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Senedd expansion is vital if our democracy is to flourish

In terms of numbers, Wales’ National Parliament is currently no bigger than a county council.

The Senedd has grown in terms of its functions and the power it wields over recent years but the number of its elected members has not grown along with it.

Therefore, it is not only right but necessary that their number increases from 60 to 96 when the next Senedd election comes around in 2026.

It forms part of the Co-operation Agreement between the Labour Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru.

Though the increase is eminently sensible it has elicited inevitable carping from elements that are hostile to the people of Wales being in control of their own democratic institutions.

These elements cynically attempt to weaponise the anti-politics mood that exists in the country against our legislature and by extension our capacity for self-determination.

Unsurprisingly these loud and reactionary voices fall completely silent when it comes to the cesspit of the House of Lords

That decrepit institution is full to the brim with also-rans, dodgy donors, and assorted party-political flunkies.

The other place, as they like to call it in Westminster, is anachronistic in the truest sense of the word.

It exemplifies all that is wrong with the way the UK is run and has no place in a modern democratic system.

The most obvious problem is that the so-called upper chamber is that it has no democratic legitimacy and no mechanism for ensuring it is accountable to the voting public. If the electorate is dissatisfied with the performance of certain peers, it cannot simply vote them out at the next election because there aren’t any elections.

Once a peer of the realm takes the ermine, they have a seat for life and the power to make decisions on the laws of the land that come with it. Currently, it has 779 sitting members.

The House of Lords still has a number of hereditary peers among its ranks (92 to be exact). The House of Lords also includes up to 26 archbishops and bishops of the Church of England.

The institution is also expensive to run – especially compared to the Senedd.

For the 2022-23 financial year, the cost excluding estates and works expenditure and non-cash items was an astonishing £104,670,000.

Even after it is expanded, the cost of the Senedd by comparison will only be £17.5m in a typical year – a slight increase from £14.5m.  It represents just 0.07% of the £24bn total annual Welsh budget The initial set-up cost is only expected to be around £8m.

It should be viewed as a wise investment in the future health of our burgeoning Welsh democracy, without which it would not only be stunted but would atrophy.

We need to put down the foundation stones now for the independent nation we can be in the future and the expansion of the Senedd is part of that.

The fact of the matter is that this investment is desperately needed.

When you compare Wales to the other constituent nations of the UK, it looks very much like a poor relation.

Our legislature has far fewer elected members than those of Scotland (129) and Northern Ireland (90).

The Senedd’s current dearth of Members means that it can only have plenary on two days a week. As a result, the Senedd is in full session for fewer days than either the Westminster Parliament, the Scottish Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The lack of Members also has an impact on Senedd Committees, which have a key role in the development of legislation as well as holding the Government and public bodies to account.

MSs end up having to sit on multiple committees which means they are spread too thinly and can’t scrutinise as effectively as they otherwise might.

When the then-called National Assembly was created in 1999 it didn’t really need more than 60 Assembly Members because it didn’t have any real power. Because of this, it was derided as nothing more than a talking shop.

But this is no longer the case. The Senedd as it is now called has the power to legislate in a number of important areas, such as health, education, and the environment.

Our national parliament is carrying a much heavier load than was the case and it needs far greater institutional muscle to handle it. The institution is buckling under the pressure at the moment and it shows.

Senedd members are not sufficient enough in number at the moment to adequately scrutinise the laws of our land as they make their way through our legislature.

This means potentially bad laws go unchallenged because pertinent questions go unasked. The people of Wales deserve better.

The expansion of the Senedd is long overdue. Not only that, it is necessary if our democracy is to flourish and if our nation is to thrive.

Elfed Williams

Parhau i Ddarllen

Darllen Mwy

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