Y Pwyllgor Cyllid - Y Bumed Senedd
Finance Committee - Fifth Senedd21/03/2019
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Alun Davies AC|
|Llyr Gruffydd AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Mike Hedges AC|
|Neil Hamilton AC|
|Nick Ramsay AC|
|Rhianon Passmore AC|
|Rhun ap Iorwerth AC|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Angharad Thomas-Richards||Ymgynghorydd y Rhaglen Diwygio Etholiadol, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Electoral Reform Programme Adviser, Welsh Government|
|Chris Warner||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr, Cyfansoddiad a Chyfiawnder, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Constitution and Justice, Welsh Government|
|Jeremy Miles AC||Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol a'r Gweinidog Brexit|
|Counsel General and Brexit Minister|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Leanne Hatcher||Ail Glerc|
|Ryan Bishop||Dirprwy Glerc|
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 09:00.
The meeting began at 09:00.
Bore da, bawb. Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Cyllid. Gaf i groesawu Aelodau i'r cyfarfod? Gaf i nodi hefyd fod yna glustffonau ar gael ar gyfer offer cyfieithu neu ar gyfer addasu lefel y sain? Gaf i atgoffa Aelodau hefyd i ddiffodd y sain ar unrhyw ddyfeisiadau electronig, a gaf i ofyn a oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fudd i'w ddatgan? Iawn. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Cyn cychwyn hefyd, gaf i jest achub ar y cyfle yma i ddiolch i aelodau'r pwyllgor yma a hefyd i dîm clercio a thîm cyfreithiol y pwyllgor am eu holl gefnogaeth o gwmpas Bil Ombwdsmon Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus (Cymru)? Fe fyddwch chi'n gwybod bod y Bil wedi pasio Cyfnod 4 ddoe, a dwi'n meddwl ei bod hi'n gwbl addas ein bod ni'n nodi ein diolch i aelodau presennol ac aelodau a Chadeiryddion blaenorol y pwyllgor yma am eu gwaith nhw yn mynd â'r Bil drwy'r Senedd. Felly, diolch i bob un ohonoch chi. Mi arhoswn ni am Gydsyniad Brenhinol, ac wedyn wrth gwrs mi fydd y Bil yn dod yn weithredol.
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this meeting of the Finance Committee. Could I welcome Members to the meeting? Could I note also that the headsets are available for translation or for sound amplification? Could I remind Members to ensure that any electronic devices are on silent, and can I ask if Members have any interests to declare? No. Fine. Thank you very much.
Before starting, could I just take this opportunity to thank members of the committee and also the clerking team and the legal team of the committee for all their support around the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill? You know that the Bill passed Stage 4 yesterday, and I think that it's very appropriate that we note our thanks to current members and previous members and Chairs of this committee for their work in taking the Bill through the Senedd. So, thank you to all of you. We'll await Royal Assent, and then of course the Bill will become operational.
Mae yna bapurau i'w nodi. Mi welwch chi yn eich pecyn gopi o gofnodion o gyfarfod y 13 Mawrth a llythyr gan Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru ynglŷn â newid arfaethedig yn y trefniadau archwilio. Ydych chi'n hapus i nodi'r rheini? Iawn, diolch yn fawr iawn.
There are some papers to note. You will see in your pack the minutes of the meeting held on 13 March and a letter from the Wales Audit Office about proposed changes in the audit arrangements. Are you happy to note those? Thank you.
Ymlaen â ni, felly, at brif sesiwn y bore yma, sef sesiwn graffu ar Fil Senedd ac Etholiadau (Cymru). Rŷm ni'n croesawu'r Cwnsler Cyffredinol, Jeremy Miles, atom ni—croeso—a hefyd Chris Warner ac Angharad Thomas-Richards, sy'n swyddogion sy'n cefnogi'r Cwnsler Cyffredinol y bore yma.
Mae'r Aelodau wedi hefyd dderbyn briff gan gynghorydd arbenigol sydd gennym ni fel pwyllgor ar y mater yma, sef Dr Toby James, ac rŷm ni'n ddiolchgar iddo fe am ei gefnogaeth ac mi fydd y gefnogaeth honno'n parhau, wrth gwrs, wrth i ni glywed tystiolaeth yn y sesiynau sydd i ddod yn y dyfodol.
Felly, fe awn ni'n syth at gwestiynau, os ydy hynny'n iawn, ac mi wnaf i gychwyn, os caf i, Gwnsler Cyffredinol, drwy ofyn, neu drwy wneud y sylw, efallai, fod y Llywodraeth wedi gwneud sylwadau yn y gorffennol ynglŷn â'r ffordd mae costau Biliau sydd ddim yn dod gan y Llywodraeth, Biliau sy'n dod yn anllywodraethol, os liciwch chi—rŷch chi wedi gwneud sylwadau ynglŷn â sut mae costau'r rheini wedi cael eu hamcangyfrif, ac ansawdd yr amcangyfrifon hynny ar adegau. Ond yng nghyd-destun y Bil yma, felly, gan fod hwn hefyd yn anllywodraethol, a oes gennych chi unrhyw sylwadau neu bryderon ynghylch goblygiadau ariannol y Bil yma?
We will move on, therefore, to the main session this morning, which is a scrutiny session on the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill. We welcome the Counsel General, Jeremy Miles—welcome—and also Chris Warner and Angharad Thomas-Richards, who are officials supporting the Counsel General this morning.
The Members have also had a briefing from the expert adviser that we have as a committee on this issue, Dr Toby James, and we're thankful for his support, and that support will continue, of course, as we hear evidence in the sessions to come in the future.
So, we'll move straight onto questions, if that's okay, and I'll start, if I may, Counsel General, by asking, or by making the comment that the Welsh Government has previously commented on the approach to and quality of costings of non-governmental Bills, if you like. You've made comments on how those costs have been estimated and the quality of those estimates at times. But in the context of this Bill, given that this is a non-governmental Bill, do you have any comments or concerns in terms of the financial implications of the Bill?
Wel, fel dŷch chi'n sôn, Bil Comisiwn yw hwn, nid Bil Llywodraeth. Does gennym ni ddim sylwadau pellach i wneud ar hyn o bryd ynglŷn â'r goblygiadau ariannol. Maen nhw'n ymddangos yn rhesymol ac yn seiliedig ar dystiolaeth addas, felly dim sylwadau ar hyn o bryd, yn bendant.
The Bill, as you mentioned, is a Commission Bill, rather than a Government Bill. We have no further comments to make at the moment, in terms of the financial implications. They appear to be reasonable and are evidence based, so no comments at the moment.
Na, mae hynny'n iawn. Diolch yn fawr. Wedyn, ydych chi'n credu bod y Bil yn sicrhau gwerth am arian, ac os ydych chi, pam? Neu os ddim, pam?
No, that's fine. Thank you. So, do you think that the Bill represents value for money, and if so, why? And if not, why?
Ydw, yn fras. Dwi'n credu bod gwelliannau sylweddol yn dod yn sgil y Bil, ac mae'r buddsoddiad sydd ynghlwm wrth wneud y gwahaniaethau yna, gwneud y diwygiadau hynny, yn un gellid ei gyfiawnhau, felly. Mae'r cyfrif o'r costau yn y ddwy flynedd gyntaf tua £300,000—ychydig yn llai na hynny—ac wedyn, ar ôl hynny, costau o flwyddyn i flwyddyn sydd ddim yn rhai sylweddol iawn, felly. Felly, rŷm ni'n credu, wrth edrych ar y darlun cyflawn, ei fod yn cynnig gwerth am arian.
Broadly speaking, yes. I think that there will be major improvements as a result of the Bill, and the investment related to making those differences, making those reforms, is justifiable. The total of the costs in the first two years will be £300,000—a bit less than that—and then, after that, it will be year-on-year costs, which wouldn't be particularly substantial. So, in looking at the bigger picture, we believe it does provide value for money.
Ocê, diolch yn fawr. Oes yna unrhyw feysydd rŷch chi'n credu bod angen gwaith neu ystyriaeth bellach arnyn nhw, yn eich barn chi, cyn cyflwyno penderfyniad ariannol y Bil?
Okay, thank you. Are there any other areas that need further work or consideration, in your opinion, before there is a financial resolution on the Bill?
Wel, wrth eistedd yma heddiw, dwi ddim yn gweld unrhyw reswm pam fydden ni ddim yn cyflwyno hynny. Ond wrth gwrs, bydd diwygiadau yn dod a gwelliannau yn dod yn y cyfnodau nesaf, ac wrth gwrs sylwadau'r pwyllgorau yn y broses graffu, felly bydd yn rhaid edrych ar bethau ar ôl y broses honno. Ond wrth eistedd yma heddiw, dwi ddim yn gweld unrhyw reswm pam fuasem ni ddim yn cyflwyno hwnna.
Well, in sitting here today, I don't see why we wouldn't introduce that. But of course there may be changes and amendments at ensuing stages, and there will be comments made by committees at the scrutiny stages, so we will have to look at the situation after that process. But sitting here today, I can't see any reason why we wouldn't introduce that.
Ocê. Wel, mae'n mynd yn dda hyd yn hyn, mae'n rhaid imi ddweud, o ran eich agwedd chi tuag at y Bil yn sicr. Oes gennych chi farn o ran a ddylid fod wedi defnyddio dadansoddiad sensitifrwydd ac ystod sensitifrwydd lle bo costau yn ansicr? Oherwydd, dyna beth mae’r Llywodraeth yn ei wneud fel arfer, wrth gwrs, onid e, sef rhoi’r ystod yna, ond beth rŷn ni wedi ei gael fan hyn yn y Bil yma yw efallai’r gost uchaf posibl pan fo yna amheuaeth ynglŷn â beth yw’r gost.
Okay. Well, it's going well so far, I must say, in terms of your attitude towards the Bill. Do you have any view on whether a sensitivity analysis and ranges should have been used where costs are uncertain? Because that’s what the Government usually does, of course, namely give that range, but what we've had here in this Bill is the highest possible cost when there is any doubt about what the cost should be.
Wel, wrth gwrs, mae'n arfer da ar y cyfan i allu rhoi range o rifau i ddangos beth yw’r posibiliadau, ond o gymryd i mewn i ystyriaeth y mathau o gostau rŷn ni’n sôn amdanyn nhw fan hyn, a scale y costau, rwy’n credu ei bod hi'n addas ar yr achlysur hwn i ddangos yr uchafswm mwyaf posibl mewn ffordd resymol. Dwi ddim yn credu y buasai dadansoddiad sensitifrwydd wedi ychwanegu ryw lawer i’r math o ddadansoddiad sydd gyda ni fan hyn. Mae’r symiau sydd dros bum mlynedd yn llai nag ŷn nhw mewn Biliau yn gyffredinol, felly dwi ddim yn credu bod angen, yn y cyd-destun hwn, i gael proses o ddadansoddi sensitifrwydd.
Wrth gwrs, o ran y costau a fydd yn syrthio ar lywodraeth leol, bydd hynny yn amrywio o un i’r llall, gan ddibynnu, er enghraifft, ar faint o etholwyr 16 ac 17 oed sydd yn byw o fewn cwmpas yr awdurdod lleol. A hefyd, mae elfennau, er enghraifft, negodiadau rhwng awdurdodau lleol a phobl sydd yn darparu systemau meddalwedd, ac ati. Felly, bydd amrywiaeth o fewn hynny. Ond, o edrych ar y darlun cyflawn, rwy’n credu bod dangos yr uchafswm yn addas yn y cyd-destun hwn.
Well, of course, it’s good practice, generally speaking, to provide a range of costs to demonstrate the possibilities, but taking into account the types of costs that we're discussing here, and the scale of those costs, I do think it is appropriate on this occasion to identify the maximum in a reasonable way. I don't think that a sensitivity analysis would have added much to the kind of analysis we have here. The sums over five years are less than they would be in other Bills. So, I do not think that, in this context, we need a sensitivity analysis process.
Of course, in terms of the costs for local government, those will vary from one to the other, depending, for example, on how many 16 and 17-year-old constituents live within that particular authority area. And there are other elements, for example, negotiations between local authorities and those providing software systems, and so on. So, there will be some diversity in that regard. But, looking at the bigger picture, I think that identifying the maximum is appropriate in this area.
Ocê. Iawn. Diolch yn fawr. Ac wedyn, a oes gyda chi unrhyw sylwadau ar faint o waith ymgysylltu sydd wedi cael ei wneud gyda rhanddeiliaid wrth baratoi’r amcangyfrifon o gostau yma?
Okay. Fine. Thank you. And do you have any comments on the extent of stakeholder engagement in the preparation of estimates for these costs?
Wel, rwy’n ymwybodol bod y Gweinidog Tai a Llywodraeth Leol a’r Llywydd wedi cwrdd â’r Wales Electoral Coordination Board ac â phobl eraill yn y maes o ran trefniadau etholiadol. Hynny yw, mae’r issues sydd wedi codi yng nghyd-destun y trafodaethau hynny, fel rwy’n deall, wedi cael eu cymryd i mewn i ystyriaeth yn y Bil. Wrth gwrs, mae’r Comisiwn hefyd wedi ymgynghori ar hyn ac mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi ymgynghori ar yr elfen o franchise llywodraeth leol. Felly, o gymryd hynny i gyd i mewn i ystyriaeth, rwy’n credu bod hynny wedi bod yn addas.
Well, I'm aware that the Minister for Housing and Local Government and the Llywydd have met with the Wales Electoral Coordination Board and with others in this area in terms of the electoral arrangements. The issues that have been raised in the context of those discussions, as I understand it, have been taken into account in the Bill. Of course, the Commission has also consulted on this and the Welsh Government has consulted on the element of the local government franchise. So, taking all of that into account, I think that has been an appropriate approach.
Iawn. Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Rhianon—cwestiwn?
Okay. Thank you. Rhianon—question?
Thank you. In regards to cost, you've got £2 million in costs for local authorities, and that’s split between the ongoing costs and the transitional costs. So, in regard to what is being funded by Welsh Government, can you clarify for me what is going to be an ongoing cost to local authorities, bearing in mind that that ranges?
The figure for the costs on local authorities, obviously, appears to be the highest element of the cost exposure as a consequence of the Bill, but that is, of course, split amongst 22 local authorities and over a period of, I think, five years. So, the bulk of the costs is in the first two years, and after that, the running costs, I think, are in the low thousands. So, it’s not a very significant sum. In terms of the funding of that additional, incremental cost, that’ll be just a matter that is taken into account in the local government settlement in the usual way.
It does say that Welsh Government will be funding—funded by Welsh Government—the franchise cost to changing the electoral franchise. So, in terms of the transitional costs for local authorities, is that going to be costed and funded by Welsh Government?
I think that's also taken into account in the settlement, unless I'm—.
Okay. Thank you.
Can I just say, are there any possible savings? If 16 and 17-year-olds are going to go on to the register, it's going to be a lot easier to get them than it is 18-year-olds, because 16 and 17-year-olds in general tend to live at home, whereas 18-year-olds quite often are going away to university or have moved out. Aren't there potential savings, in that, once you get people at 16 and 17 on the register, you've got them, whereas, if you wait until they're 18, you're looking at people, especially in university cities, who have just moved into it?
Well, that’s probably true, isn't it? And, actually, in particular, if we do the task well of ensuring the maximisation of the numbers of people on at the 16 and 17 age cohort, I can well imagine that, over time, that might provide a saving.
Diolch yn fawr. Rhun.
Thank you. Rhun.
Diolch yn fawr iawn ichi. Mae gwaith y mae'r Llywodraeth yn bwriadu ei wneud ar godi ymwybyddiaeth pleidleiswyr pan fydd yr etholfraint yn cael ei newid. Mae yna ffigwr o ychydig dros £200,000 yn cael ei grybwyll ar gyfer cost yr ymgysylltu hwnnw. Ydy hwnnw'n ffigwr dŷch chi'n cyd-fynd â fo? Hefyd, mae yna sawl corff gwahanol yn mynd i fod â diddordeb mewn cymryd rhan yn y gwaith yma. A oes yna berig o ddyblygu'n digwydd?
Thank you very much. There is work that the Government intends to do on voter awareness when the franchise is changed. There is a figure of just over £200,000 that's mentioned for the cost of that engagement. Is that a figure that you agree with? Also, there are several different bodies who are going to have an interest in taking part in this work. Is there a danger of duplication?
Fe wnaethoch chi sôn am yr elfen o godi ymwybyddiaeth yn gyffredinol. Mae'r ffigurau rhyw £215,000 i £250,000 neu £260,000. Mae'r rheini'n teimlo fel petasen nhw yn y man iawn yn gyffredinol, ond ar ben hynny hefyd bydd angen darparu adnoddau addysgiadol ar gyfer ysgolion a hefyd ar gyfer cyrraedd pobl sydd tu allan i'r system addysg sydd yn mynd i gael yr hawl i bleidleisio. Mae hynny, rwy'n credu, yn rhyw £600,000 o gyllideb. O ran sicrhau bod dim dyblygu, mae hyn yn rhywbeth rydym ni'n gweithio ar y cyd gyda phanel o ymgynghorwyr allanol arno i sicrhau ein bod ni'n dyfeisio cynllun sydd yn sicrhau ei fod e'n cyrraedd pobl ond heb ddyblygu. Hefyd, mae'r Gweinidog tai a'r Gweinidog Addysg wedi cytuno i weithio'n agos gyda'r Comisiwn i sicrhau bod hyn yn digwydd mewn ffordd sy'n effeithlon.
You mentioned awareness raising in general. The figures are some £215,000 to £250,000 or £260,000. They appear to be in the right ballpark, but in addition to that, resources will need to be provided in schools and in terms of engaging with people outside the education system who will have the right to vote. I think that involved a budget of around £600,000. In terms of ensuring that there is no duplication, we are working with a panel of external consultants to ensure that we devise a plan that ensures that we reach people without that overlap that you mentioned. The housing and education Ministers have agreed to work closely with the Commission to ensure that this happens in an efficient way.
Sut mae'r Llywodraeth yn bwriadu cymryd rhan yn y gwaith yma? Achos fe allech chi ddweud bod hwn ddim byd i wneud efo'r Llywodraeth. Ond, pa fath o gydweithio fydd yna rhwng y Llywodraeth a'r Comisiwn ar y gwaith yma o godi ymwybyddiaeth?
How is the Government intending to take part in this work? Because you could say that this is nothing to do with the Government. But, what kind of collaboration will there be between the Government and the Commission on this work of raising awareness?
Dyna un o'r pethau rŷn ni'n gofyn i'r panel allanol ein cynghori ni arnynt a'n bod ni'n sicrhau ein bod ni'n defnyddio'r ystod o dechnegau rydym ni'n gallu eu defnyddio, a thrio bod yn greadigol yn gwneud hynny. Ond sicrhau hefyd wrth gwrs ein bod ni, fel rwy'n dweud, yn cydweithio gyda'r Comisiwn.
That's one of the things that we're asking the external panel to advise us on, so that we ensure that we use the range of methods available to us, and try and be creative in doing so. But also ensuring that we do collaborate with the Commission in doing that.
Mae yna sefydliadau sy'n gweithio yn uniongyrchol efo pobl ifanc—dwi'n meddwl am y ffermwyr ifanc a'r Urdd a phob mathau o gyrff eraill—a fydd yn eiddgar, dwi'n siŵr, i fod yn rhan o'r gwaith codi ymwybyddiaeth yma. Mae yna dystiolaeth eu bod nhw'n gallu bod yn llawer mwy effeithiol na'r Comisiwn neu'r Llywodraeth yn ymgysylltu efo pobl ifanc. Oes yna arbedion posib i gael eu gwneud mewn contractio grwpiau fel yna i wneud llawer o'r gwaith ymgysylltu?
There are organisations that work directly with young people—I'm thinking of the young farmers and the Urdd and many other bodies—who will be very eager to be part of this awareness-raising work. There is evidence that they can be much more effective than the Commission or Government in terms of engaging with young people. Are there possible savings that could be made in contracting groups like that to do a lot of the engagement work?
Dyna'n union y math o beth byddwn ni'n edrych arno fe, i sicrhau ein bod ni ddim yn unig yn cyrraedd pobl sydd yn yr ysgol, fel roeddwn i’n dweud, ond y bobl sydd yn mynd i gael yr hawl i bleidleisio, ac efallai ei fod e'n haws eu cyrraedd nhw drwy fudiadau, fel ŷch chi'n sôn nawr.
Those are the very things that we'll be looking at, to ensure that we not only reach people who are still in school, but also those who are outside school but will have the right to vote. It may be easier to get to those using the kinds of organisations that you mentioned.
Ocê. Un cwestiwn ehangach o bosib, ydyn ni'n gwybod faint sy'n cael ei wario ar etholiadau Cynulliad Cymru mewn gwirionedd, yn gyffredinol, o'r pwrs cyhoeddus?
Okay. One broader question perhaps, do you know how much is spent on National Assembly elections, generally, from the public purse?
Rwy'n deall, yn 2016, yr etholiad diwethaf, roedd y gost yn £7 miliwn. Roedd jest ychydig dros £3 miliwn yn mynd i lywodraeth leol ac ychydig o dan £4 miliwn yn mynd i'r Post Brenhinol i dalu am gostau danfon cynnwys drwy'r post ac ati. So, rhyw £7 miliwn.
Well, as I understand it, in 2016, the last election, the cost was £7 million—a little over £3 million going to local government and a little under £4 million to the Royal Mail to pay for postal costs. So, some £7 million.
Diolch yn fawr. Mike.
Moving on to a subject that I often talk about, returning officers and their payments, I'm one of those people who don't understand why returning officers, who are highly paid local government officers, normally chief executives or heads of service, actually get an additional payment for doing something that any normal person would think was part of their day job. All they do is oversee it, they don't actually do the work relating to it. I'm sure that Neil Hamilton, who's handed a nomination paper in recently, will not have handed it in to the chief executive but would have handed it in to a member of the staff there, as we all did at the last Assembly elections.
So, the question I'm going to ask is: have you had any discussions with the local government Minister about a saving that could come at some stage, in that the expectation would be that a chief officer, as part of their role, would be acting as returning officer, rather than giving them substantial sums for doing so? This is related to this Bill because the amount they get will increase because the number of people going on the register will increase with 16 and 17-year-olds. It's a matter you can't do anything about yourself, but can I ask if you could have some discussions with the appropriate Cabinet Secretary about that? Because that actually produces savings within the Bill.
I'll ask Angharad to comment in a second, but I think the short answer to your question is: those considerations are already ongoing. My rudimentary, I confess, understanding is some of the issues around this relate to the line of accountability, which comes from the source of payment, and the question of the independence of the returning officer from the local authority in the context of delivering the electoral functions. I'm afraid I've now exhausted the extent of my knowledge of this issue, but if there's anything that is useful for us to add, Angharad—.
Yes. We looked at it as part of the consultation on the local government Bill, so it's under consideration whether or not returning officers would be continued to be paid fees as part of their role in the future, and that might be a part of the forthcoming local government Bill.
Just to say that that could be a possible saving within—money that you've got inside this Bill.
Why don't you publish, or why have I not seen published might be a better way of saying it, the amount that constituency and regional returning officers claim?
They're currently being collated, and we are planning to publish them. It's just that I think it's the first time that we have published them, so there are some process issues about getting them finalised, but they are on their way.
Yes, and also, in some cases—Swansea's an example—the local authority doesn't pay the returning officer any additional money because they've said it's part of their job. I think that's extremely good practice in Swansea that I'd like to see replicated in the other 21 local authorities. When are we likely to see it published?
I'm not entirely sure I have the date. Do you?
In a couple of months.
One of the issues is—it might be useful for you to know—that we're trying to do it in a way that is open source, so that it can be available for people, as you are doing now, to interrogate and to use it for modelling purposes for future elections. So, that is part of the reason why there's been a bit of a delay in getting them out.
When you say 'open source', what do you mean? How are you going to make it available as an open source? What are you going to do?
I don't know the technical answer to that.
We'll publish it on the Welsh Government website, but it's just published in a way so that people can manipulate the data themselves without changing it. So, it just requires quite a lot of technical work to make sure that you can't change the numbers, but that you can extract numbers and manipulate the data so that you can use it for briefings or your own university research or whatever you want.
But surely, if it's a Word document—and I don't want to go too technical, Chair—all you'd have to do is download it into your own Word document, at which stage you could then upload it into an Excel document.
I think the point there is that you could actually put something up temporarily, couldn't you, even if it's just a list of figures?
Yes, and let people fiddle with them accordingly.
We'll certainly look into that.
We'll ask that you maybe consider that. We'd be very grateful.
Before we move on, maybe we'll come back to Rhianon for a few questions.
Yes. So, in regard to the electoral registration process and the change from 2014—and there's a likelihood around that of there being an increased cost—have you any views on whether this data from 2009 and 2011 is used as a basis for registration costs then? Is that the best estimation?
Yes, well, there were changes in 2014 in terms of individual registration. The reason I think that the 2009-10 and 2010-11 figures were used was because they provide the last fully comprehensive cost per elector that we have available and it is based on the Electoral Commission's costs per elector, which include registration costs, mail costs—the whole range of costs. That was the last set of years for which that fuller data is available. Obviously, there have been changes in 2014, but you will also know that there are forthcoming changes as a consequence of the changes to the canvassing arrangements, which will also change those figures.
So, there's a confidence that that's the best estimation.
The best reliable current figures we've got—the most recent figures.
Thank you. So, in regard to the automatic registration of 16-year-olds and when they receive national insurance numbers, would this be an easier and more cost-effective solution, however?
Yes, I think so.
It might be. The automatic registration process isn't something—. We're looking into it and we've certainly been looking into it around the local government Bill. There are complexities around when a person would go on the register, if we linked it directly to when they received their national insurance number, and ensuring that every single person who is eligible to vote on voting day was on the register, so there are things around real-time updating of the register. The indicative costs that we've got at the moment show that implementing that will be a very costly exercise, but in the long run, it probably will see cost savings through automatic registration. So, it's something that we're really looking at in detail for the future and as part of the local government Bill and whether or not that's something—
So, is there any timescale attached to that, or—?
Well, we're hoping that the provision, if it's agreed—we could look at an enabling power in the local government Bill that would allow local authorities to do that if they wanted to after the next set of local government elections.
Okay, and just for information and clarity: what are other areas doing around this, in terms of Scotland, et cetera?
They're also considering whether automatic registration would be possible, but it's just the background tech and the cost to it are quite substantial. But, it's certainly a policy that we're looking at.
Certainly, when we consulted on it, it was very popular, which is an important consideration. To Mike's point, one of the considerations will be whether maximising that cohort's registration provides for that much longer time frame of savings. So, those are parts of the live considerations at the moment.
Alun wants to come in.
Yes. I've enjoyed listening to the discussion this morning, but one thing that Mrs Thomas-Richards just said that did worry me a little bit was enabling local government to take lots of different decisions. Now, that means, potentially, we could have 22 different systems operating in the country. Twenty-two local authorities, by common consideration, is too many anyway. Twenty-two different systems in terms of electoral registration is 21 too many as well, I would argue. Surely, the purpose of this legislation, alongside the legislation that is also being considered in terms of local government elections, is to streamline the system and not to reinforce the over-complex system that we have at the moment. So, surely, one of the purposes of the Government's response to this legislation has to be to enable support and to argue for further consolidation and for further streamlining.
Well, we certainly want to avoid the duplication of costs, where that can be—
Yes, but I want you to go further than that, Counsel General. What I want you to do is to be clearer, if you could be, in terms of what your policy objective is, not simply in terms of how we will manage an overly complex system. You're the Government, and that means that the overly complex system is partly as a consequence of your actions or decisions—or not taking actions and not taking decisions. Therefore, at a time when other Ministers come in front of this committee and tell us how difficult everything is in terms of resources, one of your objectives surely should be, as a policy objective, to reduce complexity, to reduce duplication and to reduce unnecessary resource allocation.
Well, this is obviously a Commission Bill, not a Government Bill.
But your response to it is what I'm asking you about.
Indeed, and my response is that we will obviously be seeking to avoid duplication where that's possible.
And no further than that? That's a very, very lowest-common-denominator approach, isn't it? Surely you have got more ambition than that.
Well, I mean, the policy response—. The point you're making is to avoid—is to have the most streamlined possible system.
You're not making, I think, a broader point about local government. You're making a point about efficiency, and I'm echoing that point as an objective for the Government in all contexts, including this.
And probably what we're looking for as a committee is an indication that you've actually made that point strongly to the Commission in their deliberations over this Bill.
Okay. Right, we'll move to Neil now, please. Diolch.
I'd like to ask some questions relating to the cost and the oversight of the Electoral Commission in relation to the work it's expected to do relating to Welsh elections, devolved elections and referenda. Have you been involved in any discussions around the potential devolution of funding from the UK Government to cover these extra costs that will have to be borne? Obviously, the sums are not vast in terms of the amount of money that the Welsh Government spends but, as Alun just pointed out, any money that is spent on—[Inaudible.]—less money is devolved to us to cover these extra costs that will have to be borne. So, I'd just like to know whether you could fill us in on the background to what the UK Government's view of this is.
Well, there have been discussions between officials, actually, and the Commission and the Treasury, with the objective of transferring the budget that is currently held within the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission fund into the Welsh block, which would then have the effect of devolving that funding to Wales. Those discussions are ongoing.
No idea how long that's going to take to be resolved? I hope it's not going to go the same way as Theresa May's negotiations—[Inaudible.]
Nothing goes as badly as that. [Laughter.]
Well, I don't know when they will come to a conclusion. Obviously, we're pushing for that to be a rapid discussion and a rapid agreement. We are obviously keeping the Llywydd and Commission officials up to date on those discussions as they move forward.
Is there anything that the Llywydd would need to do to ensure Wales doesn't receive less funding than it is currently getting on devolved elections in Wales?
I think, at the moment, those discussions provide the best opportunity for making sure that happens. Obviously, we'll keep the Llywydd and, as I say, the Commission, closely updated on how those discussion are progressing. But at this point in time, I think those discussions are the best mechanism for delivering that.
And, presumably, the Welsh Government's view is that appropriate funding should be—[Inaudible.]—so you'll be pushing hard for that and pushing in the same direction again.
Do you have a view on whether sufficient financial information is being provided in the impact assessment, considering the potential of intended and unintended impacts of changes to Electoral Commission funding and oversight?
In relation to current provisions in the Bill, the answer to that is 'yes'. Obviously, we're looking to amend that provision in the Bill, and as those amendments come forward, there will be a requirement to evaluate the costs and implications of those amendments and update the impact assessment at that point. So, that will come, as it were. But as of today, what's in the Bill, I feel, is adequately reflected in the IA.
Okay, thank you very much.
Could I ask, then: do you have any view in terms of whether the Llywydd's intention to bring forward, at Stage 2, potentially significant changes—how does that impact, in terms of scrutiny in a financial context? Because, clearly, there have been concerns that, maybe, there are big, big changes going to be introduced at Stage 2, whereas, maybe, we wouldn't have had, then, the same opportunity to robustly tests some of those.
Yes, that will require scrutiny. We'll need to make sure that the planned amendments are properly costed and provide opportunities to scrutinise at that point. There are significant potential changes to that aspect of the Bill. So, I absolutely recognise that that will need full scrutiny at that point.
Ocê, diolch yn fawr. Alun.
Okay, thank you. Alun.
As you pointed out in an earlier answer, this is a Commission Bill rather than a Government Bill. I'm interested, therefore, in the powers that the Commission are proposing to give to the Government over the Law Commission. Now, as somebody who's sat on many committees in this place, and I think we've probably sat on the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, usually the last thing we want to do is to provide very significant, wide-ranging, open-ended, in some cases, powers to Ministers to consolidate in the way that they choose to do. Now, I recognise that the UK Government has told us that they don't have time in the UK Parliament to do these things, although we do wonder what the purpose of the UK Government is at the moment. Is it the expectation of the Welsh Government that you will take these powers, and that you then have a process in mind as to how you will use those powers, in terms of the consolidation of electoral law?
Well, this is an area where there is a difference of approach, I think. We, as a Government, don't feel it's appropriate for these powers to be exercised by Welsh Ministers. The preferable way, from our point of view, is for these to be dealt with as primary legislation through the usual—well, not exactly the usual process, actually, but through the Assembly, but on the basis of an expedited procedure, which often happens in relation to Law Commission legislation, generally. We feel that that is the better way that enables a sort of scrutiny that the Chair was talking about only a moment ago. It's very unusual, in the sense, isn't it, for Government to be saying 'We don't want these powers'—?
But very welcome. [Laughter.]
I hope you don't feel it sets a precedent—
We welcome the precedent.
But the other aspect to it is that there doesn't seem an obvious reason why electoral law should be treated differently than any other sort of proposal that the Law Commission might, from time to time, bring forward. So, we're seeking a position of principle, really, I suppose, which is to say the Law Commission has a particular—. The nature of what is the product of Law Commission consideration tends to be, and is intended certainly to be, uncontroversial, and so that should be expedited and, subject to that, should go to the Assembly in the usual way.
Chair, I think the Counsel General has proposed some very far-sighted ways of delivering the consolidation of law in different areas, and certainly the approach that the Counsel General has taken in terms of a generalised approach to codification and the rest of these things is to be welcomed. So, can I abuse your generosity this morning, since you appear to be in a very good and open mood, to ask you another question on a similar sort of area? This Bill we have in front of us today, of course, is an amending Bill, and the legislation that we've seen through the United Kingdom Parliament changing the settlement in all sorts of different ways have all been amending Bills. Do you take the view that it is time, perhaps, for us to have a consolidation of our constitution in Wales, to have a legal basis upon which this place is established and the way it operates and exercises its powers in a way that's more accessible to the people on whose behalf we take these decisions?
Well, I think, on the question of electoral law as a, sort of, subset of what you're describing, I don't think I can encourage the view that that's an early priority in terms of consolidation. We're looking at probably 130 years of legislation and, at this point in time, there isn't, I think, the—. I wouldn't myself prioritise that above other kinds of consolidation that might have a more immediate impact on the lives of citizens in Wales—that's not to say this isn't an important piece of work.
On the question of consolidating the constitutional laws more generally, plainly, this is a significant piece of constitutional legislation. Therefore, it's important that it should be as accessible as possible, because there are certainly considerations in the Bill where we are anxious that it should become more accessible, which we'll consider when we have possible amendment. But to the point of whether now is the point to consolidate the constitution, I think it's an attractive idea, but I'm not sure that it's exactly the right point in time to do that. But it's certainly the kind of thing that ought to be kept under review.
I think I've pushed the Counsel General's generosity as far as it's going to go.
Yes, thank you very much. Yes, okay. I'll just pick up on one thing as well, then. The regulatory impact assessment doesn't set out any information in respect of post-implementation review of the Bill, including any process for evaluating its financial implications, and I'm just wondering whether that's of concern to you as a Government.
I think, obviously, it's good to ensure that we have a review of legislation as a matter of course. I think, given the nature and the scale of the costs in the Bill, it's not, perhaps, as pressing as it is in other pieces of legislation, but it's certainly a reflection.
It's certainly something we've been keen on as a committee in terms of good practice. So, maybe that's something we need to pursue. Okay. Do Members have any further questions or are we content? Rhianon—yes, go on.
I'm content, but I've just got a general point if we've got time. With regard to the role of local authorities around this Bill and their fundamental follow-through in what their important functionality is—it's probably a policy-based question. I don't envisage Alun's perspective of 22 expensive bespoke systems being rolled out at this time with our local authorities, but I suppose, in terms of the reception from local authorities around the functionality of this Bill, is it healthy? I mean, what is their perspective in terms of their role in carrying out this Bill as it moves forward?
Well, it does obviously impose further obligations and costs on local authorities, and to the point I made in relation to Alun's question, clearly, in general terms, we want to minimise the costs incurred here, but I feel that it's a proportionate set of obligations and a proportionate set of costs. And, obviously, the outturn of that will be taken in consideration of the general process of settlement of local authority budgets.
So, the response from the WLGA is healthy in response to—?
I think councils, generally, are keen to ensure that democratic participation is increased. So, I have a very live conversations with councillors in my own local authority about the importance of engaging young people and I'm sure all of us around the table—all elected Members—will recognise those conversations with local politicians in our areas: how significant this is for all of us. In fact, at all levels of government.
Okay, thank you.
Thank you. Nick, you wanted to come in as well.
Yes, very briefly. It's probably more legal than financial, but it's something that stuck in my mind from last week with our private evidence-gathering session with officials. The Government of Wales Act 2006—I think it was the first 12 words can't be changed. So, it remains the National Assembly for Wales but it's then known as 'the Senedd'. As Counsel General, do you find that a bit odd? Because I must admit that I thought the whole point of the Act was to change the name of the Assembly. So, if it's actually still, in terms of UK Government law, 'the National Assembly for Wales', I think that—maybe not immediately, but 10, 20 years down the line, people are going to look at it and think this is all a bit odd.
Well, as I just indicated briefly earlier, the accessibility of the Bill is obviously very important, and I made observations to that effect when I spoke in the Chamber about it. I certainly think that those provisions could be described more accessibly than they are currently. And there have been discussions with Commission lawyers in relation to that particular point, which the explanatory memorandum acknowledges. The Commission isn't yet of the same mind in relation to that, but I think acknowledges that that's an attractive argument, and I think those discussions, hopefully, will continue.
I'd say, in response to Nick, in the last few years, we've gone from 'Ministers' to 'Cabinet Secretaries' and back to 'Ministers' again; I'm not quite sure what the Government of Wales Act says about that. But we've got it into common usage and we've got the whole media using the same common usage as we did, then we changed, then we changed back. So, I don't foresee any difficulties with that once we get it into common usage, and I don't foresee any costs associated with it because common usage actually takes precedence over whatever's written down, because very few people are reading the Government of Wales Act.
Fair comment, I think—unless you wish to respond.
I mean, yes, I think, as you say, the term 'Cabinet Secretary', for example, isn't a term known to the legislation, but it's actually what, at various points in time, has been used commonly. What appears in legislation and what is the language used every day to describe institutions and roles can be different. The key thing is to ensure, certainly in the context of the discussion this morning, that the legislation is accessible in that way.
And is clear.
Yes, and is clear.
Yn union. Wel, a gaf i ddiolch, felly, i’r Cwnsler Cyffredinol am ddod atom ni'r bore yma, ac i’w swyddogion hefyd? Mi fyddwch chi’n cael copi o’r transcript, wrth gwrs, i'w tsiecio ar gyfer cywirdeb. Mi fyddwn ni, wrth gwrs, yn derbyn tystiolaeth bellach ar y Bil yma dros y bythefnos nesaf, felly diolch yn fawr iawn i chi am ddod.
Precisely. May I thank you, therefore, Counsel General, for coming in this morning, and your officials also? You will receive a transcript, of course, to check for factual accuracy. We will, of course, receive further evidence on the Bill within the next two weeks. Thank you very much for your attendance.
Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi.
Thank you very much.
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.
Rŷn ni am symud i sesiwn breifat nesaf, gyda’ch caniatâd chi. Felly, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi), dwi'n cynnig bod y pwyllgor yn gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod. A yw Aelodau i gyd yn fodlon â hynny? Iawn. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
We are moving into a private session next, with your permission. So, I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi), that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Are all Members content? All right. Thank you very much.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:37.
The public part of the meeting ended at 09:37.