and generally assumed a figure of around 100.

“To bring it into line with the capacity of other comparable legislatures the National Assembly should have around 100 members. This would add approximately £10.1 million to the Assembly’s current annual running costs of £49.5 million, which is a small price to pay for the benefits that would accrue.”

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