AMs call for new members

A majority of Welsh Assembly members would like to see an increase in their numbers to cope with the ever increasing workload.

Calls for reforms to the Welsh Assembly have grown louder following the publication of a survey of AMs suggesting that a majority would like to see an increase in their numbers in order to cope with the ever increasing work load.

The Western Mail today reports the results of a survey of members of the Assembly conducted by the Electoral Reform Society Cymru.

Having received responses from just over half of Wales’ 60 AMs, the survey found:

  • 74 per cent agreed or strongly agreed the Assembly would be more effective if it had more Members.
  • 73 per cent were concerned that they had enough time to prepare for committees, while 70 per cent said there were not enough AMs to carry out committee work.
  • 76 per cent said they felt committees were able to effectively scrutinise the Welsh government.
  • Asked if the executive was too strong compared to the legislature, 65 per cent agreed or strongly agreed, with 74 per cent saying more AMs would make the Assembly more effective.

The findings follow the Western Mail noting earlier this week further research by the Electoral Reform Society showing widespread dissatisfaction among members of the Assembly about how it operates.

The most recent survey results will once again reignite debate about the size of the Assembly. In December, the Cardiff North AM Julie Morgan called for more members in order to better hold the government in Wales to account.

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.

A report published in October by the Electoral Reform Society Cymru and the UK’s Changing Union project suggested that the Assembly should be comprised of 100 members.

Commenting on the findings, Stephen Brooks, director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru, said:

“Since the Assembly was established in 1999, more powers have been devolved to Wales but the number of AMs has stayed the same.

“In 2004, the Richard Commission recommended 80 members, but this was a best guess on what Wales needed at the time.

“Last year, the Electoral Reform Society and the Wales Governance Centre reviewed the international evidence, and recommended 100 AMs based on Wales’ population and the news powers of the Assembly.

“A hundred is still smaller than the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament, but it’s a workable number that will last for the future. The danger of settling with 80 is that the cracks in the Assembly may well re-appear again and this whole question will need to be revisited.”

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