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Andrew RT Davies: This Senedd reform is the wrong choice

Andrew RT Davies, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives:

Wales needs more doctors, nurses and teachers, not more politicians. That’s why the Welsh Conservatives stand alone in the Senedd against Labour and Plaid Cymru who are trying to increase the number of politicians in Cardiff Bay by an eye-watering 60 per cent.

When I knock doors and chat to people, they share concerns about A&E departments, about roads, and of course, about the blanket 20mph speed limit. Nobody tells me they wish there were more politicians in Cardiff Bay. 

Labour and Plaid’s plan would cost tens of millions of pounds a year. And these are tens of millions of pounds that would have to be found from other budgets, like the health service and the education system. With nearly 25,000 people in Wales waiting more than two years for treatment from the NHS, it’s clear that precious resources should be invested in our Welsh NHS instead of on more politicians.

But this shows how backwards Labour and Plaid’s priorities are. Instead of rolling their sleeves up and cutting into our waiting lists, they’d rather obsess over the size of the Senedd or dream up new powers to devolve to Cardiff Bay. More Senedd Members will not make the ambulance arrive faster if your loved one is in pain. It’s not more Senedd Members you need when you’re sat in A&E waiting 12 hours, it’s more doctors and nurses. 

I’ve long said that we need to look at how the Senedd works and consider whether it can be sharper. We start sessions at a leisurely half-past one on Tuesday and Wednesday, when some Welsh newspapers are almost being put to bed! We could bring that forward and feed into the news cycle. We still have hybrid contributions, so sometimes we’re seeing Welsh Government Ministers responding to debates on a TV screen. It’s time to get back to the chamber full time. 

We could reduce the amount of opposition debates so that MSs have more time for other aspects of their jobs.

There are things we can do to change the way the Senedd works without spending tens of millions of pounds. Indeed, the options I’ve just laid out have a cost implication of roughly £0.00.

The new-look, larger and more expensive Senedd Labour and Plaid are proposing would also be elected in a new way. At the moment, 20 MSs are elected via a list system, and the other 40 are elected in a standard first-past-the-post system. But under Labour and Plaid’s plan, all 96 MSs would be elected through lists. This is a significant change, and one which the Welsh people deserve to have a say over.

The time and energy of Welsh Government Ministers should be spent tackling our soaring NHS waiting lists, improving educational outcomes and supporting businesses to thrive, not on drafting laws to get more Labour and Plaid Cymru loyalists into offices in Cardiff Bay.

If Labour and Plaid want to spend £120 million of taxpayers’ money on this vanity project, and make significant changes to the way politicians are elected, then they should put it to a vote. They won’t do that, because they know the answer they will get.