|Carwyn Jones AC|
|Dai Lloyd AC|
|David Melding AC||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Suzy Davies.|
|Substitute for Suzy Davies.|
|Mick Antoniw AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Colin Everett||Prif Weithredwr Cyngor Sir y Fflint|
|Chief Executive, Flintshire County Council|
|Daniel Hurford||Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru|
|Welsh Local Government Association|
|Jessica Blair||Cyfarwyddwr y Gymdeithas Diwygio Etholiadol|
|Director, Electoral Reform Society|
|Rob Williams||Cyfarwyddwr NAHT Cymru|
|Director, NAHT Cymru|
|Yr Athro David Egan||Prifysgol Fetropolitan Caerdydd|
|Cardiff Metropolitan University|
|Yr Athro Ellen Hazelkorn||BH Associates|
|Ben Harris||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Gareth Howells||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|P Gareth Williams||Clerc|
|Ruth Hatton||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Stephen Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Bil Senedd ac Etholiadau (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 5||2. Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 5|
|3. Offerynnau nad ydynt yn cynnwys materion i gyflwyno adroddiad arnynt o dan Reol Sefydlog 21.2 na 21.3||3. Instruments that raise no reporting issues under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3|
|4. Offerynnau sy'n cynnwys materion i gyflwyno adroddiad arnynt i’r Cynulliad o dan Reol Sefydlog 21.2 neu 21.3||4. Instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Assembly under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3|
|5. Offerynnau sy'n cynnwys materion i gyflwyno adroddiad arnynt i’r Cynulliad o dan Reol Sefydlog 21.2 neu 21.3 – offerynnau a drafodwyd yn flaenorol||5. Instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Assembly under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3 - previously considered|
|6. Datganiadau ysgrifenedig o dan Reol Sefydlog 30C||6. Written statements under Standing Order 30C|
|7. Papurau i’w nodi||7. Papers to note|
|Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod||Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting|
|8. Bil Senedd ac Etholiadau (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 6||8. Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 6|
|9. Bil Senedd ac Etholiadau (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 7||9. Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 7|
|10. Bil Senedd ac Etholiadau (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 8||10. Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 8|
|11. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod||11. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 11:00.
The meeting began at 11:00.
This is a meeting of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee. To start with the usual opening housekeeping issues: in the event of a fire alarm, Members should leave the room by the marked fire exits and follow the instructions from the ushers and staff. There's no test forecast today. All mobile devices are switched to silent mode. The National Assembly for Wales operates through the medium of both Welsh and English languages. Headphones are provided, through which instantaneous translations may be received. For any who are hard of hearing, these may also be used to amplify sound. Don't touch the buttons on the microphones as this can disable the system, and ensure the red light is shown before speaking. Interpretation is available on channel 1 and verbatim on channel 2.
By way of apologies, I've had apologies from Dawn Bowden for today, Mandy Jones for this morning, but will be here for our 1.30 p.m. evidence sessions. Are there any declarations of interest? There are none.
I'll move straight on to our evidence sessions on the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill. I welcome Jess Blair, the director of the Electoral Reform Society, to this evidence session. This is obviously a piece of legislation that you've put some written evidence in on. It's obviously something that you'll be monitoring and are closely concerned with. So, we welcome you here today, and we're also very interested in your evidence and your views on what is an important constitutional piece of legislation, but also one that has significant educational aspects as well that tie in with it. So, we'll go straight into questions to be run through, and I start with David Melding.
Diolch. Bore da. In your written evidence, you say that you're disappointed with the scope of the Bill, and I just wonder what's the big thing that's missing in it.
So, in terms of the Bill, we obviously very much support the legislation and welcome the fact that it is keen to extend the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds. I think what is disappointing is the fact that the other elements of electoral reform that were suggested by Laura McAllister's panel haven't been put forward at this point. So, that would be around the size of the Assembly and the way that a larger Assembly could be elected, alongside the recommendations about integrated gender quotas.
I think, in an ideal world, or at least scope to extend it further at a future date. I'm concerned that those other elements might be forgotten or left by the wayside.
So, if we look at the size of the Assembly, in the hierarchy of things we need to do—change the name, increase the franchise, change the electoral system, a larger size—I mean, where does the size of the Assembly come in that order?
I think the size of the Assembly is probably very high up the list; I think it's fundamental to the effectiveness of this institution, and I think we are clearly seeing capacity issues at the moment. So, without addressing the fundamental size and the capacity of the Assembly, I really think that our potential might be limited.
I think it would be a tie between that and the extension of the franchise.
We have the situation that the size of the Assembly and the way the Assembly is elected seems to be deeply connected, and I've seen Laura McAllister's report. But do you think it was wise to have two such gigantic principles connected?
I feel that they can't be separated out. I think that the size of the Assembly and the eventual number that you go for informs what voting system you'd have. We're already seeing now the debate on size is now moving into, 'Well, how would that happen?' So, I think they're very intractable.
Our current voting system has a 2:1 ratio: two constituency seats to one regional seat. So, anything that could be divided by three can apply that voting system, so I don't quite follow the logic that these two things are connected.
I think it's more about the political support for the changes than the kind of practicalities of implementing it. I think that any political party, in terms of backing a larger Assembly, is going to want to know how that should be elected.
Yes, but in having a system that moves from the current status quo, which is fairly proportionate—I mean, it's certainly not perfect—you create a huge barrier when the ruling party is the least likely to want to see the voting system changed, don't you?
I can't comment on where each of the political parties stand in terms of their support for it, but I think Laura McAllister's report was really clear that any new, larger Assembly should readdress the voting system and include a proportional element.
Again, in terms of your hierarchy, if the increase in the size of the Assembly could be achieved preserving the current additional Member model, would you agree to that as a compromise, or do you feel that that would be a compromise too far?
I think that size is fundamental to the moving forward of this institution, and we are just concerned that any electoral system would be proportionate and would not favour any particular party, but continue that balance that we currently have. So, I think size is the most important thing, but I wouldn't forget that the voting system should go alongside that, and I think the discussion about integrating gender quotas, particularly in the single transferable vote model, as suggested by the expert panel report, is a really key aspect as well.
So, returning to this issue of—it's a Bill that's fairly limited in its scope. Arguably, two of the three most important aspects are not in it. Do you think that the Bill could be amendment at least to tackle the issue of the size of the Assembly, and perhaps leave the voting system to another Bill, whereas at the moment we're going to leave both the size and the voting system to a future Bill?
Obviously, we're not coming at this from a legal expertise angle. From a political point of view, I think it's really unlikely that the size and the electoral system issue—and I do think it's still quite intractable and very close together—would be agreed in time to pass this Bill, in time for the roll-out of political education, the work that the electoral registration officers need to do to extend the franchise in time for the next election.
Thanks for that. Obviously, this is something of a conundrum, I suppose. It's quite a challenging area.
Moving on, you say you're concerned that double-jobbing adds an extra strain for existing Members. I just wonder if you want to elaborate on that in terms of any evidence you've seen of those that double-job perhaps performing poorly.
I think that we in principle don't have any objections to double-jobbing, and I don't think we've necessarily seen any particular issues. I wouldn't want to pinpoint any particular individuals who currently do. I just think it's important to consider the capacity of the Assembly in an argument around whether it is feasible for Assembly Members to do two roles.
Okay. So, would your objections be more constitutional, that you're in more than one legislature, or is there a real problem, do you think, in terms of—?
I think it comes back to the capacity of the Assembly and whether it is feasible for an Assembly Member to effectively do both jobs and represent their constituents to the best of their ability.
And would that apply to Assembly Members also being councillors, for instance?
In the Welsh Government's White Paper on local government reform last year we made a similar point. So, I think it would apply to both, yes.
Okay. You said that in changing the name it was very important for the Assembly to communicate that to the electorate. So, how would you recommend engaging the public, or do you think that's been done well so far?
I think that there's an opportunity in the renaming of the Assembly to use it as a hook to communicate what the Assembly as an institution does, what kind of devolved areas it covers. I think there is a challenge currently in terms of the democratic deficit and we should use every opportunity we have to communicate exactly the role of this institution. I think the name change of the Assembly would be a key one.
The Commission did a consultation, and there was a very clear answer, which we're now not going to heed. Do you have any misgivings about that?
I think that the consultation response showed that there was varied support for different topics, and I think, ideally, consultations should always look at what the public and people who've responded to that think. But I think there are other reasons for pursuing 'Senedd' as a name, and I don't think that the consultation showed that there was necessarily that much opposition to that.
Yes, but it showed 70 per cent agreement for 'Senedd Cymru' and 'Welsh Parliament' being preferred to 'Senedd' only, at about 52 per cent, I think. So, you're right, there was acquiescence to 'Senedd', but there was clear endorsement of a bilingual 'Senedd Cymru'/'Welsh Parliament', wasn't there?
Yes, I think it's not an ideal situation, but there's an element of consultation responses that have to be considered in a wider picture and broader picture, and it's clearly what the Assembly Commission feels is right for this institution.
Okay. I'd like to ask you a little bit about your views on extending the franchise to 16-year-olds. It does exist in one or two countries around the world. Generally, what are the main reasons would you say for extending the franchise?
Obviously, votes at 16 is a relatively new concept. Rolling it out across the UK and Scotland has clearly shown that it has been effective there. In terms of its role for Wales, I think that there is real scope for engaging a new demographic in Welsh politics and also, essentially, the main argument for me is that they're a captive audience. Sixteen and 17-year-olds are in school, able to receive political education, whereas 18-year-olds, as we've seen, are quite unlikely to engage, and it's a really bad time in their life when they're off to university, starting their career journey. So, I think it is that captive audience that is quite persuasive for me, and also the fact that in Scotland it's brought the average first-time voting age closer to 18, rather than 21. So, I think it does ensure a lot more fairness in the demographics that are able to vote.
In the Scottish referendum, of course, that was very much a one-issue referendum. How can you draw a comparison between what is effectively a general election with a whole variety of issues, and rely on the turnout in one single referendum? Where's the evidence to justify saying that that would translate into the same response in a general election?
I think we've been, obviously, very celebratory of the turnout for 16 and 17-year-olds in the Scottish referendum, but I think maybe the more relevant comparator is the Scottish local elections, which also follow the trend of having higher turnouts of 16 and 17-year-olds, above 18 to 24-year-olds. I think it's a very, very different situation here, and it wouldn't necessary follow that we're going to have a higher turnout for 16 and 17-year-olds. I think the extension of the franchise here is probably more of a process than an event, to borrow an often-used phrase in Welsh politics. But I think it's an opportunity to do something differently, engage a new demographic, and I think slowly over the course of multiple elections, we will start to see more 16 and 17-year-olds being engaged.
Okay. There may be other questions around this. One of the issues that concerns this committee, of course, and you've commented on it, is the importance of political education—I say that with a small 'p'—citizenship education, political education and so on. What is the importance of this?
In terms of the importance of political education, we've seen in Scotland the effect that good political education and an informed debate and discussion has had in terms of young people being engaged. At the moment, I think political education is relatively poor and, as a general population, I think we're relatively disengaged in devolved politics, in particular. So, political education, for me, and the extension of the franchise, is an opportunity to do things differently, and it's an opportunity to ensure that this generation of young people, who will then become voters when they're 18, 30, 50, will be much more informed than the current population.
Why do you say political education—I'm not disagreeing with you necessarily, but why do you say it is poor? What is the evidence for saying it's poor? What is it that's not being done, and what do you think it is that should be done?
We did a project last year called Our Voices Heard, where we went to 11 schools across Wales and engaged with 200 year 9 students, who will be the first cohort to vote at 16. They reported to us that they didn't receive a lot of political education; it was very ad hoc. Mostly, it's those who go through the Welsh baccalaureate or choose to take A-level politics further along the line, and it's not rolled out for general young people's consumption. I think if we're going to have votes at 16—I think it's absolutely the right thing to do—we should really address that in our education system. What was effective in Scotland was the rolling out of proper political education classes, but more than that, it was the rolling out of opportunities to debate and discuss current affairs, and that's definitely what we heard through the Our Voices Heard project. The young people came out with a recommendation, so we co-produced with them the recommendations, and they were suggesting things like space to debate in form time, experience of how to run a campaign, and being able to look at current affairs and discuss them. Also, developing the analytical skills needed to dissect what is fake news and what's good social media content to follow. So, it's all about politics in the round, really, that we should be introducing young people to, rather than that statutory political education lesson or in addition to that.
The current provision is going to be changing through the changes to the national curriculum and so on. You've obviously looked at that. The national curriculum does provide for a fairly broad range of social and political issues in, perhaps, not a very specific way. If you were to be more specific about it, what do you think political education actually is, and what should be contained, specifically, within it? And how might that, actually, be put into practice? Because, one of the issues, obviously, is the ability to engage with, for example, political parties within schools. What sort of challenges do you think that imposes?
So, I think, as I said earlier, in addition to statutory political education lessons, where young people can learn about what the role of each institution is, what areas they cover, who your politicians are, there should be that interactive experience with politics, and making it more accessible for young people across Wales. So, I think it is about having those political party hustings. One of the other things we've been looking at is mock elections for even younger people, so that by the time that 16 and 17-year-olds are able to vote, they already know how to do it, essentially—they've already been involved in that. And that's a model in Norway that's proved particularly effective. So, I think it's about life skills and real integration in politics with everyone's day-to-day life, and young people really seeing that politics and the decisions that are made about them, particularly in this institution, are relevant to them and will affect their lives.
Okay. Have you seen any adequate curriculum materials? With curricula, there is obviously a series of papers and documents, and so on, that provide a certain consistency in terms of the education system. Do you have any views on the sort of material that should be produced, that should be going to 16-year-olds? And perhaps I'll even put the question to you: at what age actually should this process be starting? How would you envisage it in terms of the engagement of people? Because, by the time you get to 16, of course, they would then be voting under this legislation, so, it's the preparatory period leading up to that as well.
So, the beginning of secondary school seems a good point to start it and it then rolling out throughout young people's age. In terms of the actual materials that we've seen, what has been effective in Scotland was the Electoral Commission's 'Ready to Vote' pack ahead of the local government elections. That was sent to all schools, and 84 per cent of schools in Scotland engaged with that, which is, I think, a really, really healthy statistic. What was interesting there was, the pack was about how to make politics relevant. It was about how to have mock debates and discuss current affairs, but also inform young people what exactly was going on.
One of the other recommendations we made in 'Our Voices Heard' that I think is relevant for young people, but actually could be a much broader recommendation, is around the creation of some kind of online resource for Welsh parliamentary elections. So, we'd be looking at some kind of web platform where you type in your postcode and it tells you where to vote, who your candidates are, what they stand for, what the election's about. And I don't think that would be too great a leap to go to, and we'd be happy to work on that with others and help develop that.
Yes. I completely accept the need for education in citizenship and political but not partisan education also, and I think the ideas in your paper were excellent. Where I'm struggling is the logical connection that, therefore, we need to lower the age of voting to 16. After all, if we did that, we have an Assembly election every five years, so, at best, only a minority of 16 and 17-year-olds are ever going to vote at that stage of their lives. Most will have to wait until they're 18 or over. So, I just don't see any logical connection. It seems to me that we need this in our secondary schools, it's a hugely important part of life, and educating people to be responsible, active citizens, but it's just not connected to lowering the voting age, it seems to me.
I do think that there will a be direct correlation between extending the voting age. There were recommendations in the local government White Paper about voting in different places. So, perhaps polling stations in schools, I do think that that would drive up a lot more turnout, potentially, than the current system of 18. So, I think there is an opportunity to really engage and capture. The other thing that we know for sure is that the younger a first-time voter turns out to vote, the more likely they are to vote for the rest of their lives. So, I think this is about creating a good habit for young people and making sure that, in future, our turnout rates are climbing.
We should, but they're more difficult to reach.
Well, they're in school—well, nearly all of them—between the age of 16 and 18.
They're largely in university by the time they reach 18, or in other walks of life. So, I think, in terms of a captive audience, it really is those below 16 that we really want to capture.
Yes, but most of them won't—through happenstance—be able to vote because there just won't be an election during that period of their lives. So, again, I'm struggling to see how these important principles are logically connected.
I think the two are linked, and I think the experience in Scotland has shown that there is a direct correlation between the amount of accessibility you can have to young people and the information we can give to them and their propensity to turn out to vote.
I personally favour 16 and 17-year-olds voting. I don't think it's linked to education particularly, because I can tell you there are plenty of people of many ages who have no real idea of how the political system works. I don't think it's an age thing. I think it's the level of interest that an individual might have in politics and how deep that is. I think civic education is something we need. 'Political education' sounds a bit strange to me. 'Political re-education' is even worse, I suppose, isn't it, Chair? But I'm with you in that regard.
Could I just go back to the issue of the size of the Assembly, which—? I'm with you on the 80-Member Assembly. When I was First Minister, many, many of my backbenchers used to come up to me and say how heavy the workload was as a backbencher, and, indeed, they were right, and the fact that, in Westminster, if you're on two committees it's a punishment, whereas here it's normal. So, there is a capacity issue that does need to be addressed, but I can't see how we can divorce the issue of the size of the Assembly from the electoral system because, inevitably, if you increase the number of AMs, that does change the electoral system. I once wrote a pamphlet in 2003 calling for an 80-Member Assembly, elected first-past-the-post. I think that's where the consensus would break down, to be honest, in other parties. But therein lies the problem: the reason why the Presiding Officer's brought this forward in different Bills is because that is the big issue—the size of the Assembly related to the electoral system. So, do you agree that inevitably, if we do move to 80 Members—which I'm not adverse to—there has to be a change to the electoral system and the two must go together?
I think that was very clear in the expert panel report, and we would support that recommendation too. I think the two are inextricably linked and I think a larger Assembly does necessitate a different voting system to really make that happen.
I do point out that the German parliament is elected by additional Members, and I think there are 450 Members of the German Parliament, but, anyway.
Ie, diolch yn fawr. Dadl ddiddorol. Allaf i ddiolch i chi am eich tystiolaeth ysgrifenedig ymlaen llaw? Mae'n fendigedig. Ac yn ôl y dystiolaeth ysgrifenedig yna, rydych chi'n nodi y dylid ystyried mesurau i sicrhau cofrestriad bloc mewn ysgolion a cholegau. Sut ydych chi'n gweld y bydd hynny'n gweithio'n ymarferol? Ac os ydych chi'n credu'n gryf mewn cofrestriad bloc, a ddylai'r darpariaethau gogyfer cofrestru bloc fod ar wyneb y Bil?
Yes, thank you very much. A very interesting debate there. Can I thank you for your written evidence? It's excellent. And according to that written evidence, you state that measures to ensure block registration in schools and colleges should be considered. So, how would you foresee that working in practice? And if you believe strongly in block registration, should the provisions for such block registration be on the face of the Bill?
I'm sorry for replying to your question in English. Yes, we're massively supportive of block registration and other methods such as automatic registration to really ensure that our electoral roll is a lot more complete and up-to-date than it currently is. In terms of it working in practice, I think electoral registration officers visiting schools and doing, kind of, registration drives is probably a very good thing. Also, 16 and 17-year-olds will be applying for things like national insurance cards. I think that's an opportunity to drive registration as well.
Symud ymlaen, eto yn eich tystiolaeth ysgrifenedig, rydych chi'n dweud y dylid cyflwyno mesurau i estyn y bleidlais mewn etholiadau llywodraeth leol cyn gynted ag sy'n bosib. Nawr, wrth gwrs, pe bai yna ragor o oedi wrth gyflwyno'r ddeddfwriaeth llywodraeth leol—a dŷn ni ddim yn gwybod pryd mae hwnna'n mynd i ddigwydd, felly mae yna oedi o leiaf—beth fyddai goblygiadau ymarferol peidio ag ymestyn yr etholfraint ar gyfer etholiadau lleol ar yr un pryd ag etholiadau'r Cynulliad?
Moving on, once again in your written evidence, you say that measures to extend the vote in local government elections should be brought forward as soon as possible. Now, if there were any further delay in introducing the local government legislation—and we don't know when that's going to come forward, so there is going to be some delay at least—what would be the practical implications of not extending the franchise for local elections at the same time as Assembly elections?
So, for us, the ideal situation would be the extension of the franchise for Assembly and local government elections at the same time, and I think that would just be in terms of practicality of registration and making sure that the electoral roll for both elections was up to date. The delay in the local government Bill I think is unfortunate. I don't think it completely undermines this Bill at all. I think it just makes the situation slightly more complicated for electoral registration officers and will make sure that they have to do two visits and two registration drives.
Yn dilyn hwnna, beth fyddai'r dyddiad olaf y byddai angen pasio'r Ddeddf i estyn yr etholfraint ar gyfer etholiadau llywodraeth leol, ydych chi'n credu?
And following on from that, what would be the latest date by which an Act would need to be passed to extend the franchise for local government elections?
I wouldn't necessarily say we wanted to pinpoint a date. However, I think it would be fair to say that we have Assembly elections in 2021, local government elections in 2022, and it would make sense to have a similar time frame next year to the current Senedd and elections Bill. However, that Bill's obviously going to be a lot more detailed and a lot more complex, so it really is imperative that that is tabled as soon as feasibly possible by the Welsh Government.
Diolch yn fawr. A'r cwestiwn olaf sydd gennyf, Cadeirydd, ydy: yn eich tyb chi, a ydych chi'n credu y buasai wedi bod yn well cael un Bil yn ymestyn yr etholfraint ar gyfer etholiadau lleol ac etholiadau'r Cynulliad?
Thank you very much. And the final question from me, Chair: in your opinion, do you believe that it would have been better to see a single Bill extending the franchise for both local elections and Assembly elections?
In an ideal world, absolutely, there should be a single Bill for the extension of the franchise for both local government and Assembly elections. What makes that difficult is both the timescale that the Assembly Commission and Welsh Government are working to—they are very different—but also the degree to which this Bill needs support in the Chamber. I think it is therefore fair to make sure that the local government situation is dealt with separately, and obviously, that being a more comprehensive Bill also lends itself to being dealt with separately.
You'll be aware that section 27 of the Bill has been an issue of debate, and of course the decision to include provision relating to the oversight of the Electoral Commission is something that we have to consider. Have you got any views on that?
We don't have any views on that as an organisation, I'm afraid. We don't have any policy on it.
Okay. In terms of the recommendations of the Law Commission in relation to electoral law reform, are there any parts of those recommendations that you'd like to see implemented in Wales?
We also don't have any views on the Law Commission recommendations. However, I think it has been quite interesting to note that the majority of evidence so far has been questioning of the secondary legislation element of that.
So if I were to ask you the question: what do you think of Welsh Ministers being able to pass secondary legislation to change electoral law, rather than the Assembly doing it, there wouldn't be a view on it, would there?
My personal view is that it should be primary legislation.
Okay. I think there are just a couple of concluding questions I'd just like to ask you about, and that is in terms of the timescale. Obviously, this would be for the—if this was implemented, the intention is for the change to take place for the 2021 Assembly elections. You stressed the importance of the political education element to that. In your view, though, if the political education element is not in place and not adequate by then, is it your view that the 2021 timetable should still be aimed for?
The 2021 timescale I think is reflective of—it's fair, in terms of a timescale to work to. It isn't going to be a panacea. It isn't going to be a perfect event. It will be a process, as I referred to earlier. However, I do believe that the Electoral Commission, for example, are working hard on ensuring that a 'Ready to Vote' pack is available for schools and electoral registration officers will obviously be visiting. There won't a perfect situation where curriculum reform is entirely done by that point, but I think there will be enough to start.
Okay. And in terms of the political education process, if there are inadequacies there, we obviously face the consequence of reducing the voting age, and people voting despite the fact that we consider they may not be sufficiently prepared for that. You've also focused in your evidence that the main reason for extending the franchise seems to centre around the issue of turnout. Do you focus very much on whether that is the main reason why the change should take place, or whether there are other reasons, just in terms of the nature of the democratic franchise? Do you have a view on that?
I wouldn't say that turnout's the main reason for extending the franchise. I think it's more of a principle that young people should be more engaged, and I think it's an opportunity, in fact, to, I think, not drive turnout but make sure that we are having a much more informed young demographic who are engaged in elections and see democracy as part of their everyday lives.
What is the purpose to 16-year-olds, then, voting at 16? What would you say is the main reason? Why should that franchise—what's the difference between 16 and 18? What are the reasons why, at 16 years of age, you should be entitled to vote?
I think at 16 it does go back to those arguments that I made earlier about political education being much more accessible and easier to reach for young people. Also, the fact that young people—the earlier they vote, the more likely they are to turn out, 18 being the lowest turnout bracket among the entire voting population. This is an opportunity, I think, to do things differently, to make sure that we have a much more informed younger population and to make sure that they have an opportunity to vote and have their voices heard too. I do think it gives a chance to drive turnout. It'll probably take quite a long time to be effective, but, hopefully, by doing this, we will have people more likely to vote at 16 and then therefore more likely to vote throughout their lives.
That's one reason, but it doesn't explain the answer of the entitlement to vote. People are entitled to vote; whether they choose to exercise that entitlement, that vote, is another matter. You seem to be talking about extending the franchise because it will have an impact in terms of the statistics in terms of voting and might improve the numbers and you think that's a good thing, and I'm sure that none of us would disagree, but it doesn't really answer the point about the entitlement. Why are you entitled to vote at 16, as opposed to 18? In what way are you equally entitled?
I don't think we would necessarily make an argument that much around entitlement, but I think, looking at the point that young people are at at 16—and they do have rights to do other things at 16 and there isn't one age where everyone gets the right to be an adult. I think it isn't necessarily about that entitlement argument; it is about trying to make sure that we are doing politics better and that young people are more engaged in it, rather than the entitlement argument.
I could make an entitlement argument, because I do believe the voting age should be lowered to 16, however I think it's a very important policy change. I agree with you that it's unfortunate, to put it mildly, that we are contemplating lowering the franchise for one set of elections but not another at the same time. That does take us into an area of jeopardy, it seems to me. The Welsh Government has said that they will have a co-ordinated programme of education when they lower the age for voting in local government elections. We are promised a Bill. We are in a very stressed political period, I think it's fair to say, and we've had very little substantial legislation during this fifth Assembly. Therefore, would it not be logical to commence, should the part of this Bill that lowers the age to 16—should that be approved, wouldn't it be better to commence it only after the age has been lowered for local government elections and the Government, i.e. not the Commission, has done this programme of educational work?
I said earlier that it's very unfortunate that the local government Bill has been delayed. I don't think that that delay by the Welsh Government should be holding up this piece of legislation. I think it is vital that the first elections that are undertaken where they have the extension of the franchise are at that kind of higher level. Professor Laura McAllister referred to this—that it should be an Assembly election that is first, rather than the local government election. And I do think that there are other measures, such as the work by the Electoral Commission, that will ensure that there is an adequate level of information that's given to young people to prepare them for that.
Okay. Are there any other questions anyone would like to ask? Can I just ask one, then? You haven't mentioned the fact—I mean, one of the arguments put forward for this is that, at 16, you can work, you can do a whole series of things. Once you're paying tax, once you're engaged in employment, you should have a right to have a say over the people that legislate. That doesn't seem to form part of your society's raison d'être for making change.
It absolutely does. However, I think the evidence that we've gleaned in Scotland is perhaps more important in terms of the practical implementation and delivery of that in terms of the fact that it has been so successful up there and that we have an opportunity to do the same. I think they're part and parcel.
Thank you very much. Are there any final comments that you'd like to make?
The only thing that I haven't mentioned that I would like to is the fact that I think it's imperative that the Assembly Commission and the Welsh Government, particularly the education Minister and the local government Minister, are really working together on this to really develop those political education recommendations, and we hope to see that moving forward.
I think we'd probably all agree with that. Thank you very much for that. You will get a transcript of the evidence to check through. Thank you for attending and for giving your evidence on what is, I think, a very important piece of legislation. Thank you very much. If there are any other points that you wish to add, of course you may submit those in writing to us. Thank you very much.
We will move on with the agenda now. We've completed item 2 on the agenda. We will, of course, be finishing around about 12:15 and reconvening at 13:30 for the remainder of the evidence sessions.
If we go on to item 3 then, instruments that raise no reporting issues under Standing Order 21.2. I think there's an item here that we can deal with very quickly. That's the code of practice—the Local Authority Fostering Services (Wales) Regulations 2018. This is a code of practice that is subject to negative procedure. It's not a statutory instrument, but subordinate legislation subject to Standing Order 21.7. It's an amended version of a code we've previously scrutinised several weeks ago. Are there any issues on that? We'll just note that.
We move on to item 4 then, instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Assembly under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3. We'll start with the Animals and Animal Products (Examination for Residues and Maximum Residue Limits) (Wales) Regulations 2019. Again, you have a report, regulations, the explanatory memorandum, and the letter from the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd. The regulations provide a technical update, ensuring animal produce remains safe for consumers from exposure to residue of veterinary drugs and to prohibit the use of certain illegal drugs. Are there any comments or issues on that?
There's a technical point on pack page 14 relating to an inconsistency between the English and the Welsh, and there's also a merits point noting breach of the 21-day rule—that is the rule that 21 days should pass between the date the regulations are laid before the Assembly and the day they come into force. At the time the regulations were drafted, there was a bit of a race to get them into force by the planned exit day of 29 March, which is why the 21-day rule was breached.
Okay. We note that. Item 4.2 is the Equine Identification (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2019. Again, there's a report, regulations, explanatory memorandum, and another letter from the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd. These are regulations that amend the Equine Identification (Wales) Regulations 2019, to substitute 'responsible person' in regulation 8 with 'owner'. These regulations ensure that the system of equine identification set out in the regulations functions effectively in Wales. Any comments?
Two merits points, starting on pack page 48. Again, these regulations breach the 21-day rule. These regulations correct an error reported by this committee, and again they were drafted in order to meet the planned exit day of 29 March.
On to item 5, instruments that raise issues to be reported to the Assembly under Standing Order 21.2 or 21.3, previously considered matters. Item 5.1, the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release and Transboundary Movement) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (Wales) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. The committee considered the report for these regulations at its meeting on 18 March and subsequently reported to the Assembly. The committee agreed to reconsider the reporting points in light of the Government response.
If I could just say, for all items under agenda item 5, they include Government responses to the seven statutory instruments previously considered by the committee. We don't consider there are any issues there that need to be followed up. Many of the committee's points have been accepted by the Welsh Government, some have been rejected, and the Government gives fair reasons for rejecting them. Other points have resulted in a bit of a score draw, but there's nothing we feel that must be followed up or taken further.
Okay. Noted. Item 5.2 is the Forest Reproductive Material (Great Britain) (Amendment) (Wales) Regulations 2019. Again, a report and the Government response. The committee considered a report of these regulations in its last meeting. The Government response was received following the meeting on Monday, and we've had that response available to us now. So, we note that.
Item 5.3 is the Plant Health (Forestry) (Amendment) (Wales) Order 2019. Again, we considered a report at our last meeting and the Government's response has now been received and that's available to us. A number of concessions have been made. Noted.
Item 5.4 is the Agricultural Wages (Wales) Order 2019. It is again another matter where we considered a report and we were awaiting a response. Again, within the timescale, because it wasn't available, we've just brought it forward and the response is available to us now. To be noted? Okay.
The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019—again, another matter where, within the timescale, we laid our report and the Government response was received following the meeting. We've now had that response. Noted? Okay.
Item 5.6 is the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018 (Supplementary Provisions) Regulations 2019. Again, the report was laid and we've now had the response, which is for us to note.
Qualifications Wales (Monetary Penalties) (Determination of Turnover) Regulations 2019—exactly the same situation. We now have the Government response and again, as has been mentioned, a number of concessions have been made. Noted? Okay.
Written statements under Standing Order 30C. This is item 6.1 now. Food and Feed Hygiene and Safety (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. The written statement indicates that the purpose of the amendments is to correct deficiencies arising from the UK leaving the European Union in legislation relating to general food and feed safety and hygiene. It states that the regulations will make minimal technical amendments to the retained direct EU law, without making any material change in the level of protection given to human health or to the high standard of food and feed that consumers expect from domestically produced and imported products. Any comments or observations? So, it's noted.
Item 6.2: Geo Blocking (Revocation) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. This is worth a certain amount of consideration, certainly—it's on page 106. The term 'geo-blocking' is used to describe the situation where traders discriminate against customers on the basis of the nationality or location of the customer, for example by automatically re-directing customers to country-specific versions of their website, with different terms and conditions. Following repeal of the geo-blocking regulations in the UK, traders from the UK, EU and third countries will not be prohibited from discriminating between EU customers and UK customers. So, I think it is one of the consequences of the process we're going through at the moment that we will now have introduced discriminatory processes. So, that is there to be noted, unless there are any comments or observations that anyone wishes to make. No.
Item 7 is papers to note. Letter from the First Minister to the Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee. This is a letter from the First Minister on 22 March 2019 to be noted. Any comments? Noted.
A letter from Bruce Crawford MSP, Convener of the Finance and Constitution Committee. This is a letter from Bruce Crawford of 26 March 2019. It's a very interesting letter. They're carrying out work in terms of constitutional structures and reforms and are inviting us to give views, as well as other committees. I think this is an area where we could perhaps explore further. I wonder whether there is a sufficient common area where we might consider some joint work with the Scottish committee on this. I've asked the clerk just to explore that. Either way, there are very important issues that are raised within that letter. I think it misses out the issue of Sewel, which I think is important. It may not be as specific on the JMC, and, of course, we have our own views that we've expressed in previous papers. We're going to explore that a little bit further. Either way, we will want to do a response to it, but are there any comments on that?
Yes. I think that's a very helpful letter for us. I'll report back on that when we've explored a bit further how we might actually engage with that.
Item 7.3: letter from Lord Trefgarne, scrutiny of regulations made under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018—a letter of 26 March 2019. These were obviously submissions that we made, as we have to a number of committees, on some of the constitutional issues that have been arising. Noted?
Noted. Although—[Inaudible.]—disquiet and they just said, 'Tough', really, 'We passed it.'
They passed the views on. But I think, in other correspondence, they have, of course, been—I think, generally, they've been very, very positive in terms of the identification of those issues. Of course, they're not in a position to do much about them.
7.4: correspondence with the Welsh Government, UK-EU exit regulations—a letter from the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd of 27 March 2019 and a letter to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs of 14 March 2019; just to note that letter, that correspondence.
7.5: letter from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on the Fisheries Bill and a letter from the Minister on 27 March 2019—a positive letter. Any comments on that? Noted.
7.6: letter from the First Minister—correspondence relating to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. We're just invited to note that letter. Our letter, to which the First Minister responded, to which we responded, to which he's responded—I don't propose pursuing it any further, unless anyone wishes. We'll keep it for the record for the moment. There's a slight constitutional disagreement there, but we can leave that where it is. We've made the point in terms of our functions.
7.7: letter from the Minister for Health and Social Services, the four nations ministerial meeting, and that's a letter of 28 March 2019. We're invited to note the letter from the Minister for Health and Social Services, which concerns inter-governmental relations and comes within the ambit of the inter-institutional agreement. Noted?
I think that brings us to—. Where are we now? Oh, sorry, a letter from the Minister for Health and Social Services, Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill. Again, this is a matter we've had quite a number of discussions on. Some positive responses from the Minister there. Any comments or observations on that?
No. We had the Plenary debate on this. What we said at the time still stands, but we note it.
Okay. That brings us to the end of this session. I'll bring this meeting to a close and we'll reconvene at 1.30 p.m.
Is there any way we can deal with anything else before we go? Items 14 and 15, for example.
I know we've got to go into private session, but, 14 and 15, it seems to me we could get those out of the way.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Well, shall we move into private session for the consideration of those matters? Okay? Is that agreed? We have a number of reports to consider—draft reports—so I propose we move under 17.42—
Yes, in private session now. I think we should do that. Okay, so we move into private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:48.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:48.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 13:30.
The committee reconvened in public at 13:30.
Okay, this is a reconvened meeting of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee—evidence session into the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill. I'd like to welcome Professor David Egan and Professor Ellen Hazelkorn to give evidence. Thank you very much for your written evidence. We're considering, as you know, an interesting piece of legislation—constitutional legislation, but also one that has significant educational issues around it as well. Thank you for your evidence. Is there anything you wanted to say right at the beginning, or shall we go straight into questions?
No. Thanks for inviting me. Thanks very much. Diolch yn fawr.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. I suppose the most substantial thing this Bill does is lower the voting age to 16, and I'd just like to hear your views on that reform.
Is this mike on? Yes, it is. Well, this is—. I found it quite an interesting proposal. There are a few examples internationally where this has happened. Obviously, Scotland is one; Austria is another. There are varying states in the United States and varying places elsewhere. I suspect the issue isn't really age per se, but competence and capacity to make decisions based on fact and data. And, once we discuss those issues, that seems to me to be the main issue; indeed, in one of the reports, I think by the Electoral Commission, they suggested there was no reason not to drop it to 15. But, be that as it may, the proposal on 16 is a relatively novel and a limited one; there aren't a lot of examples around. And the research—. We were talking earlier; I've looked at some of the research—or all of it; there's very little of it that's out there, because there are very few studies. Again, the Electoral Reform Society mentioned the same things that I've seen, aside from a more current Swedish study. But it is certainly an area where we see, increasingly, young people getting involved; the whole climate change walkout from schools that was recently—. Certainly, we had it in the Irish case; I think internationally it's been, really, led by a young Swedish girl. The whole issue around gun control in the US has now largely taken off, again led by young people from Parkland in Florida. And there are similar types of issues like that, where young people feel that they have an issue. Dare I say, Brexit is again one of them as well.
Yes. All of my long experience in education in Wales would lead me to support all of that. I see no reason at all why we shouldn't have faith in our young people in Wales after the age of 16. I think it's completely consistent with the aspirations of this Assembly and the Welsh Government in terms of the United Nations convention on human rights. That's always been a very strong part of what post-devolution Wales has been about. And I absolutely agree that engaging young people—particularly perhaps in these interesting times in which we live, there's almost an imperative, I think, to do it. And, yes, I think at 16—I'm pretty persuaded, really, when I look at 16-year-olds today and think of what I was like when I was 16, and the 16-year-olds that I began teaching back in the late 1970s, and I think they are far more mature, far more worldly-wise than ever we were, and ready to step up and use their democratic rights.
You sound very positive about the political engagement of young people, and I think many of us have observed it as well. Do you think having the vote at 16 is a recognition of that interest and competence that is being displayed, and we are therefore reacting to it, or is it more the other way round—that we want to engage young people, and therefore, by drawing them into the formal political process at an earlier age, we can encourage further engagement?
Well, for me, I think it's a bit of both. I can't see why, as I say, given that focus on the rights of the child, we shouldn't say that 16 is an appropriate point to have that right. But I do think that, in the world that we live today, there's almost an imperative perhaps, in Wales, where we think of ourselves as a very progressive nation, that we should want to give our young people—. I agree that, at this particular point in time, with issues like Brexit and so forth—. I think it's almost—. When you look at the work that Young Wales has done, for example—and I'm a trustee of Children in Wales, so I should declare that involvement, but, when you look at the work that Young Wales has done in terms of testing the opinions of young people on Brexit, they do really feel very, very strongly, and I think that they've made those views known to the First Minister recently, very, very strongly, that they've been denied a voice on what they see as being a crucial issue for their lives going forward. So, I think it's a mixture of those two things—their rights, but also we should recognise that there's every reason why we should include them within our democracy in Wales.
I think it's interesting that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is now including issues of global competence in the programme for international student assessment in the next PISA round going forward. And this is part of a wider discussion about a wider range of competencies aside from literacy, mathematics, science and so on—its wider set of competencies. And I think we see this as—. I would agree; I think it's both. I think there's a synergistic—. And I think it's also a question of trying to get people at a younger and younger age. So, where do you start? You may vote at 16, but that means you've had an educational pathway prior to that. I have just some views about the educational side as well, but—. You would need to build up to that. But you see these issues of critical literary or civic deficits among the adult population as much as in the young population. So, this is really a big issue in general about our general literacy.
I've brought along copies of a report. I chaired an EU expert group on science education. It wasn't just about science in the classroom, but it was about science literacy, and how we might encourage that, because most of the decisions in the case of this expert group—. So, this is the report. I wrote the report; I chaired the committee. So, if I leave that for you. But there's a range of lots of different examples of different initiatives, even thinking about —[Inaudible.]—groups and engaging both schools and other stakeholders outside in a wider discussion about these sets of issues. So, that was about science, and there may be things in here that are translatable into this arena. Because I think it is about a wider set of discussions. We need people to be active citizens who have an understanding of the breadth of the issues and the implications of decisions taken. And I think that's really—. So, it's not just about citizenship—it's the responsibilities of citizenship.
So, the logical extension of that is that the, can I loosely call it, teaching of civics or active citizenship should have a bigger presence in full-time education and, presumably, that should be embedded, certainly once young people go to high school. How do you think the system—
Well, I think—
Sorry. Well, this is a legislative committee, and you're looking at the legislation. And one thing that you might consider is that it is embedded in the legislation. And that raises a whole set of questions. I note that Massachusetts had such a situation where it embeds it in the legislation. It is an issue, and you're looking at the curriculum, but you might begin to look at how that is. It requires then that the professional staff—your teachers—are appropriately trained. I mean, it's not just giving opinions, it's a whole—. And everything we know about active learning that we know, across all age groups, is pertinent to this. How do you get people—? It's not just getting people to read history, which is a big debate—it's certainly a big debate in the Irish context—in the curriculum. It's about being actively involved in decisions, implications of decisions, role play, working with others in and outside of the school system. So, I think there are things that you might consider in terms of the legislation as to make it mandatory. I think if it's not, then there are issues where some schools do it better than others. Some are more well resourced. You end up with the more elite, upper socioeconomically advantaged becoming more advantaged and others not, because it's not well resourced, it's not seen as something that's part and parcel.
Professor Egan, it's interesting this Bill does not create a duty for political or civic education, largely because we're told a future Bill might, although there is no guarantee about that. Do you think that at the point that we lower it—if we do choose to lower the age to 16—then at that point it should also be accompanied by a legal duty, presumably on the Welsh Government, to ensure political and citizenship education is properly addressed?
The short answer is 'yes'. I mean, it's obviously interesting, isn't it, that at the time that you're considering this Bill we're moving towards legislation on the new curriculum in Wales, and so there's a kind of synchronicity there in terms of those discussions? But I think in terms of taking stock as to where we are on this, which was the import of your initial question, I think we probably, in my experience, have actually gone backwards—perversely, when you think that in that period of time we've also become a devolved nation. If I just tell the story in this kind of way, when I started as a schoolteacher in the mid-1970s, I was a teacher of history and politics, and not only was I able to teach history and politics to A-level, we were able, in those times, before a national curriculum, to develop—. I was teaching in the upper Rhondda, and we were able, in the school, to develop our own examination course, a certificate of secondary education—before the days of GCSEs, when there were O-levels and the CSE—that was focused on British Government, what we would call 'civics' otherwise, and where we were able, with the group of young people that studied that over a number of years, right up to the time, in fact, that the national curriculum came in in 1988, which killed it off, to take young people to the local magistrates' court, to the local Crown Court, to Parliament, where their MP, Alec Jones, the MP for the Rhondda at that time, was able to welcome them and take them over to the Speaker's quarters. The Speaker at that time was from the Rhondda. It was a fantastic opportunity to take those young people on a kind of citizenship journey. All of that was killed off by the arrival of the national curriculum. When I looked to see if there was any—because, I wasn't aware—with the WJEC whether in fact anybody studied anything like politics or civics these days at GCSE—no. Social studies—I noted that with social studies, the entry last year was 1,514 pupils against a total entry of 272,000 for all subjects across the curriculum. So, where we are is that effectively we don't teach our young people up to the age of 16 any kind of civics, any kind of political democracy. And, yes, of course, they might get some of this from history, but I'm afraid, when you look at history syllabuses that have been popular in schools in recent years, it's much more likely they'll know something about Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, and very little about the Chartists—let alone the Chartists in Wales.
For a number of reasons, I think we should lower the age to 16 to vote, but I am sceptical about this argument that we should be doing that because we have a unique opportunity, if we lower the voting age, to then do the education, because it seems to me we should be doing the education even if people weren't entitled to vote until they were 25. I mean, the best place to get this introduction to your responsibilities and opportunities as a citizen is through formal education, isn't it? I'd be interested if you feel there's any strength in the argument that we should go to 16 now and use that as a lever for political education.
Absolutely, yes. As I say, I think this is a real opportunity now to do something about that deficit that I've just described—that backward period that we've gone through, although we've embraced political democracy in Wales. I think we need to do it in an appropriate, sensitive way, given the nature of the curriculum reform that's taking place in Wales. And it's probably—there's synchronicity but, as often with these things, change is not necessarily aligned. So, the move towards giving young people at the age of 16 the vote in the next Assembly elections, which I completely support, probably doesn't align well with our plans to introduce the new school curriculum. So, I think between this kind of void that I've described and the new possibilities, there's going to be an interim period, and I think, maybe, that's an interesting thing to focus on—what might be done in the interim before we think about how, I agree with you, the civic education, the political education, call it what you want, that we should have in our new curriculum actually takes shape and form within the curriculum.
I think so, because, otherwise, as an educator, I think we'd be missing a trick. If we just think that, somehow, given what I've described as the current situation—. It's not perhaps as bleak as I painted. We've got a very healthy tradition of schools councils in Wales, for example—
It has developed well. Estyn are very, very complimentary about the role of schools councils. So, I think there is a kind of democratic impulse within our schools and education system, although, formally, the curriculum doesn't enable that to be fostered in the way that I certainly think it should be.
Yes. Well, I was going to say that the current curriculum and legislation—I'm not that deeply aware of aspects of it. But I think the issue is there regardless. I think that, if you want to consider lowering the voting age to 16, you shouldn't do it without an education that underpins it. Now, how—'education' is a very broad, generic term. There is so much going on with the youth, and we haven't really discussed the issue of social media, about which—we know its input. There was that interesting survey of where young people in Wales get their information. It's the same everywhere. And in the context in which we know the impact of it, the move to lower the voting age, in my view, must be accompanied by an education process too. Now, you've done lots of really interesting things with the legislation—the well-being legislation, all these kinds of public communications—but this, I think, will call for more. I think it reaches lower in age because people who are going to be 16 in 2021 are now what—doing the maths anyway—they're younger now, so you're reaching earlier, and there are all these sets of issues. And we know how pernicious the social media scenario is. So, it's a complex environment, and I don't think one could happen without the other. In the Austrian case, talking to colleagues, they have said that they did not accompany that change with sufficient education, and it's not mandatory.
Yes. And that sort of programme would have to start at the latest at age 14, or even earlier, I would suggest.
Well, yes. You'd have to—I mean, you're talking 2021. That's, what, three years away, really, if that. So, really you don't have a long time to go. There's lots that could be done, but, certainly, throwing people effectively into deep water—some people are very well—. I asked my research assistant, who's in his late 20s and he said, 'Oh no, if I thought I was voting at 16 based upon what I knew then'—he was scared by that as a notion, but others—. It depends; maturity varies.
If I can just follow on a couple of lines and explore that—. If I could just get your views first of all, though. There are different aspects to the voting age issue. One is entitlement; the second one is that, if you think there is an entitlement to vote, that is a democratic entitlement—you can join the army, you can work, you can pay tax et cetera—the issue then is that what we're talking about is the opportunity to facilitate the environment around that to ensure people through the education system are as equipped as possible to exercise that responsibility. Do you agree?
I agree, yes. As I say, I go back to our commitment to the UN rights of the child, the right of the child to be heard and to be involved in decision making. I think, incidentally, because I've been around these issues myself a long time, that very much influenced the way we developed the foundation phase, for example, in Wales, within the education system—the right of the child, who actually, with the teacher, with perhaps the teaching assistant, to decide on the programme of learning. So, we know that, in our very best practice, in our nursery and reception classes and into what we previously called the infant phase, children are fully involved in making decisions about their own learning. That's, again, something that, when Graham Donaldson came to Wales to carry out the review of the curriculum, he was hugely impressed, with all his experience in Scotland and now working across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, to see that happening in Wales. It wasn't happening everywhere, but certainly the leading edge of it was that kind of practice.
So, I think we've practised what we preached in that respect. We didn't just say very early on we were going to, across all policy areas, sign up to the UN convention. We've actually, in that instance, tried to put it into practice. I think where it tends to run out of steam a little bit, perversely, is with older children. So, why not now take the opportunity if they're to have, and I think they should have, that entitlement at the age of 16? And I agree with you, Chair—we should now make sure that that secondary curriculum prepares them for that next stage.
I want to come on to the curriculum in a minute, but just by way of clarification—separating the two, entitlement to vote is dependent on a number of factors, but it's not dependent on the education system. But it is desirable in a modern society that the education system actually makes provision for responsibilities. We provide education for a whole series of personal decision-making processes that young adults have to face up to. That's something that, broadly, as a principle, you'd agree with.
The second point, then, is in terms of the curriculum. The new curriculum—there is a series of provisions within it in terms of the baccalaureate, in terms of general education, responsibility and so on: very unfocused. What would you say in terms of the idea of the duty that's been talked about that what is necessary is actually a far clearer focus in terms of the linking between the exercise of responsibilities—that is, having general duties—and the question of what that actually amounts to? So, I suppose what I'm asking you is two things: (1) do you think the way that education operates at the moment is sufficient in terms of what we call political education? Or do you think a duty would be desirable because it would increase a focus on the type of education that we should be providing or ensuring that young people have?
Well, I'm not an expert in this field—I rely on my colleague here—but certainly what I've looked at is that it's not sufficient, and that you might look at developing a curriculum in the same way I mentioned science, in the same way in which you have science and so on as a curriculum and how it's taught. That has to do then with teacher training and I would stretch that into the primary and so on, so that that is part and parcel of—there's a range of different issues that change over time, but that kind of an active curriculum, maybe with the kinds of assessments and so on that are part of it and active engaged learning, it seems to me would be an essential part of it. We see what's happening in too many parts of the world when we don't have a knowing—we have an increasingly disengaged population. So, as a general issue around democracy, and the stability of society, I think these issues are now really quite important.
On the first part of your question, Chair, I again have explained what I think is the current deficit. I think the Welsh bac has tremendous possibilities as it stands. There is a global citizenship element within the Welsh bac as it stands. There is a community element there as it stands. The extent to which those are available to 14 to 16-year-olds, that foundation element of the bac, I think is something that I would suggest you'd need to look into. I don't know how much that's taken up across all our secondary schools. It's growing. But the WJEC would be able to let you know about that, and the extent to which currently those two elements—challenges, as they're called—within the bac, actually allow for what we might call a civic or political education. So, I think almost doing an audit of the potential within the Welsh bac already would be useful.
In terms of the second part of your question, yes, I think that's the opportunity now with the new curriculum, and the Welsh bac will evolve in time because of that new curriculum. But it's how that's done, I think, that is the challenge. Again, I think probably you would need to take advice there from—. I'm involved in the curriculum work, I'm part of that work, our university's working with a group of schools and are developing parts of that curriculum, but I still think it would be useful, perhaps, to take evidence from those who are leading the change within Welsh Government as to how that kind of illision of your aspirations in this Bill and their work can best take place, so that it doesn't appear to be top down.
What we've done with the development of this new curriculum is develop it bottom up. We're not developing it, for example, in the way that currently the curriculum is being developed in England—in a top-down way that is about a knowledge-driven curriculum. We're developing a purpose-driven curriculum. And of course, one of the four purposes is that we produce ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world. What could be a greater aspiration? To find some kind of practical output at the age of 16 that you have the right to vote. But it's how that's achieved, I think.
Yes. So, basically, what does that actually really mean—these things in terms of civic education and so on. And would they actually satisfy the criteria of what we would say—if there was a duty that was included within the legislation.
The duty, I think, is the nub of it, because what we're saying about this curriculum—we're almost turning our back on what I described earlier about 1988 and the Education Reform Act and the way that it stifled innovation, to actually saying we now want to encourage creativity amongst our teachers and our schools. The central point of Graham Donaldson's recipe for our curriculum is that that should be a national framework, but it should allow every school to develop its own local curriculum so that it plays to its strengths. Now, how do you find, therefore, that duty, as it were, to prepare young people to exercise that democratic right at the age of 16 when you're wanting every school, in a sense, to shape the journey?
One final and very short question from me before I go on to the other questions. You mentioned briefly about lack of evidence or lack of international examples, but we do know of places like Germany, Austria and certain other countries around the world that have now introduced voting at 16. We have the example of the referendum—I don't draw a specific comparison with that and a general election. Is there any more substance to that? Is there anything else that we could add that would be helpful to us? Or it's just really that we're in very early stages in other examples. There's not a lot we can rely on in terms of other countries' examples.
I think we're relatively in the early ages of it, but I think that it is worth looking around much more expansively to see how civic education is taught and the approach it takes. I understand varying states in the US are considering that, or cities themselves now have 16 years as a basis for local elections and so on. You'll know the examples that are out there. But I think it's worth looking at how it's taught even in countries that may not have 16 years as their age limit. This is an area where all countries are looking at how you include this. Indeed, I wrote a textbook in the Irish case for what was called the transition year, between 15 and 16, where there is a free-running year. I wrote literally on this topic, because I was a politics person, so I wrote something on understanding Irish politics. I think that was the title of it, actually.
But, for the same reason of trying to get kids, really, to start understanding what these issues are and getting them involved in these debates—and I expect that the importance of the debates is that a lot of them are much more current—. Issues that we think are far away are in fact very immediate. But then there are the ways in which you teach this. So, it's not just teaching it—and this is really on the curriculum side, and you could think of these issues about creationism and Darwinism—. Well, are they two sides of the same coin? I'm not quite sure they are, in my view. Certainly, some US states teach them as two different approaches.
I suppose the point is someone has to start the process, and a few have started it. Okay. Carwyn Jones.
Good afternoon, both. What we're looking at here is a proposal to introduce voting for 16 and 17-year-olds in 2021. Is there enough time to prepare them?
If you have the educational underpinnings set up to do so, but I probably would suggest caution if you didn't. I mean, there are ways to do that. There are ways in which people run very active public information—. I don't mean top-down public information campaigns, but you could do something—I agree entirely—involving the education system, involving the teachers, and looking at it, but I think you would need to be prepared as opposed to just, in fairness, throwing people in at the deep end.
I think it's a real challenge. I accept that—it's a real challenge. If, as an Assembly, as a Government, as a nation we think that there is a kind of imperative about this, a kind of moral purpose, then I can't see why it can't be achieved. I do think that the Welsh bac could be a vehicle. People in the WJEC and the Welsh bac, which has been changing and evolving all the time, won't thank me for saying that—for putting something else, as it were, into their responsibility—but I do think that would be a vehicle for it, and there might have to be something over and above that in terms of working with local authorities and regional education consortia to drive a kind of national programme to get young people ready for that opportunity. But if we think that it's important, which I do personally, to have that kind of faith in our young people, then why not go for it?
Well, one of the issues, I suppose, is trying to find space for what I might call 'civic education'. 'Political education' sounds a bit—. Well, potentially it could be misconstrued, as could 'political re-education'. Whatever we call it, ensuring that young people are aware of the political system and the choices they have to make as voters—. Fine, we can call it what we want. But, I suppose, is there room, really, in the curriculum—in the new curriculum particularly—for political or civic education? I mean, is there space in the actual curriculum—not as a philosophical question?
I think the new curriculum won't really be, as I say, by 2021 sufficiently up and running to look towards that. And it will come into primary schools first of all, and then incrementally, if I remember rightly, from 2022 into secondary schools. So, it won't actually arrive for the kind of age group that we might want to target until the mid 2020s. So, I think that's got to be the future, and that would almost argue for caution and taking the longer road, as it were. But I do think, as I say, that something could be done, personally. The point that you make about the well-being of our teachers, of our education system, under a lot of pressure—. We've had a considerable rethink in recent years about that, haven't we, in terms of the current reform programme that the Government is leading. So, I think all of that, as I say, would need to be carefully considered, but there could be ways and means, I think, of achieving it.
I think you need to look at active engagement in this. You do have a Youth Parliament. You have other, varying vehicles that could be brought to bear and used as part of the process. But it does require thinking very imaginatively and innovatively about how you develop these kinds of ideas as opposed to just presenting them. You know, debates, public debates, lots of kinds of engagement—. Everything we know—just to go back to something I think I said—everything we know about engaged learning and how students learn needs to be brought to bear in the same sets of issues.
The other point you raise is about the school timetable. I presume that's what you're saying—is there room? This is an increasing set of tensions about everything we think should go into the school timetable and do we have enough time. And this, then, becomes this wider issue of more innovation rather than teaching subjects narrowly as: 'This is the time for this subject and this is the time for this' and everything in parallel. It's about a much more integrated approach to learning, and we have that at all levels. Unless we approach learning in that way, we are never going to fit everything into the timetable.
I think that point is well made and it could be that this might be something that sits better with the youth service in Wales. Youth workers are particularly skilled, as it were, at reaching out to young people around these sorts of issues, but, of course, as a result of austerity, our youth service in Wales has been considerably hollowed out. That's led to a number of our local authorities not having the kind of engagement with young people that they once had, just simply because the resource has not been there. So, whichever way you look at it, there's a time issue, and I think trying to get those quarts into pint pots, in relation to the school curriculum, at a time of change anyway—the caution that you suggest is one that I think we should take due note of. But maybe there's a role for the youth service here.
Finally from me, I'm not sure using the Youth Parliament works because those who are in the Youth Parliament, as are those in the adult Parliament here, are already politically engaged, otherwise they wouldn't have stood in the first place. They are the most confident of our young people and, in many ways, they're already there where they need to be, I suppose. Debating how we engage young people is for another time, I suspect, but I'm with you; I don't think the youth service would provide a consistent service across Wales because I can't see where the consistency would be, how it would be measured, how it would be inspected.
I am interested, though, in what you suggested about the bac, because I think it's right to say that the last thing we want to do is to have civics, as it used to be called, as a subject so it's seen as divorced from everything else and something that sits over there, something we've got to do. In terms of the bac, how might it work? The bac is there to provide skills and knowledge to students over and above what they get in their academic subjects. Might the bac be the vehicle for this kind of education?
I think it has the potential, and I think that's where you'll probably need—. I don't know if you are taking evidence from the WJEC, but if you were, I think they'd be the people who really could inform you best around that. But just looking again, preparing myself for today, I did a piece of work about 18 months ago, actually for the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, to see how we could try and build entrepreneurship better into the bac. And certainly, there was huge potential there around the enterprise challenge aspect of it. That was one of the recommendations that I made in the report that I did for the FSB in Wales. And I think that if you look at the fact that we've got that global citizenship challenge in the bac, and this community challenge, and just looking online at some of the guidance—. Because that's then very much over to schools, with some guidance from WJEC, to turn that into a challenge for young people. So, I think consistency would be an issue again, but there could be potential there, particularly in this interim period before the new curriculum kicks in.
Just to add to that point on consistency, I think that's particularly important, particularly because we have this, increasingly in all societies—and a lot of it is our young males who are disenfranchised from the educational system and so on. But just in general, to make sure that the discussion around these issues is the same, regardless of where you live in Wales. That, to me, seems to be—. Otherwise, the kind of divisions that are already there will be magnified, and that is certainly something that you need to be aware of. Obviously, I'm sure you are, but that is, to me, one of the major issues. It's a bit like discussing any of these issues—internationalisation, global issues—the people who are taking and have all those advantages already, to some extent, know that. They travel; it's the other people who don't.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Prynhawn da i chi’ch dau. Diolch am y papur ymlaen llaw. Wrth gwrs, mae fy nghwestiynau i yn rhannol wedi cael eu hateb, ond a allaf i ofyn cwestiwn cyffredinol yn y lle cyntaf? Yn gyffredinol, felly, pa oedran ddylai plant ddechrau cael eu haddysgu am wleidyddiaeth, rŷch chi’n meddwl? Ar ba oedran mae’n bosib dechrau addysgu plant am wleidyddiaeth?
Thank you, Chair. Good afternoon to you both and thank you for the paper beforehand. Of course, my questions have partly been answered, but I will just ask a general question in the first instance. In general, therefore, at what age should children start to be taught about politics, do you think? At what age is it possible to start teaching children about politics?
We start teaching people about how you treat other human beings, about issues that are fundamentally about racism, about our approach to issues of tolerance and so on, at very early ages. These are part and parcel of what we teach as being human beings in a society. So, from my point of view, these are all essentially political issues of how you deal with issues of tolerance increasingly in the multicultural, multidimensional societies in which we live. So, there's no early age at which you don't start teaching these to your children.
Fuasech chi’n dweud ysgol gynradd, felly?
Would you say primary school, therefore?
What's in a word, I suppose, isn't it, really? It's not just a matter of semantics. You could argue that everything's politics. If what that symbol of having a vote at 16 is about, about exercising democratic choice, exercising a voice, then we've got a pretty good track record already in Wales—a point I made earlier on about the foundation phase—of actually treating our young people with respect and actually turning that United Nations convention into some practical things.
But if you're then saying—not civics, for sure, I'd absolutely agree with that—. But how we start to ease that out into something—. And again, we're going through an interesting journey, aren't we? Because I suppose everybody in this room, their experience of the secondary curriculum will have been subjects and then subject choice in year 9 for what you're going to study at GCSE. Now, the whole way in which we are developing our curriculum is moving away from that. Youngsters will still have the chance, post 14, to take on traditional subjects, but, certainly, we will now have much more of a feel for our education system—three to 14, going through—about moving forward with a kind of purpose-driven curriculum. If one of those purposes is creating those kinds of citizens that we want, I think it's in there that, in a sense, the 'p' word can be found.
When do you start actually formalising that? I think that should be possibly, yes, 14, 15, 16. Qualifications Wales will be looking now at a whole suite of new qualifications to align to the new curriculum. There's an opportunity to possibly have a course that is about political citizenship or something of that ilk, and then the question comes, I suppose: well, do you traditionally start that in what is now year 10? But, of course, many youngsters start their GCSE courses now in year 9. There aren't many schools that don't reach out to youngsters, perhaps the more able and talented, but sometimes simply because of the congested curriculum. So, it might be that, in fact, it's 13 rather than 14.
Sorry, can I just ask, Dai, can you move on, in terms of time constraints?
Ie. Dwi’n ymwybodol o gadeirio llym y Cadeirydd.
Yes. I'm aware of the strict chairing of the committee.
Jest i gadarnhau, fyddech chi’n berffaith hapus gweld addysg wleidyddol a dinasyddiaeth yn ymestyn tu hwnt i jest paratoi’r sawl sy’n 16 ar gyfer pleidleisio? Rydych chi’n edrych ar drwch y peth? Dyna chi—so, rŷn ni wedi ateb y cwestiwn yna.
Fy nghwestiwn olaf i ydy: oes yna rôl i gyrff a sefydliadau ar wahân i ddarparwyr addysg i helpu i baratoi plant a phobl ifanc i bleidleisio—ddim jest mater i addyg yw e, bownd o fod?
Just to confirm, therefore, you would be perfectly happy to see political and citizenship education extending beyond preparing those who are 16 to vote? You're looking at the whole of it? So, you've answered that question.
The final question from me: is there a role for bodies and organisations other than education providers to help prepare young people to vote, so that it's not just an issue for education?
Yes, and I think the examples you'll find in this report—. We tried to go far beyond the education system and involve much more co-creation of learning. And it may involve bringing in groups, it may involve involvement with enterprise, civic organisations. I mentioned gardening as a way in which people actually learn about science, but, for young people, learning about what you do with your rubbish and littering and the seas and water is something that is a really big issue. It may not be politics, but it is fundamentally how people—. It's very political. That starts, again, as young children.
As I said, I'm a trustee of Children in Wales so Catriona Williams would expect me to say—but it's true—that there is some really strong work going on within Young Wales, and I think that's a resource that can be used. The other thing, in thinking about that question—because I think it's a very good question in terms of the questions we were sent—is that I wonder if there's a role for our politics departments in our universities here. There's been a really interesting example recently of work done out of Cardiff University in trying to get greater uptake of modern foreign languages within our schools in Wales. We have a real issue in Wales, a proud bilingual nation, about the fact that we've got a very poor record in terms of youngsters—. I'm not saying those two things are necessarily connected, but we don't have a good record of youngsters taking up modern foreign languages. Academics from Cardiff University, working with students, have gone into schools so that they can act as role models in a mentoring kind of role, and we're starting to see now an uptake. The education Minister has been very interested in that development. Why wouldn't we, given the community mission that we're asking our universities to perform, not look to our politics departments—and we have some very strong politics departments, I think, across the universities in Wales—to involve them in this issue?
Okay. Thank you very much for your evidence today. I'm afraid we've squeezed a very wide area of subject matters into a short space of time. A transcript will be made available to you, and if there's anything else, any further comments, you would like to add for us to consider as part of the broad evidence session, we'd be more than happy to receive that. Thank you very much for your time today and for the contribution that you've made to what I think is a very important piece of legislation.
Thank you very much for inviting me. Thank you.
Thanks very much indeed. Diolch yn fawr.
We move on now to the next evidence session.
Good afternoon. Thank you for attending today for this evidence session on the scrutiny of the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill, which is a very important piece of legislation. We are grateful for your attending and for your evidence today. Did either of you want to say anything at the beginning or are you happy to go straight into the series of questions that we have?
Happy to go straight in, Chair.
Okay. Well, firstly, welcome Colin Everett, chief executive of Flintshire County Council, and Daniel Hurford, Welsh Local Government Association. We'll start questions with Carwyn Jones.
You've seen the Bill. First of all, what do you think of it and, secondly, what impact do you think it'll have on local government in Wales?
Okay. Shall I go first?
Okay. Thank you for the invitation, Chair and Members. I'm probably here more in my role as lead returning officer for Wales, if I speak for the elections committee. The first thing is that I completely support and am an advocate for the change of the franchise. I say that probably with the twin hat of being the chief executive of a local education authority, not just as a returning officer. Some of the other issues in the Bill, of course, are very much more housekeeping ones for you, such as the name, but the franchise I completely support and it's very capable of being introduced in time for your next elections. But I'm also pleased to see that there are enabling powers around, for example, following through on the Law Commission's work. I'm quite disappointed that the UK Government has not capitalised—. I appreciate that parliamentary time is at a premium, but election law in the UK is very fragmented and very complex and is a minefield for administrators, so I do welcome some of the subtler provisions as well.
From a WLGA point of view, WLGA members haven't discussed the Bill in its entirety, however, they did respond to the 'Creating a Parliament for Wales: Consultation document' last year. But, as Colin said, local government is supportive of votes for 16 to 17-year-olds; it was part of their consultation on local government electoral reform back in 2017 and so very much support that.
And, Chair, if I could, as to impacts on local government, clearly, once we've made the franchise change then registration of a different age group just becomes the norm. Like all things transition, there are some risks and complications. One of the areas you may wish to discuss with us, of course, is the certainty that the franchise will also change for the local government elections, because not only is it the shared register—and it's slightly confusing having two pieces of legislation—also we're concerned about voter confusion. It's difficult enough anyway, in a devolved country where you have UK and devolved elections, but having certainty for the public that its next two—as far as we're aware—primary legislations will both enable 16-year-olds to vote is going to be quite important in the promotion to young people—that they know exactly what they'll have at their fingertips.
Just to pick up on the other element of your question about the impact on local government, obviously, there's going to be significant impact in terms of electoral administration. Colin and his colleagues and electoral administrators are responsible for delivering elections, but there are some specific aspects of the Bill and the explanatory memorandum around costings, of course—and there will be a cost implication for local government, particularly in the transition phase—that we have an interest in, as the WLGA's standard view is that any legislative reform or national Welsh Government policy, for example, should be fully funded, and the explanatory memorandum suggests that it won't be funded, but will be accommodated. I think that's the word—accommodated by local authorities.
So, the message that you're receiving is that you won't get extra money.
Well, according to the explanatory memorandum, it says that the additional costs would be accommodated by local authorities rather than that it will be paid for.
I think, Chair, you're probably very familiar with public sector colleagues sitting here and expressing concerns over sustainability of funding. It's not just about money, because many councils, my own included, have streamlined staff, so more people are now doing mixed roles. We have less overall capacity in central corporate areas like democratic services and elections. And if you're doing quite a lot of transitional change and have multiple elections, it's quite a stress on the system. My job, our job, fundamentally, is to deliver a safe result with integrity for every election. Wales has a superb track record. England less so. England's track record is compromised by loss of capacity. There is evidence of that in the performance reports published by the Electoral Commission. So, it's probably just a slight warning sign about making sure that we are geared up to deliver safely for you and for the public.
You've identified two concerns there. One is that you want to make sure that the resources are there and the second concern is over the confusion that might arise because of the franchise. Is there anything else in the Bill that causes you concern, or would they be the two aspects that you would advocate need to be looked at?
Those are the two areas, yes.
Okay. In terms of the engagement you've had both with Welsh Government—it's strange for me to say that—and, indeed, with the Commission, because it's the Commission's Bill, of course, how has the engagement process gone with those two bodies?
Very good. Very involving. The expert panel, for example—. I chair the Wales elections co-ordination board that's a combination of returning officers and others. Very good engagement very early on by, for example, Laura McAllister, and we met the Llywydd very recently. The returning officer network and our key administrators underneath us, who are absolutely essential to the good delivery of elections, have been very engaged on the practicalities, and only last week I was chairing a meeting where the local government Minister, Julie James was present. So, we're all now into the pragmatic implementation phase with the Bill in front of us. You'll appreciate, as administrators, when we're consulted early on, it tends to be what we think, and we'll have our opinions, but now we're very focused on safe movement to a new franchise that will enable a safe election for the Assembly and, hopefully, get a very substantial turnout of young people who'll be voting for the first time. So, very good engagement; we've been able to plan ahead quite well thus far.
Okay. A couple of short questions from me, just following on from the point that was raised about funding: have you made any specific representations to Welsh Government about funding in respect of this particular Bill?
Not formally. I suppose that will come, Chair. I think the initial one would be the software transitional costs for the franchise, which are quite significant, and that's the sort of change that's best dealt with nationally, collectively, with the software franchise providers. On other issues, we've not engaged particularly. I suppose when we work through the expectations on awareness raising, engagement—I appreciate your previous evidence givers—how we work with the education system, what publicity and people resources we might need is probably the issue. The impact beyond the initial stage for electoral registration managers, in then canvassing in future years, will be quite minimal once we've gone through the transitional stage. I think it's more about the initial resources for this first phase.
Yes, it's the transition costs that are the significant costs initially, and I know you're having evidence from the Association of Electoral Administrators in a few weeks' time. I think they've got specific views on the estimates around the annual costs in terms of registration, because there are probably more up-to-date figures available to have more accurate estimates. But in terms of the scale of the immediate costs, the initial transition, particularly with regard to software, is the immediate pressure. So, as Colin says, as we know more information, as we get closer to being able to plan, we'll have a better idea of some of the actual costs incurred.
Thank you for that. Of course, this is a Commission Bill, as you know, rather than a Government Bill. One of the aspects relates to the name of this place. Do you have any views on changing the name of the Assembly to the Senedd?
Well, the WLGA doesn't have a position on that as yet. I'm conscious that your consultation is open for another couple of weeks, so we may have by the end of that. But, generally, when the association responded to the 'Creating a Parliament for Wales' consultation, the general view was that matters relating to the Assembly elections, the management of the election, the electoral system and some of the internal administrative and institutional arrangements should be matters for the Assembly itself. It didn't have a strong view then, so, maybe now, 18 months or so on from that consultation, there will be a view, but there's not a strong view at the moment.
I have no view, Chair. It's probably not really one for me to express professionally. The obvious thing to say is that the electorate knowing early what the name is, so there's no confusion between past, present and future—and I notice one of the evidence givers previously gave you a very eloquent and well-thought-through set of arguments about what name change might work, and, clearly, there's public evidence to show that changing the name could be a further opportunity to really enhance the profile of the Assembly. But, early certainty for voters so there's no confusion over which institution they're voting for.
Thank you, that's a fair point.
The Bill doesn't have any specific provision about what we've been discussing as political education, citizenship education—I'll try and put it in a completely non-partisan frame—relating to the exercise of responsibility. Do you think that's an omission from the Bill or not necessary, or do you have a particular view on that?
I would say in the role that the timing, it's not essential that it's in the Bill, noting you had evidence givers just now around the curriculum. We have duties and performance standards as electoral registration officers and returning officers to promote registration, to promote awareness of elections and to promote participation in elections. I think, between a number of organisations, we have huge reach with young people, particularly through the youth service that we have. If I just take Flintshire as an example where half of our sixth forms are now combined in a single college campus, which I know the previous First Minister visited, in Connah's Quay, with a positive attitude from a further education institution, you can do so much to engage right the way through to hustings. We're even thinking of having a polling station in the college on polling day with people having time released to go and vote.
Let's not forget the parental responsibility either, but one point I would make is that experience and evidence will show that it's the electoral event that's as important to attract interest as the right to vote. I appreciate you'll have researched the Scottish examples where, perhaps, the electoral events in question were of a particular magnitude, but clearly they caught the imagination. So how we make the next Assembly elections an event and perhaps promote awareness of what the institution does will be as important. Getting people to register is one thing. Getting them to be interested and vote is another. We'll see that for adult patterns over the years, the pattern of voting participation will vary according to the importance of the event to them. Why would young people be any different? From my experience of certainly working with young people in Flintshire, and I'm sure the youth parliament is evidence of that, there's huge interest, and increasingly younger people are showing the evidence of taking more and more social responsibility. I'd like to think we'll get a higher turnout amongst young people in the next election than perhaps the traditional voter set.
Yes, and I think it's important to stress that it is probably not necessary to include it on the face of the Bill, a duty around the curriculum or civic education in schools, because the curriculum reforms will be introducing it, as you heard earlier, and I understand you're having evidence from the NAHT later on. But it's broader than just curriculum and the formal education programme. It's about engaging and involving all kinds of school councils, there's youth councils as well and Colin has already mentioned the national youth parliament. So it's about encouraging awareness and active involvement in communities, as well as the formal education around which institution does what and how you actually formally engage with an electoral process.
Yes, on this point about the importance of political education and awareness raising, citizenship and the likes, we've heard from one witness that in Austria, where they have lowered the voting age to 16, they concluded that they should have done a lot more in terms of awareness raising. So, would it be appropriate for a duty to be placed on the Government to raise awareness? Because then that would be more general than just leaving it to you and your education departments, which I think you are correct to be sceptical about.
That's a really good question, Chair. What does a duty do when it's something so generalistic as to promote awareness? We're trying to ignite enthusiasm for all of us to promote and give access. Of course there should be ongoing curriculum reform. I think there's a risk that we put our eggs in one basket. You could argue that having too much reliance on the curriculum actually makes it feel a little more educational and instructive, away from the real life of somebody wanting to take part in the community. I think it's all of the things that we are describing. I would question that putting a duty will add value. I'd rather be more imaginative.
It's not at all unusual for Acts of the Assembly, and indeed Acts of Parliament, to have a duty in terms of awareness raising of a particular statute. I suppose that's why some people are suggesting it.
But the Electoral Commission have become more and more effective over the years themselves in promoting awareness amongst all age groups. Wales has a rich history of youth participation in many ways. I think we should rely on that first and foremost.
I think, Mr Everett, you referred earlier to the fact you didn't think 2021 was a particularly difficult timeline for you, apart from the administrative costs, so in terms of the work of the electoral registration officers, if that can be completed, and as we're now not going to have, by the sound of it, a commitment to a formal education process to precede the change in voting age, that again would make it somewhat easier, presumably, to meet deadlines like 2021 for our election, and then should reform also extend to local government elections, they're due in 2022.
We have to be ready for the 2020 canvass, and that's ready in resources, in certainty, administrative capacity and particularly the software. You might wish to pursue the question later about block voting and automatic registration, which is a sensitive subject, but nonetheless of course access to records for young people are predominantly in the education system, and schools or FE give us relative ease of access to people. You might wish to question, though, why, as I mentioned earlier, we are separating the franchise for the two devolved elections into two different Bills when it's the same register. It would be much easier for us administratively, even if there were other local government electoral reforms to come in the later Bill. Question: should they both be combined in this Bill? I would say 'yes', because it's the same register and we're doing the same change with the same intent for both. I would ask you to consider why that couldn't be imported into this Bill in good time, which would ease the administrative risks too.
Do you agree with that latter point, Mr Hurford? And there's also an element of jeopardy, because we're in an extremely challenging political environment and local government reform is not the least controversial subject we're likely to deal with. At the moment, the electoral reform changes are going to be tacked onto a local government Bill, the Government has indicated, so this probably does create an element of risk that that Bill may not stick to a timetable or even be brought forward, if events transpire a different way.
Yes, we anticipate the Bill will still be introduced. We discussed it with the Minister on Friday, so, touch wood, everything goes according to plan. But it's not immediately clear, as Colin pointed out, why the franchise element of the local government and elections Bill is separate to this. I'm conscious of the complexity of legislative timetabling and planning, and sometimes it doesn't work out as planned initially, but that's an area where it, perhaps, could be combined with this Bill—granted that the local government and elections Bill is looking at other aspects of local government reform, as you point out, as well as electoral reform with regard to local government elections.
Because the franchise is the franchise. If there's popular and political support for it to change for one election, it will be there for the other. I have no reason to believe that the local government Bill wouldn't follow in good time, but if it didn't for some reason, wouldn't it be a travesty if young people were enabled and given power for one key election and then, the following year, weren't able to exercise it? It's more for administrative convenience and public certainty, but it also would eliminate that risk too.
Is there a cost element to doing them separately? If they were done together, does it—?
It's the same register, so of course, once we've done the software and prepared, no, not really, no.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Diolch am eich papur. Yn eich barn chi—wel, beth ydych chi'n ei feddwl am y darpariaethau yn y Bil sy'n ymwneud ag anghymwyso? Mi fyddwch chi'n cofio'r drafferth aeth y Cynulliad yma i mewn iddi yn 2011 ynglŷn â'r holl fusnes o bwy oedd yn gymwys i fod yn Aelod Cynulliad ai peidio. Felly, beth ydych chi'n ei feddwl am y darpariaethau yn y Bil yma yn ymwneud ag anghymwyso?
Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you for your paper. In your opinion—or, rather, what are your views on the provisions in the Bill relating to disqualification? You'll remember the difficulties that this Assembly faced in 2011 about who was eligible for the Assembly, or not. So what do you think about the provisions in this Bill with regard to disqualification?
I think, Chair, they're very clear and we would support them. We remember the events well in 2011, where two candidates were compromised, so I think what's being proposed is a sensible safeguard.
Yes, I would agree. It streamlines it and makes it clearer for people involved in the process and avoids the previous issues experienced.
Ocê. Mae rhai ohonom ni, yn naturiol, wedi bod yn gynghorwyr sir yn y gorffennol a hefyd yn Aelodau Cynulliad. Beth ydy'ch barn chi ar hawl Aelodau i fod yn gynghorwyr llywodraeth leol hefyd?
Okay. Some of us have been county councillors in the past and also Members of the Assembly. What are your views on the rights of Assembly Members to be members of local government as well?
I think the WLGA should go first, Chair, on that one. [Laughter.]
The WLGA considered this as part of the White Paper on local government electoral reform, back in 2017, I think it was. And the WLGA agreed that councillors should be disqualified—not disqualified, but prohibited from being Assembly Members as well. I think the period was that they should resign within 12 months of being elected to another role. So the WLGA's position is that the two roles should be separated in terms of clarity and transparency for the public, to avoid confusion, but also because the role of Assembly Members and councillors requires a significant amount of time dedicated to specific issues—obviously national issues, typically, within this institution, but more local community issues in authorities. So, our view is that the two roles should be separated.
And just from my experience of many years working with local councillors and national politicians, Chair, I would question on time and perceived conflicts of interest whether it's possible. Time: clearly the demands in both roles are significant, and if the councillor was in a senior role with a special responsibility allowance in the council, it would suggest it's something closer to full time. If that council was very distant from where they lived and where they represented, it's very, very demanding for them. Perceived conflict of interest: when there might be a difference of opinion on an important policy issue, whether political or not, between the Assembly and that council, where that could be quite compromising. Shouldn't it promote a greater degree of participation in politics if people aren't allowed to have two roles simultaneously?
I suppose in terms of a democratic argument, if the electorate want to elect people to those two roles, it's up to them as long as they know, especially as councillors—unlike members of the House of Lords or formerly Members of the European Parliament—are not in another legislature. But I do agree with you that this issue of a possible conflict of interest is something that needs to be looked at very carefully. Do you think that in itself is strong enough, or is it marginal or occasional? Do you think, in other words, it's an inherent and continuing risk if someone does both?
It's a continuing risk, because we know the way we couch the language around conflicts of interest, and public perception is as important as the conflict being a real one that's perhaps dividing the individual at stake. So, I just think it's something that could put a politician in a very compromising position accidentally. I think it should be more explored, but yes, it's—. At the moment, of course, we have nothing that I'm aware of in the Bill; it will be interesting to see what provisions might be included in the local government Bill that's going to follow that might deal with that, and propose a change to the current position.
Symud ymlaen, mae yna gwestiynau gweddol fyr. Beth ydy'ch barn chi ar adran 27 o'r Bil sy'n ymwneud â goruchwylio'r Comisiwn Etholiadol? A oes gyda chi farn ar hynna?
Moving on, there are a series of brief questions. What are your views on section 27 of the Bill, which involves oversight of the Electoral Commission? Do you have a view on that?
The oversight of the Electoral Commission is very effective at a UK level. I have to say, from working with them, they are very good partners to work with, and they have a high degree of public transparency. I think it's a question for the Assembly whether for devolved elections you need a greater degree of oversight. Of course, you may wish to supplement their funding in Wales, for example, for promoting awareness and participation. And if you're going to co-fund, then you have a right to scrutinise and oversee. So, I think ethically in the way they perform, I have no issue with their performance; that will be a question, probably, of transparency and holding to account for you.
A fuasech chi'n licio gweld, mewn perthynas ag etholiadau datganoledig yng Nghymru, bod yr oruchwyliaeth yna drostyn nhw, ac hefyd efallai ymestyn y berthynas, yn nes ymlaen, efallai, i oruchwylio etholiadau llywodraeth leol yng Nghymru hefyd?
Would you, with regard to devolved elections in Wales, like to see that oversight over them, and extending the relationship later on to oversight of local government elections as well?
I think if there is an oversight role, Chair, it should apply to all devolved elections so that the Electoral Commission, in effect, are held to account at the two levels—UK for UK elections and Wales for Welsh elections.
Yes, it's the drafting—and I might be reading too much into this—but the text is,
'consider the financial and oversight arrangements for the work of the Electoral Commission',
which seems to leave some openness to interpretation of flexibility. I haven't seen the plans for Scotland, but the memorandum of understanding suggests that the Electoral Commission in Scotland will be accountable to the Scottish Parliament. I don't know whether that would be translated into the legislation, but it just seems to be a stronger expectation in Scotland compared to what the Bill is saying here.
A fyddai'n well gyda chi weld y ddarpariaeth yr un peth â'r Alban, efallai?
Would you prefer to see a similar provision to that in Scotland?
I think in terms of—. As the Assembly has more powers and oversight over local authority elections, and, obviously, changing the elections to the Assembly itself, I think it makes sense that the Assembly does have a role over the activities and actions of the Electoral Commission. Granted, it's a relationship that needs to be managed, because the Electoral Commission is ultimately accountable to Parliament, but it does make sense, given their remit in a Welsh context, that the Assembly, or future Parliament or Senedd, does have that influence.
We'd have no issue with that change. I would say, though, that we have a very strong electoral community at an all-UK level and, obviously, working closely with Government, particularly the Cabinet Office, on UK elections and referenda—that we just need to be clear about how that twin accountability would work and that we don't lose that unity as well, because we have to work with two Governments, where we're held to account to deliver for you.
Diolch. Symud ymlaen, yr adran nesaf ydy adran 36 o'r Bil. O dan yr adran yna, fel rydych chi'n gwybod, bydd Gweinidogion Cymru yn gallu creu rheoliadau i newid y ffordd y caiff etholiadau llywodraeth leol eu gweinyddu yma yng Nghymru. Beth ydy eich barn chi ar hynna?
Thank you. Moving on, the next section is section 36 of the Bill. Under that particular section, as you'll know, Welsh Ministers will be able to make regulations to change the way that local government elections are administered in Wales. What are your thoughts on this?
I suppose, Chair, it depends what they propose to legislate for. No issue on principle, because it would be a devolved election, following on to those previous answers. But, given much of the legislation is primary, perhaps until a lot of the Law Commission's recommendations have been worked through at a UK level—. The thing that strikes me, there's a lot of interest in changing access by voters on voting day, through experimentation. We would like to see that, but actually the law, or the lack of digital registers, prevents that—it prevents the flexibility. So, I think we need to think more about what's the vision for elections and elections participation—around franchise, access, freedom to vote, possible digital administration, even digital voting by the voter in the future. There's an absence of vision at a UK level—we're making reforms around problems, we're not thinking where does a modern society want to be with participation. And actually, in the absence of digitisation as an option, we are well behind—we're still very Victorian in our legislation and in our practice around elections, which is one of the barriers to people participating, because they see it as quite antiquated. That's the feedback we get, particularly from younger people.
Pa newidiadau i'r gyfraith etholiadol hoffech chi eu gweld yng Nghymru, mewn perthynas ag etholiadau llywodraeth leol?
What changes to electoral law in relation to local government elections would you like to see implemented in Wales?
Franchise—that's the obvious one, without repeating the points. Following on from the previous answer, if in the local government Bill there is some general enabling legislation to pursue digital administration, that would really open the doors. And just to be clear, digital administration is different from digital voting, because there are clearly concerns about security around that. But if people are going to have the chance to vote in any polling station that suits their work-life pattern on the day, and they haven't arranged a postal vote, that could only be possible with a digital register. So, actually having some movement that's modernistic and will be cost saving—for me, that and the franchise would be the two big reforms; the rest will then follow.
Yes. I agree. Local government were supportive of much of the White Paper and local government electoral reform, the extending of the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds in particular, as well as improving the administrative arrangements for authorities, as well as the opportunity to innovate and modernise using different approaches to voting on different days, for example, different venues, potentially electronic voting—conscious that there are various concerns about security around that. But, as was outlined in the White Paper, much of those proposals were supported by local government, because it just takes us further forward.
So, Chair, if I just give an example: if you thought of your elections—we probably won't have digital by then—but imagine if your elections were next up, and going back to my FE college example, a digitised register would enable any student, from wherever they came, to vote, if they were eligible, in that college, on that day, without the risk of them voting twice, or any fraudulent behaviour. We can't do that at the moment. So, it actually takes away a great opportunity for people to vote at the point of convenience.
Dwi'n licio hynna. Y cwestiwn olaf wrthyf fi, mae'n debyg: oes yna unrhyw beth arall sydd ddim yn y Bil y buasech chi'n hoffi ei weld yn y Bil?
I like that. The final question from me: is there anything else that's not included in this Bill that you would have liked to have seen included?
Nothing that springs to mind immediately, no.
Thank you very much for those helpful answers; some interesting points have been raised. There will be a transcript that will be sent through to you for accuracy. If you feel that there are any points you want to expand upon, or to submit in written evidence, please feel free to do so. Other than that, really, just to thank you for contributing to what I think is a very important piece of legislation that's going through this Assembly. Thank you very much.
Thank you for the opportunity.
We will move on to session 3. I understand that NAHT are here, so we can move straight on to that, if the members of the committee are happy with that.
Good afternoon. We're starting a bit early. I'm grateful for you being here. Rather than delay matters, if you're happy to proceed now. Are there any opening comments that you wanted to make at the beginning? Sorry, I'd better just introduce you: Rob Williams, director of NAHT, the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru.
Other than this feeling like a very, very intimidating job interview—just a chance to speak on this is welcome, clearly. Obviously, I'll be quite narrow in terms of looking at the school side of things, I guess, but I'm happy to come and meet with the committee on this.
Thank you, Chair. Good afternoon. Welcome. One question to begin with; I'll come on to others towards the end. You refer in your written evidence to education for sustainable development and global citizenship. What are your thoughts in terms of how education about the political system, if I can put it neutrally, could be included in that particular part of the curriculum? Is there space for it realistically? Is it being done already? What's your impression?
I think, as with many things in the education system, it's probably being done in some places. I think there are opportunities within it more generically. There are also opportunities within the current personal and social education statutory framework as well. Whether it does enough in terms of detail and explaining the process—enough to prepare, for example, 16 and 17-year-olds to be ready to vote—I think is a different question in some respects. Currently, obviously, we have an imminent new curriculum coming into play around the areas of learning and there are potentially opportunities around there. Yet, we have yet to see the drafts. They're coming out on 30 April, and there'll be plenty of opportunity for people to comment on what they think should be included.
What I would say is—. I would question whether currently there is enough room in the system. I know of schools that are doing work that would be appropriate, but I would guess—. I have to preface this with the fact that, as an organisation—. I've been in this post since 2015 and prior to that I was a primary headteacher. We as an organisation haven't done any work around this, so this is a feel from people we're talking to at the moment. But just in terms of generally with the curriculum, I'd say there's potential for it being overloaded to the point where this is the kind of area that might get squeezed out in some schools.
Is there any room, do you think, in the Welsh bac for civic and political education?
Potentially. There is an appetite to reform and review the Welsh baccalaureate. My son went through it some years ago. It's changed since then. I'd say that probably his experience was better than some of the experiences more recently. So, there's an opportunity there, but again we need to understand about the scope of things that schools are being asked to undertake, and the room in the curriculum for them to undertake that. For us, we like the flexibility that's in the new curriculum about the ability of schools to do things that are contextually relevant to their school and where their school is situated, but you need to balance that against the consistency of what you'd expect in terms of a core experience, a core activity that you'd want all children in all schools to have access to.
Just following on from those questions, then, with regard to the Welsh bac and the new curriculum, and, of course, areas of political education—I say that in a non-partisan way—citizenship education, or however we want to describe it, is clearly part of the curriculum. It's clearly there already. Is the issue really the focus of that—what that actually means and how you develop it more consistently across Wales? It is there, but what is your view as to whether it is up to scratch in terms of what we're talking about with bringing votes in for 16-year-olds and so on? What are your general views around that?
I can take the hint within the question. I think that you explain almost exactly what my feeling is around it. Certain schools probably are doing activities that prepare 16 and 17-year-olds reasonably well about it, but it's variable. I do think, if we are moving forward, we would want to see some degree of consistency of experience for those young people who are moving into a position to start becoming active in terms of making votes, so that they understand across the board more widely about what that entails, and I mean not just about what it means to be politically active and to understand the democratic process, but even to the point of understanding the practicalities of placing a vote. I still think there are some difficulties for young people to understand what it feels like to go in and place a vote, and actually one could argue that you'd need to explain, particularly around Welsh Assembly elections, the difference between regional voting and the voting for constituencies, because, on a ballot paper, that could be quite confusing for somebody who's never seen it before. How much schools are involved in that and how much schools are driving that is, I guess, open to debate, and whether you'd want to have organisations assisting schools to make sure there's that degree of consistency.
But if we think it is something that is important for young people to understand how they engage with that process, there should I think be an expectation about a certain level of basic understanding that should be taking place in every school. On top of that, what I would say is we need to assess the impact, if you like, of asking schools to do that, because what we're pretty clear about, and you'll be not surprised to hear it, is the funding issues that are hitting schools at the moment are creating challenges in their ability to deliver policy that they even agree with, that they feel strongly that should be in place. They're worried that actually some of that is being diluted because of the resource they have open to them.
The Assembly voting system is something we've all struggled with for the past couple of decades. But, coming back to the way you presented this, the issue of teacher training in the area and the assumption automatically that this is something that everyone ought to know how to teach, plus the sort of supportive materials for that—. And I put that within the context that perhaps legislating to give people the vote at 16 creates a more purposeful assessment of what it actually means, what the citizenship education is actually about. So, do you have any particular concerns about the issues of training, of materials, and any views on how that might be managed more effectively now? Or is it purely a question of cost?
Cost comes into it, but I think also you need to take into account the scale of reform in education at the moment. Pretty much everything that comes into schools, you're looking at—. Like I say, there's the scale of the new curriculum, large-scale legislation in terms of things like the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018, changes to accountability measures, changes to the Estyn framework. All those sorts of things that affect day-to-day functioning in schools are either being reformed or have recently been reformed, and that's before we get on to the qualifications that have been reformed recently that are going to have to be reformed again once the curriculum has come into play.
So, you're talking about not just the resource to deliver but also the scale that you've got to deliver over time, and, as a head, trying to look at how you manage that over a timetable that is, frankly, ambitious, is challenging, and however you might feel how important this might be, you have to assess the school's ability to bring this into play for young people particularly. In saying that, if you have a consistency in terms of resource being produced, I think that's one thing. But there's been a recognition from Welsh Government, in terms of the money they've allocated for the national approach for professional learning, which is related to the curriculum itself, of allocating specific resource around that.
But I think we need to take into account the breadth of professional learning that we're asking our staff to undertake, and the fact that, just on a curriculum basis, you have staff who've worked since 1988 onwards who will have known nothing other than the national curriculum, and what we're expecting them to do in terms of curriculum delivery is radically different that's requiring a large cultural shift. So, to add on top of that something specific about professional learning to deliver what we're talking about in this legislation, we'd have to think really carefully about the ability to deliver that in time, I think.
But, of course, the implementation of the curriculum is aimed for 2022, and, for 14 to 16-year-olds, probably around about 2025-26. So, there's quite a large gap in any event. If this legislation were implemented for 2021, whatever happens, the ability for the implementation of the curriculum is going to be delayed. It's going to take a number of years to actually get to that stage. If the legislation proceeds, how do you think schools might respond, in terms of what they do at the moment with regard to the challenge of, say, an election in 2021?
It's a difficult one to answer, really, because it would depend on the school's context itself: what they're already doing and how easy it would be to put those additional things in place. I think schools will take it seriously, in trying to prepare their young people, and the reality in practical terms is that many schools are, for many elections, a polling station. So, actually, the pupils will be aware of those things taking place. I think there are potential opportunities for some schools, but for others it depends on what they've been doing up until this point about the shift you're asking of them in order deliver this.
But if it were to come in, I suppose the question is—. The principle behind lowering the voting age, I think we, as members and others, would be in favour of. And the question is: the reality about trying to get everything in place prior to that legislation coming in—do you balance that against the fact that, in principle, it should still go ahead and actually have it almost like a build-up over a certain amount of time if we don't get the huge numbers of 16 and 17-year-olds engaging from the outset? I guess that's a decision for Welsh Government and not for schools to some extent. But if it's something we're bringing in, I think schools would take it seriously. But I think they would need resources and some degree of support from other organisations to make sure that what they're giving is a consistent message to the population across Wales.
Is there any scope with—. I mean, obviously schools are quite involved in a lot of extramural activities and with other agencies and bodies and so on. Are we making a mistake in over-focusing just on the education system as opposed to the broader youth environment?
Yes, I think so, because schools are often part of a solution to issues that come in. This, I'd argue, is the same with the voting age for 16 to 17-year-olds. We're part of the answer to this, I guess, as schools. We meet with young people frequently. They're part of the conversations around their personal and social education, their citizenship activities and development. But I do think that if you leave it just to schools to pick those things up, then we're missing opportunities. One thing I think that young people seem to operate in particularly now is in a social media type world, a world where they take their information much, much more widely than the traditional avenues that we did as youngsters. I think we'd need to make sure we utilised those in a way that would make sure they were getting accurate and good information, which I think currently is quite a challenge at the moment, to make sure that what young people have access to is accurate and is giving them the right messages and the right picture.
Yes. In terms of raising awareness of the right to vote at 16, do schools have a role to play in doing that—not political education as such, but to be saying, 'Look, you can vote'? If it was decided that 16 would be the voting age, would schools have a role in informing young people of their right?
I think there's lots of activity in terms of understanding democracy that already takes place in schools. Many schools—pretty much every school I can think of—has a school council, for example. They understand—the representatives—how they vote for those and the kind of roles they have. Many schools now are quite open about the fact that the pupils are able to be involved in that kind of process and influence actual change. I can think of schools who have taken it even further and they've established their own senedd. So, the children understand that everybody is involved, even the youngest—their understanding might be at a simple level. So, I think that understanding that process is not difficult. I think schools often will already be doing activities that will help that.
So, what you describe, I think, is taking that next step about understanding, about how you exercise that democratic and political influence but at a national level, and what that means for you and the kind of issues that you might be interested in trying to influence. Because the reality is, I think, young people already—many, whether they like it or not—in some respects have a political view on things. I think it came to the fore through Brexit, for example, when many young people felt there were decisions being made that were going to influence their futures that they were not part of. So, there's maybe an opportunity off the back of something like that to actually encourage them to understand how they can get involved and actually have an influence and involvement. Schools, in terms of encouraging that, I think that's not a bad thing and something that schools would probably be quite happy to do.
Okay. And if the voting age was reduced to 16 and if schools were to play a part in raising awareness, what resources do you think schools would need in order to do that?
It would be difficult to answer that. I guess in as much as it would depend on—. It comes back to the professional learning question we had before. There will be some schools and staff members and others in schools who will be more aware of the kind of things that they would need. I think you'd need to talk to schools about that and, in developing it, pull together a range of different schools, age groups, and others, so you understand what they're missing, what they don't understand about the process, and what they need.
I don't think you'd have a problem pulling together interested groups of schools who could pull that kind of information together and assist whoever it was who was going to produce the resources to develop that kind of thing for schools. There's a model that's already been used in other fields, and I think probably the best way to do it is to talk to schools about, 'If you're going to be delivering this, if you're going to be encouraging 16 and 17-year-olds into becoming voters, then what do you need? What sort of materials would be of use?' Not just the information they would have, but the format of the resource, the thing that's going to engage them most. For example, we're doing a lot of work with organisations in terms of mental health and well-being, working with the likes of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and others. It's that kind of model, I would suggest, that probably would be of use.
I think we've covered a lot of the ground, but let me just tease a nuance or two out. You were very candid in saying that some schools probably would not feel as well prepared to undertake some of this activity, or may lack the confidence. The curriculum reforms, as we've heard, are going to be some way off. So, is 2021 too quick in terms of being the first set of elections where 16-year-olds may be able to vote?
I guess I come back to my point earlier about if we wait until we're completely ready, then I think there's a question about how long that would take. I think if we agree with the principle about it, part of me wonders whether you just go ahead with that if it's in principle the right thing to do. It almost incentivises schools to then start doing some work on that. Yes, 2021 is a short amount of time, and, given the amount of work that now will need to be taking place from the launch of the draft curriculum Orders in April this year, that's not a long amount of time for a school to put in place and develop an entire curriculum. So, I think we are asking quite a lot. But if it's the right principled thing to do, part of me thinks you put those things in place and you continue to work towards it, because the whole system needs to shift, and that takes a long time. If you wait until we're completely ready, it may delay it too long and you've kind of missed the opportunity, potentially, to pick up on some of the things I was talking about earlier that mean that young people are, maybe, keen to be involved.
On the issue of the principle of the thing—which sometimes we do overlook, I think—we've heard from some critics that it would end up being very fractured. You know, you'd have different rights coming on at different ages, and on some things, like the purchase of tobacco we're going the other way and raising limits, and in this case, lowering. But others have said, 'No, what you should focus on is the inherent competence of 16 and 17-year-olds', and you've referred to Brexit. So, what is your general assessment of the competence of people of that age to conduct in meaningful political activity?
I think it probably reflects the general population. I think that's the reality about it. It would be impossible to judge on competence alone in making that the measure of whether people are able to vote or not. At some point, we need to pick up an age that we think that the majority are in a position to do so. And I think that, clearly, with 16-year-olds, there's a huge range of ability and understanding within that. I think if we're saying we're going ahead with the voting age, schools will have an incentive, maybe, as I said before, to start equipping young people with the understanding about what it means and the implications behind that.
But in terms of the range, I'd say it reflects the range within the general population of ability and understanding about things. I guess you have to decide on an age group at which it's too young, but the majority of 16-year-olds, I think, are able to articulate what they believe in at that stage, particularly in a political view about something. If you ask them about a concept, about things like climate change and other areas that they have an interest in, they will give you a viewpoint around that, so they clearly have the ability to express a viewpoint on what they think is the right way to deal with it.
So, would I be drawing a justified inference from what you've just said that, actually, regardless of what happens with a wider educational programme, you think the principle is strong enough to lower the age of voting to 16 regardless?
I think so—I think so.
So, it's optimum to have the education programme, really, and that may lead to other very good benefits flowing, but, actually, on the core principle, you would lower the age.
I think the reality around something like this is that it has to be managed for that age group. I think that's—. And also not just what's delivered in terms of the school, but also signposting and flagging up areas where, if they want to find out more about things, they could do that. I think probably you'd find there would be more proactive activity when there was an impending election of some sort coming up, because it makes sense. The balance would be about ensuring the information they get is just really about the process and being involved, rather than anything party political, to make sure that they know what they can access. But I just think, if we're talking about schools' activity and schools' role in this, it's about making sure that their young people are able to exercise it if they choose to do so, really.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Allaf i hefyd ddiolch ichi ymlaen llaw am y papur ysgrifenedig gwnaethoch chi ei gyflwyno—un da iawn? Jest yn gyffredinol, achos, eto, mae fy nghwestiynau i yn rhannol wedi cael eu hateb eisoes—. Ond, yn gyffredinol, pa oedran dŷch chi'n credu y dylai plant ddechrau cael eu dysgu am wleidyddiaeth—ysgol gynradd, efallai?
Thank you, Chair. May I thank you in advance for the written paper that you submitted? It was excellent. Just in general, because my questions have partly been answered already—. But, in general, at what age should children start being taught about politics—in primary school, perhaps?
I think so. We already do much work around, as I said, things like school councils and getting involved, if you like, in decision making, based upon information and choices. I certainly think the top end of key stage 2—the 10, 11-year-old age group—. Certainly, when I was a head, our 10, 11-year-olds would come to the Senedd and understand what this place was about—what it was, what it stood for, the processes that took place and how decisions that are made affect them as children. We would also look at a more local level, where they would be faced with issues that they'd have a debate about. We had good relationships with things like the community council and others. We'd have a community councillor sitting on our governing body, so they would come in to work with the children to explain what they did and also be part of the school debates. Children tend to enjoy that, because it has a context and a reality around it; it's not just a conceptual thing you're discussing. So, for example, where my school was, there would be issues about housing developments and so forth. Children who lived in the area particularly would understand what that meant, generally, because they'd heard their family, friends and others talking around it. So, you can start that kind of understanding about what it means to be in a democratic place and also how to get involved in debates that affect your life.
I think, in terms of the practicalities about being actively involved in elections at a local and national level, they would need to come a little bit later, but on an incremental basis. You start the conversations in primary school, the end of primary school. Then, through secondary school, through, as I say, vehicles such as the personal and social education or the humanities that are coming in through the area of learning and experience, you develop that so that, by the time they hit 15, 16, they are then really aware of what it means, the kind of things they can be involved in and how they exercise that right.
Ocê. Diolch. Hefyd, yn rhannol atebwyd y cwestiwn yma yn gynharach, ond awn ni ar ei ôl e ta beth. Yn yr holl fusnes yma o helpu i baratoi ein pobl ifanc ni i bleidleisio, dyweder pan fyddan nhw'n 16, dwi'n cymryd buasech chi'n cytuno nad yw hyn ddim jest lawr i'r adran addysg neu ysgolion ac ati; mae yna gyrff a sefydliadau eraill sydd â rôl i chwarae yn hyn. Ydych chi eisiau amlygu ychydig o'r hwnna hefyd? So, nid jest mater i ysgolion ac addysg yw e.
Okay. Thank you. Also, this question has partly been answered earlier, but we'll continue. In this business of trying to prepare our young people to vote at 16, I take it that you would agree that this isn't just down to the education department or schools, et cetera; there are bodies and organisations other than education providers that could play a part in this. Would you like to elaborate on this? It's not just a matter for schools and education providers.
No, definitely not. I think part of the challenge for schools in implementing policy is the consistency of how it's delivered. It has always been the case in Wales that we are—I think we underplay what excellent practice takes place across Wales. There's often very, very good practice that takes place in schools. What we don't seem to be able to do is replicate that across the whole of the country so easily. I don't think that's necessarily a Wales issue particularly, but—. But, in terms of organisations that could assist with that, I'm not experienced in this field, but maybe something like the Electoral Commission, who have a consistent way of explaining how the processes take place, the kind of things that young people can get involved in. It would assist in that consistent message that we would want to get out, and I think we'd need to be careful around it, because of the issues I said around things like social media, where sometimes young people can get access to information that they think is factual and accurate and sometimes isn't, and that kind of misconstruing can be unhelpful in getting them engaged in the process.
Thank you. Just a couple of short final questions from myself. You mentioned about good practice under way at the moment, and I think all of us will have been to junior schools where they've got school councils. I've seen some fascinating debates on school uniforms amongst very, very young students, so I think it's probably important not to underestimate what is actually being done at the moment. But, within the Bill, there isn't a specific duty in respect of the development of citizenship education in connection with this. Do you think that's an omission, or something that would strengthen the legislation, or something that's not necessary, or do you not have a view?
I'm a little bit wary, sometimes, of just putting into legislation to expect it to take place within schools. For example, one of the examples I'd give would be an equivalent, like the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill that has just come into play. Whilst the legislation in some points needs to put in principles around which we want to adhere to, for example, with the additional learning needs Bill, the code, which is the kind of practical handbook of how a school would deliver it, would be more the important element for me, and I wonder whether, instead of within the legislation, you could have some kind of statutory guidance or some kind of document like that, which explains the practical application of what we are looking to encourage—that would be of more use to schools than the legislation, I think.
Okay, thank you. That's been very helpful. Are there any other final points? If not, thank you very much for your evidence. It's been extremely helpful in contributing to this important piece of legislation. A transcript will be sent to you to check for accuracy. If you feel there's anything you wanted to add beyond that, please feel free to submit that to us and we'll happily consider it, but thank you for your contribution to this session.
Thank you. Diolch yn fawr.
That brings us to the end of the evidence sessions. I'd like to move into private session shortly.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
What do we have now? Oh, yes, sorry—motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for the following business in order to consider the remainder of the meeting and the evidence debrief. Is that agreed?
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:17.
The public part of the meeting ended at 15:17.