More politicians future proof Senedd - Elin Jones

Politicians in the Senedd
The number of Senedd politicians is to increase from 60 to 96 from the next Welsh election in 2026 [Senedd Cymru]

Increasing the number of Senedd members is a "full stop" that will future proof Welsh devolution for the next hundred years, according to its presiding officer.

Members of the Senedd (MSs) voted last week to increase their numbers from 60 to 96 from the next Welsh election, in 2026.

Elin Jones said the reforms which were backed by a cross-party majority of MSs but opposed by the Conservatives, made the Senedd a "fit for purpose" parliament, even if Wales were to become independent.

Speaking to the BBC Walescast podcast, Ms Jones said the vote, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of the first elections to Cardiff Bay, was "hugely significant - and a long time in coming".

"It rectifies, probably, the wrong of 1999, where we were too few members in that very first assembly.

"We should have had a higher number of members then so we've had to wait and develop the argument and rectify that wrong.

Elin Jones

"And now, finally, in the same week as we celebrate our 25 years of existence as a parliament, we are also taking the next step to make this a fit for purpose parliament for the next 25 years - I'd even say the next 100 years."

She added: "I don't think that there will need to be a significant change to the numbers of people elected to this parliament.

"Even if the parliament becomes a parliament of an independent Wales or a parliament with far greater powers that today."

Speaking ahead of the expected return of a Senedd politician suspended after complaints about his behaviour, Ms Jones said the case had prompted reflection on whether the system was working properly or needed to be changed.

Rhys ab Owen was banned from the Senedd for six weeks in March after an investigation found he inappropriately touched and swore at two women while drunk on a night out in June 2021.

In a statement at the time, Mr ab Owen said his behaviour was "not up to the standard the public expects of a member of the Senedd, and for that I apologise unreservedly".

The case led former Plaid Cymru MS Nerys Evans - who in 2023 led a review which found a "culture of harassment, bullying and misogyny" within Plaid which eventually led to the resignation of leader Adam Price - to claim that victims did not feel confident raising issues through the Senedd's complaints system.

Rhys ab Owen
Rhys ab Owen was first elected to the Senedd in 2021 [BBC]

In response, Ms Jones told Walescast the complaint against Mr ab Owen had been taken seriously but that it was "a proper question to ask" whether the system could be improved.

"The Senedd has dealt with that.

"Whether it dealt with it as quickly, as appropriately as it should have is something now that our standards committee has to reflect on," she said.

"I'm not saying that everything is perfect.

"I think we need to think about how we've had experience of looking at this in the past and whether we need to make any changes.

"And we're perfectly open to doing that and doing things better."