A report to the National Assembly from a panel of academics and experts says there is a "compelling case" to increase the number of AMs from 60 to at least 80 "and preferably closer to 90 members". It argues that greater capacity to pass laws and scrutinise the Welsh Government would benefit the people of Wales. It adds that "such benefits would be greater at the upper end of [the 80 to 90] range".
The report's other recommendations include:
- An extra 20 Assembly Members would cost £6.6 million a year, plus one-off costs of £2.4 million to expand the Senedd and provide more offices.
- An increase of 30 AMs would cost £9.6 million a year, plus one-off costs of £3.3 million.
- Although the cost is "significant", it could reap significant dividends to the taxpayer, by improving legislation, policy and decision-making.
- The preferred option for electing Assembly Members is from multi-member constituencies, using the single transferable vote.
- There would be 20 constituencies, each with 4 or 5 members.
- There would be a total of 89 or 90 AMs.
- A gender quota system would ensure near equal numbers of male and female AMs
- Two people could jointly stand on the basis that they would "job share" being an AM.
- The minimum voting age should be reduced from 18 to 16.
The report calls for the changes to be implemented at the next Assembly election in 2021. In some cases it offers alternative recommendations to avoid any delay. These might lead to 83 or 84 Assembly Members and might place the responsibility for achieving gender equality on the political parties, rather than building it into the electoral system.
The Electoral Reform Society has backed the proposals, arguing that the extra Assembly Members can be paid for using money that won't be spent of the four Welsh MEPs after Brexit.