Sunday, November 20, 2016

Should we increase number of AMs to 80.

Watched Welsh Sunday Politics today. Sensible comments from the two sensible Assembly Members in the studio, one Labour and one UKIP. Neither convinced that an increase in AMs is needed, but both open to a discussion about it, which is approximate to what I think. I thought UKIP's Mark Reckless was particularly sensible. While realising there may be little support for an increase, they were both clearly impressed by the force of argument put forward by Elin Jones, the Presiding Officer, who supports more AMs. Plaid Cymru would have been a real force if she had been chosen leader. I too  consider her to always worth listening to. 

I've phrased the the 'question for discussion' on an increase in number of AMs from 60 to 80, because the new debating chamber was built to allow for easy expansion to accommodate 80?  Others will advocate a greater increase. I just can't see that idea flying. Some will advocate no increase. Expect the usual trick of presenting options, with the favoured one being 80, in the middle! What the public think is another matter altogether.

Key to this issue will be The Wales Bill which gives the power to decide number of AMs to a new Welsh Parliament. I can comment as a mere observer from the sidelines. It will have nothing to do with MPs at all. Anyway, we will be debating the position soon after the Wales Bill has secured Royal Assent next spring.

I do not see any logic in considering numbers in one tier of Govt to justify numbers in another. They stand on their own. I accept others will not see it in the same way. Firstly, at the next general election we expect to see a reduction in Welsh MPs from 40 to 29 (though I don't yet rule out 33 if number of MPs is not reduced). And of course we expect to see the disappearance of Members of the European Parliament altogether by 2019. The biggest anomaly of course is the massive increase we have seen in the unelected House of Lords. The blame for this unjustifiable position deserves its own post.

 In the context of all this, consideration of number of AMs is entirely logical. My guess, and it's no more than that, I think AMs will move quickly on acquiring the power to increase their number to 80. Which will lead to a debate about how to do that!

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