|Dai Lloyd AC|
|David J. Rowlands AC|
|Dawn Bowden AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AC|
|Dr bob Watt||Athro mewn Cyfraith Etholiadol (wedi ymddeol)|
|Retired Professor of Election Law|
|Mary Sherwood||Cyngor Dinas a Sir Abertawe|
|City and County of Swansea Council|
|Yr Athro Sarah Childs||Birkbeck, Prifysgol Llundain|
|Birkbeck, University of London|
|Gareth Pembridge||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Gerallt Roberts||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Stephen Aldhouse||Ail Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Ethol Cynulliad mwy amrywiol – sesiwn dystiolaeth ar rannu swyddi||2. Electing a more diverse Assembly – evidence session on job sharing|
|3. Papurau i'w nodi||3. Papers to note|
|4. Cynnig o dan Reolau Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod, a'r cyfarfodydd ar 24 Chwefror a 2 Mawrth||4. Motion under Standing Orders 17.42(vi) and (ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting, and from the meetings on 24 February and 2 March|
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 10:31.
The meeting began at 10:31.
Good morning, everyone, and welcome to this meeting of the Committee on Assembly Electoral Reform. Before we start the business this morning, can I place on record my thanks to Delyth Jewell for the work that she's done on this committee? She's no longer a member of the committee as there's been a bit of a move around of bodies, but I'd like to welcome Dai Lloyd to his first formal meeting as a member of this committee. Welcome, Dai, and we look forward to your input.
You can say that. I couldn't possibly comment. [Laughter.]
So we haven't received any apologies for this morning's meeting, but just to advise you that the National Assembly operates through the medium of Welsh and English languages and there are headsets for simultaneous translation on channel 1 and for sound amplification on channel 0. And as this is a formal public meeting, members do not need to operate the microphones themselves. They operate automatically.
In the event of emergency, an alarm will sound and ushers will direct everyone to the nearest safe exit.
So if we move on, then, to item 2 on the agenda, which is the oral evidence session on the diversity of the Assembly, and can I welcome Professor Sarah Childs from Birkbeck University of London? Sarah, hi. Councillor Mary Sherwood from Swansea council. Good morning, Mary. And Dr bob Watt. If I can welcome all three of you to the meeting, we have a series of questions from members of the committee for you, across the brief on diversity, and if we could move straight to the first set of questions with David Rowlands.
Yes. To you, Mary, if I may, and it's a pretty all-encompassing question, so it will give you an opportunity. How did you reach the agreement you would hold your cabinet position on the basis of job sharing? How did your job sharing arrangements operate on a political, democratic and practical level? What worked well? And of course, then, we are going to ask what could be improved and what challenges you faced. So it gives you a nice little opportunity to open the conversation.
How long do we have? [Laughter.] Okay. But, really, it was the leader of the council's wish that we tried to open up executive positions in Swansea council to a greater range of people, and try and improve the diversity of the cabinet.
So, every year he draws up the cabinet portfolios for Swansea council and invites expressions of interest, and in 2017 with a newly elected administration, he made it clear that he would welcome expressions of interest for either full-time or job-share executive positions, and people did not need to identify their own job-share partners. So, being new and keen, I just said I would take a position on any basis; whatever was considered helpful.
I had resigned my job as an officer in Swansea council in order to stand for election, so I was facing a bit of a salary gap, but I was very fortunate to have a part-time job, which was very flexible, so I could either drop down my hours and take a full-time executive position, or keep my part-time job and do a job-share executive position. So, he offered me a position on a job-share basis with Councillor June Burtonshaw, a very, very experienced councillor who hadn't served in the cabinet in the immediately previous administration, but had done many times before, and he thought that together we'd be a good mixture of heads on a particular portfolio. So, I accepted the role and immediately felt completely overwhelmed at being a brand-new councillor straight into the cabinet.
All the mandatory training was on at set times; there might have been a couple of options about which session you went to, but not really much choice. My very flexible part-time job shrank away, my manager there being very understanding. We basically agreed that I could have a couple of months off, and that I would knock down my 18.5 hours just down to five for a few months. Fortunately, it was a quiet sort of summer period in that job. What actually happened was that I stayed on five hours a week for a year. I could not climb out of the really intense—. It was just very intense. I found it very difficult, really, to see what I should go to as opposed to June, and what June should go to as opposed to me.
I think the ideal would have been—and my experience of job sharing in professional roles before had been—that you have an action plan that is drawn up on a team basis, and you divide out the tasks and the outputs and you know what you're both aiming for. But with a brand-new administration, some of that wasn't quite clear yet, and actually, the time it was taking just to thrash that out was more demanding than I'd been expecting. Ultimately, the only thing that seemed to make sense was to take our list of about 18 portfolio headings and separate them. So June would be responsible for certain areas, and I'd be responsible for certain other areas.
This also eased a problem we were having where officers were just running around in a flap not knowing which one of us to speak to, and also our colleagues, a lot of our colleagues, were very, very anxious, because—. But, I mean, you know, you're all politicians, I'm sure you understand the upset that can occur when someone who feels they were the right person to have been contacted hasn't been contacted.
Everybody is very, very anxious about this happening. I was really surprised to find how anxious everybody was about that, but there's a lot of anxiety about that. Certainly more so in the political sphere than I'd found in a professional sphere, right? And of course, that speaks a lot to how people are used to being seen as a political leader, you know?
What surprises me is that you didn't sit down right at the beginning, and say, 'Look, this is our portfolio—the portfolios', and for each of you to express an interest in which portfolio you would prefer, and perhaps, because she was an experienced councillor, that she would have given a lead to you on that basis and said, 'Look, this is where I operated quite a lot and I prefer to do this,' right at the beginning. The other thing that comes out of this, your part-time work—was that as a public servant?
That was in the third sector.
In the third sector. Yes.
Oh, right. Okay, fine. Because I'm wondering whether it would work in a private, in the private—. Where you said, suddenly, you weren't giving any amount of time, really, to your part-time—. It was all consumed by the other. That couldn't really happen in the private sector as such, because if you're a businessman, you can't say, 'Well, I can't get to that meeting.' You're going to have to go there, whatever it is.
Well, I would say some people can and some people can't. I don't think it necessarily is sector specific; I think it's job specific. I've certainly had friends in the private sector who've been able to agree a long leave of absence for whatever reason, and, equally, people working in health or in small third sector organisations where your job is really vital would not be able to just be let go. So, I think the issue, really, was that for me, I had too much flexibility in the rest of my life, which was able to then kind of suck time, or give time, I should say, to the political role, and because I was new and wanting to be everything and learn everything and get my head around everything, it felt difficult to be boundaried.
But one of the ideas, obviously, of this flexibility is that if you're a mother and you've got three or four children or whatever it is, that this gives you the ability to come in to—. So, yourself, then, did you have those those ties?
Yes, I have two children.
No, no. I have two children who were both in primary school at that time, and that really did dictate my working week. So, on a Wednesday afternoon, I could not be at anything, which goes to show that when I was forced to, I could draw a line and say, 'No, I can't be there', and that was because, regardless of the childcare fee being claimable, there was no childcare facility. Nobody could have my children on a Wednesday afternoon. The thing is, although I'm not in a job-sharing executive position any more, four of my colleagues still are, and they all have other jobs. They are not as flexible with their other jobs as I was, so they're having to be a lot firmer and more boundaried.
I think what was difficult was that, like I say, at the very start of the newly-elected administration, June and I coming in really didn't have much of a measure of how demanding each part of the portfolio was likely to be, of what stage plans were up to, and although—. Really, it took us a while to work out—. For example, some of the subject headings in the portfolio were tied to areas of statutory responsibility or corporate priority, so there were specific partnerships or plans that needed to be looked after, whereas others were more general, thematic and cross-cutting. And it was quite difficult then to weigh up how the workload should be split.
I think, really, the thing to remember is that we were the first—we were the absolute first—and what did come out of that was that there needs to be clarity right at the beginning about the workload, and about how you're going to have balance between you. I think that that's probably easier for people who aren't brand new, having just been elected that minute.
No, it's just that Huw wanted a supplementary on this particular point.
I've been intrigued for a long time about this issue of whether it is easier to apply job share into executive positions or to standing for election. I don't want to pre-empt subsequent questions to do with the Assembly, but in local government, based on your experience and discussing this with colleagues who are now doing it, did you pick the hard one first? The harder one, which is—. We've had some discussion here, saying, 'Well, actually, the executive one is the easier one to sort out.' And I just keep thinking, well, if you've got the arrangements in place, it seems to me there's no reason that standing for election on a joint ticket—it seems to me the easier one. I may have something wrong.
Obviously, my context in local government is very different to the Assembly.
Well, the fact is I'm in a four-member ward, so we had a joint ticket, right?
We already had a joint ticket. There were four of us campaigning as a team, 16 names on the ballot paper, and only two of us made it through from that team. We operate our ward work on what others might observe to be a job-share basis. We copy each other into e-mails, we make joint budgeting decisions, we have regular catch-ups where we agree who's doing what, and my ward colleague has a particular role of being sustainable transport champion, and I had this executive position. So, there were things that we did absolutely distinctly, and still do, and there are things that we agree together.
I guess the difference is that if you're standing for election as a job share, you both get in or you both don't, and it's one choice for the electorate, isn't it, which wasn't the situation that we were in with local government?
David, sorry, before you come to the rest of your questions, can I just take the panel back and ask a couple of general overview questions? I think it was really useful to get Mary's take on the job-share role at that stage, and I'll come back to you to come back for those further questions in a moment. But can I just ask the rest of you in terms of what you think the principles of successful job sharing arrangements actually are in this context?
In this context. Obviously, I'm somebody who supports the principle of job share in the sense that I always want to look at what suite of interventions can make institutions more diverse. And from what I've read about job share in the wider field, it's about collaboration, trust, sharing goals and interests, and being very transparent, both with each other, but also with those to whom you're accountable, which, in an elected environment, would be your constituents, but would also be your parliament, but would also be your party. So, I think it's those kinds of very general principles and ways of working. The idea that you can be a competitive, very ego-, leader-orientated person and would want to do and do successfully a job share I think would be an erroneous claim to make. I think it's an opportunity, if it were to be allowed, for certain kinds of people who work in certain kinds of ways to perhaps participate in institutions that otherwise they wouldn't be able to. So, I think that's the way I think about what would make a good job share. But I'm not an expert on job share and how it works; I'm somebody who tries to identify why it couldn't work in the political sphere, and try to change institutions with, as I said, a suite of interventions.
Nothing to add to Sarah's comments. I'm much more of a techy sort of person. But there are, I think, later on, some more political theory points I'd like to make.
Sure. That's fine. And so I wonder if all of you have any views on the importance of job sharing in the context of seeking to improve diversity, particularly in the National Assembly. How big an issue, or how big a factor, do you think that it could likely be?
Yes, there is something there. I think it's first of all a question for the Assembly: what are you looking for? Because there are various ways of looking at diversity. One could think, for example, that current democratic structures don't adequately represent some of those who are protected by the characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010. But my own view is it goes wider than that, much wider than that. And one presumes—. To be honest, one would like to see a much more diverse group of people taking part in democratic structures. And that means not only looking at the characteristics in the 2010 Act, but looking at occupational groups, looking at all sorts of people who are underrepresented. Now, some polities do that by having an upper house, and one can think in particular of Ireland, where the upper house has a restricted electorate, and elects people from occupational and social groups. And, if you wanted to do that in a unicameral Assembly, it would be that you're trying to look at different ways of achieving equality. Some of those can be achieved, no doubt, within political parties, and within their own selection procedures, but there are good reasons, one might think, in certain communities, for trying to cast your net wider and look for people who are not members of political parties, who may have something to add to the community. And some of those groups of people who have demanding jobs in particular may be able to do something good for the community and be shut out because they have to keep their finger in another pie.
So, specifically, you're talking there about maybe co-opting people into—
Thinking of the structure of democratic bodies, and thinking in particular of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights about the foundation of political power being the consent of the people, I would want to see elected representatives, but being able to draw in a wider band of elected representatives by allowing job share of some sort seems to me to be a good thing.
Yes. And can I ask whether any of you have given any thought to—it kind of touches on the question that Huw Irranca-Davies asked just now—whether increasing the diversity is more likely to happen if we move to job sharing in executive positions, which Mary was involved with, or whether we opened it up on a basis of any Assembly Member could be elected on a job share?
If I could answer that, I think what we have to start with is recognising that there are different groups who face different barriers, and one solution may not be right for everybody. So, job share is often used in the context of women with caring responsibilities, or other carers. And I think you might find that there are some women for whom that would benefit quite significantly, but I don't expect lots and lots and lots of women to be going down that road. So, actually, the global evidence—. If you want more women in Parliament, what you need to do is adopt quotas of some form—the kind of quota that fits your electoral system. And you would have seen the evidence in the experts panel that was given last year. However, when Rosie and I were working on this pamphlet, what became clear to us is that, for some individuals—particularly those with the kind of disability that means you can never work full time—actually, job share may make the difference between being able to participate at all. So, whilst perhaps—I don't mean to make this to sound too negative—I think it will enable some women who couldn't participate to participate, I don't think that's where we're going to get 50:50 from. You've had 50:50, and we know how that happened, in Wales. But, actually, for some people, it will be the difference between ever being able to actually realise that right to participate in politics, and, if that then brings those people into play, I think that's really significant, even if it's only one or two in a Parliament or in every few Parliaments. I think there's a principle there about to what extent are the people able to participate in their political institutions.
So, that was the key consideration, really, of the expert panel, was how many people it might draw in to—.
I think that the reason we advocated quotas is because the global evidence is absolutely clear that quotas make a difference for women. But if you're trying to address other inequalities, for example socioeconomic inequality, it might be about providing extra money to enable people to participate or work part-time if they seek selection for an institution. So, I think it's that sense—. I often talk about a quota-plus policy; we need quotas, because that can bring women into Parliament, but we also have a whole other host of obstacles. And also we need to start thinking about what's wrong with our institutions. So, we try and fix people, but actually lots of this is about—and I'm not speaking necessarily about the Assembly here, but about Westminster—the fact that we still have very late nights and all of those kinds of things. So, I think it's about identifying the barriers that are stopping diverse people from your country being able to participate in the National Assembly. And lots of different interventions can really make a big difference.
May I come back on that?
There was a rather sneering comment made in the Westminster Parliament, during the debates on the McDonnell Bill, which I think was flawed anyway, for other reasons. But there was a rather sneering comment, 'Oh, does this mean that two white male middle-class barristers may—'
And the technical answer to that is 'yes'. But let's replay that in a context that might be more appropriate to Wales, and is certainly not meant to be sneering. Supposing—. One of the things I'm really interested in is eating. And consider that there may be hill farmers who would find it very difficult indeed to spend the whole of their time in the Assembly. Well, would they be able to job share? And that is the kind of thing that I'd be thinking of, because it would enable all sectors of the community—people with caring responsibilities, people with disabilities and people who had a particular occupational difficulty—to participate. And there are technical things that you'd need to do in order to allow that to happen, and I could go on about those for hours, but there we are.
I wouldn't mind your take at this point on what I see as something that isn't talked about a lot. My uncle was a Member of Parliament in the days when salaries were pitiful, and most Members of Parliament actually took an additional job in order to get them through. He was a Ruskin College, trade-union-educated lawyer. He worked as a lawyer in order to fund his work as an MP. Now it's gone to a professional salary. However, when I went to be an MP, and here as an AM, I gave up my previous job as a leisure professional, then as a senior lecturer in tourism and business, in order to come here and do it; I'm totally out of touch. So, I'd like your take on the idea that one of the advantages as I see it of job sharing, if it could be made to work, is that people like me or others—different from the past—could actually retain a live interest in things that they could bring in to the Chamber with them, bring in to their surgeries with them: live experience of different trades, different backgrounds.
I think that's absolutely it, that's the crux of the whole discussion, and whether what we're talking about people bringing in is their current knowledge of a certain profession or work space or understanding of raising disabled children, or whatever life experience they have, it's easier to bring it in when you're not institutionalising politicians by expecting them to cut off the rest of their life. And you really are expected to cut off the rest of your life. And, for me, the question has been and remains—. If I'm going into a job-sharing situation in a professional capacity, I'm going to have some idea of how many hours a week I'm needed to give to that job. Whereas, in politics, nobody tells you that. How many hours a week?
And this idea of full-time equivalency. Full-time equivalency reigns supreme. And, even in my years of part-time working and job sharing in the third sector and the public sector, people tie themselves in knots over what fraction of a full-time equivalent you're meant to be doing and how to calculate your leave entitlement and your bank holidays. I've seen managers with steam coming out of their ears, getting so frustrated by this, and I think, 'Why don't you just say so-and-so works this many hours, so-and-so works this many hours? Why does it have to be a proportion of this full-time ideal?' And I think that the full-time ideal sets a cultural precedent that makes job sharing seem awkward and odd. And I think that, if we're going to embrace job sharing in politics, we have to be clearer and more honest about the workload, how many hours a week are we expecting politicians to deliver, and, if we're job sharing, how is that being split and managed so that people have a life.
And, of course, I suppose that, in a sense, is the issue that we face, in that, as elected politicians, we're office holders; we're not employed, in that sense. So, there are no numbers of hours, are there? And that's—
Well, the remuneration panel calculates my salary based on it being roughly equivalent to three fifths of the median Welsh salary, which presumes that I work three days a week, but it is also presumes what they call a voluntary element, but they don't say how much that is.
Nothing to add—just to say, 'yes'.
I would just say that it's also a means to contest that idea that the professional class has become more elite and more homogenous, and actually would enable people, and I think particularly in the context that, outside of very safe seats, actually it's risky if you have a profession—whether that's hill farming or some other kind of profession—to actually put yourself forward. But if you know that you could maintain your other career—. But that also might encourage people who don't have the financial means to decide to risk it all, and to really invest in that lead-in to getting elected. So, I think it's absolutely the case. And I think, without being partisan, some of the ways in which Rosena Allin-Khan in Tooting talks about her work in accident and emergency reminds people that actually she's still experiencing what it's like to work in a teaching hospital in that kind of environment, and it seems to me that that's very important. And we also do know, in her context, that the public love doctor MPs. So, I think—
So, I think this idea that it opens up is a really good one.
A byddaf i'n siarad yn Gymraeg hefyd, felly—. Cadeirydd, fel esboniad, dwi'n credu bod y cwestiynau roeddwn i i lawr i'w gofyn, maen nhw, yn sylfaenol, wedi cael eu hateb yn yr atebion bendigedig rydym ni wedi eu cael eisoes. Felly, awn ni i ddatblygu'r union syniadau dŷch chi wedi bod yn eu crybwyll, achos dwi'n gredwr cryf mewn rhannu swydd, achos dwi wedi bod yn feddyg teulu yn Abertawe ers 35 mlynedd, ond, am y rhan fwyaf o'r 20 mlynedd diwethaf, ers i mi fod yn Aelod o'r Cynulliad, dwi wedi bod yn gweithio yn rhan amser iawn, iawn—hynny yw, diwrnod yr wythnos fel meddyg teulu, a hynny yn wirfoddol. Hynny yw, roedd yn rhaid aberthu fy ngyrfa feddygol i fod yn Aelod o'r Cynulliad yma, ac mae pobl wastad yn gofyn—.
Achos mas fanna, fel dywedoch chi gynnau, mae pobl eisiau gweld eu gwleidyddion gyda phrofiad real o'r byd real. Hynny yw, maen nhw'n disgwyl i'w gwleidyddion—. Maen nhw'n gweld y gwleidyddion mwyaf aeddfed, gorau i fod wedi cael rhyw fath o broffesiwn neu o leiaf rhyw fath o swydd yn y byd real, a ddim wedi bod yn wleidydd o'r ysgol, dywedwch. Hynny yw, wedi gwneud gradd mewn gwleidyddiaeth, gweithio fel ymchwilydd i Aelod Seneddol neu Aelod o'r Cynulliad, a wedyn sefyll mewn sedd anobeithiol, ac wedyn cael eu dewis mewn sedd sydd yn enilladwy, ac maen nhw yn y sedd yna, sydd yn saff, fel roeddech chi'n crybwyll, am y 40 mlynedd nesaf. Wel, dwi'n aelod o blaid sydd ddim gyda'r sicrwydd yna, yn y lle cyntaf, fel aelod o Plaid Cymru. Felly, mae yna ddewis sydd yn rhaid i chi ei wneud.
A gyda llaw, buasai'n well i mi ddweud wrth basio, dwi wedi bod yn gynghorydd sir Dinas a Sir Abertawe cyn nawr hefyd—roedd hynny yn her—so, dwi'n nabod June yn dda iawn. Yn amlwg, mae Mary yn llawer rhy ifanc i gofio rhai ohonom ni fel cynghorwyr yn Cockett. Yn y bôn, ro'n i dal yn feddyg teulu llawn amser yn y fan yna. Roedd pobl wastad yn dweud bod bod yn gynghorydd sir yn wirfoddol gyfan gwbl. 'Complete voluntary stipend, Dr Dai', they used to tell me. Well, that's great, on top of 100 hours a week fel meddyg teulu. It was some voluntary stipend. Ond, dyna fe.
Hynny yw, mae rhaid i ni ddatrys beth rŷn ni ei eisiau o'n gwleidyddion. Ar yr un ochr, mae'r bobl allan fan yna yn dweud mai'r gwleidyddion gorau ydy'r rheini sydd wedi cael profiad iawn o fyw, gwaith iawn—does dim gwahaniaeth beth yw e, dwi ddim yn sôn am feddygon na dim byd fel yna—rhyw brofiad cyn dod yn wleidydd. Ond wrth gwrs, mae yna gamau sydd yn ein ffordd ni. Mae'n golygu aberth, a dwi ddim yn credu y dylai fe fod yn golygu aberth. Mi fuasai lawer yn haws i rai ohonom ni allu gwerthu'r syniad o fod wleidydd i weddill y teulu os fuaswn ni'n gallu dweud, 'Wel, hanner yr amser dwi'n gweithio, a dwi'n dal yn gallu cael fy nghyflogi fel meddyg neu beth bynnag am yr hanner arall.'
Dylem ni, fel cymdeithas, fod yn ddigon aeddfed i allu trefnu hynny. Dwi'n gwybod fod yna bob math o gwestiynau ynglŷn â ydy hynny'n mynd i helpu amrywiaeth. Dwi'n credu y buasai'n helpu amrywiaeth. Mae fy nghyd-feddygon i, er enghraifft, wastad yn dweud, 'Ie, buaswn i'n licio gwneud hynny, Dai, ond dwi ddim yn mynd i roi meddygaeth i fyny.' Yn fy nhermau i, dwi'n caru meddygaeth, dyna oeddwn i eisiau bod. Ond wrth gwrs, rŷch chi'n cael eich harwain i mewn i'r sefyllfaoedd yma sydd yn eich gyrru chi i ddiogelu'r gwasanaeth iechyd. Mae'n rhaid i rywun ei wneud e. Ond wrth gwrs, mae gwneud hynny'n anodd, anodd iawn o fewn y gyfundrefn bresennol. Dyna pam dwi'n hoffi'r syniad yma o rannu swyddi.
Beth bynnag yw eich sefyllfa bersonol chi, dwi'n credu dylai fod yna fodd, achos allwn ni ddim diwallu'r syniad yma oni bai—. Mae'r cyhoedd eisiau gwleidyddion sydd yn aeddfed ac yn gwybod rhywbeth ac wedi gwneud pethau yn y byd cyn dod yn wleidydd. Wel, fedrwch chi ddim cysoni'r ddadl yna a mynnu cael gwleidyddion llawn amser a dyna'i gyd. Dwi ddim yn gwybod, bob, ydych chi eisiau ymateb yn aeddfed a llawn i hynny? Mae'r llawr i chi.
I will be speaking in Welsh. Chair, I just wanted to explain, I think that the questions I was down to ask have already been answered in the excellent answers we've already received. So, I want to develop the precise ideas that you have been mentioning, because I am a strong believer in job share, because I have been a GP in Swansea for 35 years, but, for most of the past 20 years, since being an Assembly Member, I've had to work part time to a large extent—that is, a day a week as a GP, and that voluntarily. So, I had to sacrifice a medical career to become an Assembly Member, and people always ask—.
As you mentioned earlier, people do want to see politicians who have a real experience of the real world. So, they expect their politicians—. They see the most mature and excellent Members as people who have had some sort of profession or job in the real world, and not been politicians since they left school, as it were. That is, to study politics, work as a researcher for a Member of Parliament or an Assembly Member, and then to stand in a hopeless seat, and then to be selected for a winnable seat, and then they're in that safe seat, as you talked about, for the next 40 years. Well, I'm a member of a party that doesn't have that assurance, as a member of Plaid Cymru, to start with. So, there is a choice that you have to make.
And I should say, in passing, that I have been a councillor in the City and County of Swansea before now—and that was a challenge—so, I know June very well. Obviously, Mary is much too young to remember those of us who used to be councillors in Cockett in the past. But essentially, back then, I was also a full-time GP. People said that being a county councillor was entirely voluntary. 'Complete voluntary stipend, Dr Dai', they used to tell me. Well, that's great, on top of 100 hours a week as a GP. It was some voluntary stipend. But, there we go.
But we need to solve what we want from our politicians, essentially. On the one hand, people out there are saying the best politicians are those who've had real experience of real life, of real work—it doesn't matter what it is, I'm not necessarily talking about GPs—some experience before they became a politician. But of course, there are barriers in our way. It involves a sacrifice, and I don't believe it should involve a sacrifice. It would be much easier for some of us to sell this idea of being a politician to the rest of our family if we could say, 'Well, I'll be working half the time, and I can still be employed as a doctor or so forth for the other half of my time.'
We as a society should be mature enough to be able to sort that out. I know there are all kinds of questions as to whether that will assist diversity. I believe it would. My fellow-doctors always tell me, 'I'd like to do that, Dai, but I'm not going to give up my medical career.' Now, for me, I do love medicine, and that's what I wanted to be. But then you're led into these situations where you are driven to safeguard the NHS. Somebody has to do it. But doing that is extremely difficult within the current system. That's why I like this idea of job share.
Whatever your personal situation may be, I believe that it should be possible, because we cannot meet this idea we have—. People out there want politicians who are mature, who have experienced things in the world before becoming a politician. Well, you can't resolve that argument whilst insisting that you have full-time politicians and that's all that they are. I don't know, bob, do you want to give a full and mature response to that? I yield the floor to you.
Yes. The problem seems to me to come from a very peculiar root, and that is the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998, which is now part of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. There's a little section lurking away in there, section 22, which requires candidates to be endorsed by their political party, and it's very difficult, unless you're standing as a pure independent, to put any sort of description of what you are on your ballot paper. It seems to me that that is a very retrograde step, because in some sense—this is quite deliberate, no doubt—it allows political parties to exercise a very great deal of power over their candidates. So, it makes whipping very much easier later on, but it also stops people—.
My hill farmer, for example. If I lived in that kind of community, I might not care quite so much as to what that person's politics were, but I'd be very much more interested in what they knew about the people whose lives were around me. If I saw two hill farmers on there, I might vote for them, even though I wasn't quite so keen on their politics. Obviously, I do have political views, but they are neither here nor there.
I think the Assembly would do well, with respect, to look at the political party registration provisions of PPERA, and in particular around section 22, to see if something could be done there. In order that, when you stand for election, you could not only put your party symbol, but you could put 'local GP', and that might interest people.
Chair, may I?
I think, certainly during the 2017 election campaigns, I was very much aware of everybody putting in their literature and in their online campaign speeches and videos information about who they were, what their experience was, what jobs they held. I must add that, actually, one of the current job sharers in Swansea council is a dairy farmer, and he has said that his farming work is too demanding to take on a full-time executive position. So, I think that, actually, if we knew that the electorate was paying attention to the campaign literature and reading about the candidates before they turn up at the ballot box—the third of them that do—then we wouldn't have this anxiety about putting on the ballot paper more information about the individual.
I am currently joint chair of the WLGA's working group on diversity in democracy, and the most significant issue that we've identified—well, perhaps it's not the most significant, but it was one of the first that came to the forefront that we really wanted to talk about and tackle—is the fact that people do not know what political roles involve and they do not participate in democracy. That is such a huge barrier to diversity, because you get a certain type of person who is interested and knows the system, or is prepared to navigate the system and find out about it, and that's how you end up with such limited voices around the table. So, you've got to try to make the role more—. We've got to try to help people to understand more about what's going on in the political world and to see what voice they actually have within it. Then that's a route to them thinking, 'Well, could I do that job? Maybe I could do that job.'
Political education, really, has got to be up there, particularly with the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Bill. I would say, if the vote is being offered to 16-year-olds, it's all the more important that we try to make sure that they're aware and on board. Having said that, has anyone been doing that with 18-year-olds or 25-year-olds? With all respect for the emerging new curriculum in the school system, I think that Wales is in a position to be able to be much more specific and prescriptive than is currently the case about political education. In the 2015 Assembly election—2015 or 2016? Forgive me.
Thank you—the 2016 Assembly election. I found myself sitting at my desk in an office in Swansea council, as an officer, talking to my colleagues and showing them stuff online about the system that we have in Wales, and how you vote for your constituency, then there's a regional list, and this is how it's worked out, and this is the proportionality—and people were fascinated. Really surprising people said to me, 'I've got to admit, I've never voted in an Assembly election, because I don't understand it and I'm afraid of doing it wrong.'
No. I was not of sufficient rank to ever speak to the chief executive in those days. But, it was surprising. Also, constantly, people were saying, 'Don't vote for the same party. Don't vote for Labour for the constituency and for the region', and all this discussion going on, 'Why? Why? Why?' People don't understand how the proportionality works. I just think that, if we're serious about democratic representation and involvement, this should just be taught in schools. My 12-year-old should be able to have a conversation about how that ballot paper looks and how to use it.
So, it's really a suite of measures we're talking about, of which job sharing is one.
I think the only point I would add to that is that we sometimes assume that politics is a career that one does for 30 years; that you get in and you stay there. Actually, we should also be thinking about the fact that job share enables people to, perhaps, start in certain circumstances, maybe work later on full-time, but then maybe also take some time out to care for elderly parents. So, I think it's that idea of actually shaking up the idea that the good politician isn't just somebody who comes in at 30 and retires at 70 or carries on, but actually that we can think about the idea that some people might just come in for 10 years. I think we should revalue diversity within how you do the job as well. I think job share is one way of also enabling people to think, 'Actually, in my 50s I'm going to do this, or in my 40s I'll do this, but it's not something that I'm going to become, as an identity, as a full-time politician.'
Of course, many just come in for five years, don't they? [Laughter.]
I think what's coming out of this conversation is that job sharing works in many spheres, but the political sphere is rather a unique one, isn't it? For instance, being a Member of a small party, I find that my job here is pretty holistic, I have to get involved in a whole area. I've been on several different committees; you're on one committee and then you're taken off. I think there'd be very great challenges in making that work on a part-time basis, I have to say. I really can't see that it could work well in those circumstances.
Just coming to some of my questions here, how does it happen with campaigning for election? You say people are confused about the voting system at the moment; this introduces another confusion, as far as I'm concerned, to that. Your memberships on committees and things, although it happens that we have people who are on a committee for just a short period of time and then go on to another committee and things like that, it's not the best way, because you're not building up an expertise on a particular committee or in a particular sphere if you have these changes from committee to committee and if you're job sharing on a committee.
Some of our scrutiny, as it is with this committee—Dai's now having to catch up with that book full of what went before, basically. When you're on a committee for maybe three years or something like that, doing quite in-depth investigations with a committee, then it's very difficult to job share in that situation. Mary, you might be able to enlighten us a bit on that.
Being a member of a committee and giving time to that committee is one slice of your overall role. What June and I would have done—. In Swansea, we have committees, but the executive don't sit on them. So, if we were putting ourselves in an imaginary scenario where job-sharing members did attend committees, we would divide them. So, I would go on this committee and she would go on that committee. It's not—
Yes, but you see that would mean that somebody would have to be in on a particular day every week for a committee.
Yes, that's right.
It might not work that well, you see. Following on, just very quickly, with the other questions, obviously it's very important, and you alluded to this, Mary, the fact that, suddenly, a 50:50 job becomes a full-time job for two people. So, each person gets so involved in that, it doesn't work out as a 50:50 job.
I think there's a lot to be done in terms of helping job sharers draw their boundaries and be boundaried and to be clear. Committees: I came off the executive because I prefer to chair a committee, which I'm now doing. Finding a mutually convenient time slot is a nightmare, because everybody has all of their different commitments. They are all part-time councillors, none of them are executive members, so these things have to be sorted out.
I think, really, crucially, the way I feel about job sharing in politics is the same way that I felt about part-time working in more professional contexts that were, as I've mentioned already, typified by this 37-hour week. If you don't fit that mould, you're seen as odd, and you're holding all of this awkwardness. So, I was having to manually do my adjustments for the time clock every week to rectify problems with the fact that I was part time, instead of the organisation corporately saying, 'We welcome part-time working, we don't want anybody to feel like they're a misfit, and we're going to re-jig the clock so that you don't have to do this.' Actually, as austerity started to bite and Swansea council put out a policy of actively encouraging people to think about reducing their hours, the number of people who said, 'Oh, it's just such a nightmare working out the annual leave, I'm just going to stay full-time.' It shouldn't be like that.
So, the initial training sessions that we had when we were first elected, everybody has to go to them, and you've only got two choices about when they are, and if they both clash with your other job or with your childcare commitments, you don't go. Well, why aren't they just recorded? Why aren't they recorded and played on a loop in a room all week for whoever wants to go and watch them whenever they want? There are more creative and flexible ways of working. Actually, I've worked in organisations that did not have any full-time staff because you're on grant funding, and it's all very squeezed, and you just completely got away from that full-time equivalency barrier that was containing everybody. Everybody just did what they did, and everybody had to acknowledge, 'Well, so and so's not going to be in on that day, and so and so's not going to be in on that day', and you have to make things work between you in a more collaborative way and as more of a team.
Like Sarah said, she's not an expert in job sharing, I'm not an expert in job sharing. There are people out there who are experts in job sharing. There are people out there who, I am sure, could do more of a practical feasibility study of how you would arrange your timetables and such to be more open to different working patterns. When it came up for discussion in Parliament in 2017, I did see a little news clip of an MP, who I'll keep nameless, saying, 'Oh no, I don't think job sharing MP roles would be a good idea. What if a debate had been scheduled for an area that was my interest, so I had come in, and my job-share partner was not there, but then they changed it, and she was needed and she wasn't there and I was? Oh, it would be a nightmare.' And I was looking at the telly and going, 'Well, they'd have to not change it.' They'd have to not change it. They'd have to change that working culture that presumes that everybody's endlessly available all of the time, to acknowledge that they're making the process available to people who—
But what you're saying there is that for a few number of job shares the whole institution has to change.
You could make that same argument about anything we're discussing to do with diversity, apart from with regard to women.
There is a case for business being more scheduled. There is a huge debate, for example, in Westminster about a House business committee and greater timetabling. So I think that's a slightly different issue. Could I be a bit provocative and suggest that, actually, I think it's easier for parliamentarians to job share in some ways? There is no job description, there is no 37.5 hours a week. It's up to you as the MP whether you go to a particular debate, whether you ask a question, whether you decide to serve on a committee. Your constituents will ultimately hold you to account if they don't think you're doing what they think you should be doing, but actually the whole reason we don't have a job description is because MPs push back and say, 'We have the way. It's up to us to decide how well we do this job.' The implication, therefore, is anybody putting themselves forward as a team, a job-sharing team, would present to their constituents the way they would work, and then it would be up to their party and their constituents to decide whether that was the right place and way to go.
I'd also just like to suggest that it might be worth the committee reading some of the evidence that's been submitted to the Procedure Committee on proxy voting, which actually also gives some really nice insight into how MPs who've been given a proxy vote are voting for those who are currently on parental leave, baby leave, and it actually shows how it can be done, how it can be communicated. So we've got a little bit of evidence of something that might be analogous to job share that actually shows that people who are using the proxy are managing to do it, because there was lots of concern that this would be a problem. 'How would we know how the MP who was on baby leave would want me to vote in these circumstances?' I think there's some really nice evidence from MPs who've used proxies at the Procedure Committee inquiry that it might be worth you looking at to think about how that might speak to the question of job share. But I do think it's possible to think that it might be easier because those questions around job description are more flexible itself.
Huw, you've got a quick supplementary on this, and I'm conscious that we need to move on because, David, you've still got a couple of points that you wanted to raise, but, Huw, if you want to—
It's one supplementary, actually sort of going along the theme of what David was saying. One of the things I can't quite get my head around is that because of this—. I actually agree that we should be normalising what we do in a sense, in order that it can appeal to people outside. However, when I then go back after my Monday to Friday and I get called to a public meeting on a Saturday to do with the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, or I get called to a meeting to do with buses in Maesteg park on a Sunday morning, or we're in election year when I do 150 per cent of what I normally do, you ramp it up; you're everywhere. How does that work with job share, when you can absolutely look at the timetable, look at the schedule, look at what you should be doing, and then there's the other stuff?
I have a very flippant answer, if you're prepared to hear it.
If you are job sharing, it's one weekend, one week on, one week on, one weekend off. So, there's two of you, 'This is my weekend to stay at home to look after my children or to look after my dog, or do whatever I'm doing.' You don't campaign that weekend. And you just have to have that trust that your colleague will take the invitation that is demanded of you at 9 a.m, and that's where the collaboration and trust between the two job share might be.
And you don't have any fears—I can see that's logical; it's not flippant, it's logical—that, actually, both job sharers in a partnership in an election year, when they both need to be in front of that group, when they both want to get their face seen, they both go, they both work the extra.
I think we would have to trust the professionalism of the job-share candidates at that point in an election year. Until it's trialled or put into place, there is always going to be that possibility. But I think that's where that notion of preparing—and this comes out very much in the Fawcett Society pamphlet—that the people who are putting themselves forward would put a contract with their constituents out there for public, and then you would get the media saying, 'Hang on a minute, you're not doing what you said you would do.' Yes, I can't give you any guarantees and I wouldn't pretend otherwise, but I think there's a cultural norm that one would try to inculcate and try to protect through some kind of quite formal contract.
Ar yr un pwynt, yn sylfaenol mae pobl wastad wedi dadlau, dywedwch ym myd meddygaeth pan roedd meddygon teulu bron i gyd yn ddynion nôl yn y dydd ac roedd pawb yn gweithio yr holl oriau, a pobl yn trio dadlau, 'Beth am rannu swydd i hybu mwy o fenywod i fod yn feddygon teulu?', a'r un un ddadl: sut buasai hynny yn gweithio efo'ch meddyg chi, ac nawr mae'n ddwy? Mae wedi gweithio'n fendigedig, i'r fath raddau bod y rhan fwyaf o feddygon teulu nawr yn fenywod, ac hefyd yn rhannu swyddi. Dyna beth sydd wedi digwydd. Realiti'r peth ydy—. I drosglwyddo hynny i'r byd gwleidyddol, rydych chi'n sefyll felly fel tîm, ac mae hynny'n golygu nabod eich gilydd yn dda a cytuno ymlaen llaw pwy sy'n mynd i'r cyfarfod yma, pwy sy'n aros gartref. Rydych chi'n mynd i gael eich ethol fel tîm. Mae hynny'n sefyllfa ychydig bach yn wahanol efallai i sefyllfa Mary ond, yn y bôn, dyna lle mae'r rhannu swydd yn mynd i ddechrau—cael eich ethol fel tîm, ac mae'r cytuno personol yn rhan o hynny.
This is on the same point. Now, fundamentally, people have always argued, for example, in the field of medicine when GPs were nearly all men back in the day and people were working all these hours, and it was argued, 'What about job sharing to encourage more women to become GPs?', and the same argument raged: how would that work with your own doctor, and then it became two? But now it's worked so well that the majority of GPs are now women and are also job sharing. That's what's happened. The reality is—. To transfer that to the political sphere, you stand as a team, and that means knowing each other well and also agreeing beforehand who is going to attend such and such a meeting, who is going to stay at home. You're going to be elected as a team, which is a slightly different situation to Mary's but, essentially, that's where the job sharing will begin—when you're elected as a team and then that personal agreement is involved.
Okay. David, you've got a couple of other points you wanted to cover, very quickly, if you can, please.
Very quickly. Some of the other consequences, obviously, as Assembly Members we're employers as well. Do you have any comments on what the consequences of job sharing for Members as employers may be and, bob, are you aware of any legal implications for job sharing by Members?
I'm not aware of any legal implications because, before I became a lawyer, I had a completely different career, and I was also involved in politics through my links with the trade union movement. So, I was a minority group councillor. And the corporate employment—. The district council were employed corporately, and whilst I sat on the personnel committee, I was just one voice amongst many, mostly with whom I did not agree. We took employment decisions in a corporate way. So, I don't really think there's very much of a problem there. And my other area of law is as an employment lawyer, but, obviously, you would need to ask your legal advisers about that; I see no immediate problem.
Okay. And lastly, what do you think should happen if a job-sharing Assembly Member resigns, dies or leaves their party? Are there any issues of fairness or justice that might need to be considered?
I would go back to a point that you made in your historical contribution to the pamphlet, which is, effectively, people rise and fall together. Unfortunate as it might be if you have a job-share partner who collapses and dies on you, then one has to either seek another job-share partner and reconstitute yourself—. But the idea that if somebody offends against, say, standards in public life, you are judged together, yes, that is unfortunate, but you go into that relationship knowing that. I think we can't start disaggregating the team. You rise and fall together and you make that distinction between tenants in common—
So that could call into question a by-election then, for that particular outcome.
It might do.
But obviously, with the list situation, there's no by-election as such involved, is there? So there's a complication.
The other possibility around that would then, in a list system, to use the principle of substitutes and have substitutes. So there might well be additional mechanisms appropriate to different electoral systems that you could use. But I think this idea—
I think these things can be dealt with at a very technical level. For example, you're all aware, I guess, of the Basingstoke Green Party case, well that is actually just a very small point of statutory interpretation and there is no point of principle in there. I think that your points are covered by some very technical drafting. One might think that, if somebody died, if one of the partners died, that there was a transition period and that you wouldn't say, 'Well, you've lost your seat this minute', that they hold their seat for a small number of months in order to see if something could be sorted out and you have a statutory provision allowing something to be sorted out. Whether that is a substitution system or a vote again system is really a matter for you to decide, within the context that consent of the people is the foundation of Government. So that's something that you might want to think about at a very techy level.
If somebody breached the standards of public life, clearly that would be quite different and then both should, in my view, be removed, because it would be so difficult to disentangle as to exactly what was going on: was there knowledge of this and, if there was knowledge of the wrongdoing, it is equally wrong not to bring that to the Assembly's attention.
And I suppose the report does suggest that, in those circumstances, a by-election, if the standards have been transgressed, that's exactly what we'd do.
I guess that would almost certainly have to be the case if one leaves a political party, because—.
Yes. So, you could cross the floor together, if you like, without necessarily—
That's right, then the job share has broken down and there would need to be a mechanism in place.
The provisions of the former South African Government, the post-apartheid Government, the early South African Government, had clear floor-crossing provisions, and those are worth looking at.
But I think the idea of not acting unilaterally would be the guiding working principle that would then, hopefully, help answer many of those technical questions.
Okay. That's helpful. We're going to have a series of questions now about arguments against job sharing. I don't know whether they're going to be advocated by Huw Irranca-Davies, but he's going to probe some of these—.
They are, because I'm a supporter, if we can overcome the obstacles, of job sharing, but as such I want to actually genuinely go in hard at some of the obstacles, and one of those is something you've just touched on, which is the issue of democratic accountability—one voice, elected for people and you know where their opinion stands, and all of that. So, how do you overcome the problems of either two individuals who job share who might split at some point—split in opinions, not just split on a vote, but on a policy position or on something else. How do you overcome that issue? Because you all stand on manifestos and hopefully you're all signed up to your own individual manifesto or your party manifesto, but things happen. So, democratic accountability: 'I don't know who I'm voting for if there are two of them.'
Okay. [Laughter.] This is where, if you're in a party, your party's probably going to urge you to take a line on a policy or a decision. So, actually, the amount of leeway that you would have as individuals is probably quite limited anyway, and that's why some people like that party emblem on the ballot paper, because they've read their manifesto, and they know what that means; they know what that person is saying that they stand for. So it is an interesting question—how much individual determination any of us who are in parties actually ever have. I think this is where. if we're moving to a situation where we're saying we want politics to be more collaborative, more collegiate, more co-operative, right, then these issues are going to come up.
There's already a proportional system for the Assembly, which proposes having to work in cross-party partnerships—more so than in first-past-the-post. With the local government Bill, we're inviting local councils to have these systems. And we look around the developed world, and we see that, where proportional systems are in place, you have to have more collaboration, you have to have more discussion—
Absolutely. But let's go down to some of the practical things. You've got two Assembly Members elected on a job share—from Neath Port Talbot, let's say. And within Neath Port Talbot, there's a proposal to reconfigure the sixth forms; I can say this because Neath Port Talbot don't have sixth forms. But they've got sixth forms, right, in this imaginary world, and one of those job-share Assembly Members lives in the east, one lives in the west. In the west, the proposals will get rid of the sixth forms in the west; in the east, they're okay. They split on this. How do they reconcile that, both for themselves, but also in the eyes of the voters? What's the practical way forward, do you suggest? Sorry, Sarah.
I think that, if they really, really, really can't reach a compromise, they would probably need to abstain on the vote, or they would have to toss a coin, and stick with it. Because, actually, you've gone into this role having made a commitment to each other, right, that you're not going to fragment stuff. And the plurality of party politics means that we are actually used to this situation—even without job sharing. I would never be openly at odds with my ward colleague, and where we may disagree with things, we have to present that united front, and we have to be careful about how we do that. So I would just say, Huw, I think we're already navigating those territories, just not as job-sharing individual positions.
It goes back to this idea of the contract with the people who you're expecting to vote that you would have a commitment to abstain in a situation where you both disagree, if that's how you want to do it, or you come up with some other kind of procedure. I think you need procedural clarity: 'What will we do if something comes up over which we disagree? We will act in this kind of way'. Again, it depends on the institution—you can either abstain by not voting. Again, we don't ever know that MPs or Members, are going to vote—they have that right not to. If we had a formalised abstentions system in Parliament, which we don't at Westminster, that might be another way to signal a vote.
I think as well, sometimes, the example gets exaggerated, because MPs are often in two minds, and don't always know, and may think X at point T+5, and had a very different view at T. And our MPs are trustees not delegates, so that idea of representation has a huge sway in the popular consciousness, so very rarely are MPs really held to account for any one single vote. Now, of course we can think of examples, like Iraq, or tuition fees, where that does come into play. But I think some of this goes back to your idea about political education—people do understand that we have representatives and not delegates, and it's kind of okay for Kate Hoey to vote Brexit in Vauxhall, despite it being a 'remain' constituency, and vice versa. And if people feel strongly enough that you have offended them over sixth forms, you will lose. And that's good politics, perhaps, but I don't think it's about job share, per se.
If I may put words into the Member's mouth, there does seem—I can understand your concern, because there are issues of conscience for me. A policy on euthanasia, for example—some people may have personal issues of conscience on that. And perhaps a provision allowing abstention on personal issues of conscience, or a recording of somebody's view, if it was clear that the Assembly had the power to do so. If it had the power to bring forward a euthanasia Bill and somebody had a personal objection, and could not have their name put to that, if there was a way of recording, even within the job share, their personal objection, so they wouldn't have to suffer what they would see as a moral taint of having allowed this.
I think I would suggest, though, that it would be very rare for someone to job share on something so clear cut like euthanasia or abortion. It would be more likely to be something like deploying troops somewhere. I think those really moral things—. I would not—. I mean, I wonder with the GP, if you're a terribly interventionist kind of surgeon, you're not really going to job share with someone who is is little bit less—or very much less interventionist.
One might look, if I may answer my colleague—[Laughter.] One might look at Rebecca Long-Bailey and her view on abortion on this one.
But I think that would stop a lot of people. I would suggest—I have no evidence; this is purely anecdotal, but I would have thought those people for whom abortion is a red line of their politics would not job share with somebody who believes in a different position.
So, the essence of this, actually, is slightly different, Mary, from your experience, where you came into cabinet, and you wanted to have that experience of cabinet, and, essentially, two of you, broadly, were melded together. The difference in standing for election as a job-sharing Assembly Member would be that you'd have to have a pretty damn good understanding of where, on key issues, your philosophy was together, in order that you could also, then, overcome differences that will come up from time to time, but, broadly, on key issues, you sort of knew each other. Now, I can identify people who I know I could say 'Yes, I could work with them; I can't work with them, everybody knows it.'
But, if I may, on issues like an issue of conscience, one could well agree with somebody on 99.9 per cent of issues, but because of a particular philosophical or religious commitment, one could say, 'No, I will agree that we will do all those things, but that one issue I cannot—'.
Okay. So, in which case, bob, we're on to a positive abstain here in the Assembly, where they can put out a public statement, they push the button and explain why they've done a positive abstain. But constituents—I'm pushing this hard for obvious reasons—constituents will say 'They let us down. I wanted a clear voice expressed, one way or the other. That positive abstain does nothing for me; I voted for them to take a point of view and stand.'
But you don't always get that on conscience issues, do you, because MPs will abstain, particularly in constituencies where the opinion is very divided. If you don't have take a stand, why would you?
And even in the UK Parliament, they'll walk through both lobbies in order to deliver an abstention de facto.
Yes. Or find a trip abroad. [Laughter.]
Plus there's more work to be done on the delegate versus public representative—.
Can I turn to the issue of cost then, because I know we're up against time here? People will say that it's just too simplistic to say that this is not going to lead to any cost—you're just splitting the role and you're splitting the costs. Even if it's down to things like travel and allowances, and attendance at different committees, there's going to be an increase somewhere.
There probably would be, but I would suggest that we make additional costs for other diverse groups to bring those in. So, historically, in Westminster, at least for a period of time, there was a disability allowance to try and encourage and support people. So, for example—. And those costs are not disaggregated, so we don't know how expensive—I've forgotten her name, I'm sorry—Anne Begg; we don't know how much she cost the British Parliament, but we know that she would have cost quite a lot. But we don't disaggregate those costs.
No, absolutely. I'm not arguing for that.
No, no. Anne Begg was a fine parliamentarian and it shouldn't have been a factor at all.
Absolutely. And we also incur higher costs for people who have children, because we pay for additional accommodation space and travelling, and all of those kinds of things. So, I think, for me, it is about if we want a diverse institution, and I think we should, then there will be some additional costs. But I don't think, (a), the numbers of job share will be enormous necessarily, and, (b), the additional costs will be perhaps so huge that they would not be a price worth paying for a better democracy. And I know that that sounds very glib, but it seems to me that the principle is more important at this point than the cost.
And should we have any fear over manipulation of job sharing by the whips and the power of patronage; that you could actually have the party machine say, 'Well, actually, in order to get our favoured candidate a foot in the door, we're going to insist on this particular one here; that's going to be a job sharing one. We're going to enforce job sharing'? It's the complete flip of what you're saying about people coming together to say, 'We want to do a different way of working', than actually if the party says, 'We're going to have job sharing here.'
Well, what you have currently is people who would like to enter politics and can't, because they face many barriers, being told by parties and, indeed, the entire system that they can't. So, there are always going to be glitches and negatives, and the forces of darkness are always going to find those and use them to their advantage. That doesn't mean that we should block off those opportunities.
On costs, I would say that there are things to do with admin; it's having separate phones, separate e-mails, it's the admin support, two lots of printing, it's expanding the number of individuals who have to be maintained by the system. But I absolutely echo what Sarah has said about the importance of diversity and the cost we're paying.
There are no examples to be found of job sharing in any legislature. Why do you think that might be the case?
I think it's a historic legacy of elite men dominating our institutions and are not thinking about the fact that it even matters who sits in our Parliaments. So many of the world's parliaments, for example, don't have any provisions for maternity leave, and it's because, historically, women weren't there having babies. It's only when we think about these or when institutions are faced with these issues that they rectify them.
The Speaker of the House of Commons last week suggested that he would not tell a woman that it would be inappropriate to breast feed. This is great reform—it's happened in Australia—but often, it's because these practices are legacies and hangovers from previous periods. And, in fact, in lots of ways historically, Parliament would have been full of job shares, because it sat in the evenings precisely because men were doing their business during the day.
But countries such as Sweden have not even contemplated this, and they're a very forward-looking country in many, many ways, and yet they've not contemplated this. So, why is that?
Maybe you'd have to ask them that—[Laughter.]
Well, it begs the question that all these legislatures must have looked at it, in some way, and feel that it doesn't work.
I don't think that's true; I don't think they have looked at it. I don't mean in the case that you're suggesting. But I think, broadly, institutions haven't looked at this kind of solution. I think we also need to be a bit careful of saying 'Well, okay, an institution's got maybe 40 or 50 per cent women, it must have solved all of the problems.' For a long time, the British Parliament had a motherhood gap, so the kind of women who go into politics might not be representative of the women outside. And on disability, we've got such a long way to go. Carers—do we have a carers gap? We don't actually know some of these diversity—. It's much easier to count bodies. People often will count ethnicity, often very crudely. Disability—lots of people pass, but then lots of people are absent. And I just think it's more to do with institutions not having to face these questions than it is—.
But even in institutions that are 50:50 women, if all of those women are elite, able-bodied non-mothers then something like job share could diversify those. We know that there are enough women who already fit the candidate profile to go into Parliament, but what about all the others who don't currently think of themselves as being able to participate? I think that's a slightly different question. Just counting bodies doesn't always tell us how lacking in diversity an institution can be.
Yes, absolutely. Comprehensive answers, Chair. Absolutely floored by the excellence of the answers.
Okay. So, I'd just like to finish with a couple of questions then, if I might, and a fact—. I'm pretty sure we did explore this now with you earlier on, Sarah, about whether colleagues have participated in executive job sharing; whether you experienced any criticism from the public around that, because yours was an executive role. Was that something that was widely known within the area? Or, do you think you just got on with your job and people didn't notice?
We were in a really interesting bind with that, because it was technically illegal—[Laughter.]—so, I remember the leader being quite cautious about not wanting to shout too much about it, because we weren't really meant to be doing it, and it was all quite convoluted. But, no—.
Thank you. But the fact is that most people don't really notice, recognise or care who's on the cabinet of their local council and under what arrangements and why. And that's again another symptom of—[Inaudible.]—lack of understanding and lack of engagement. But no, it was never an issue, and I think everyone always just presented it as a very positive thing. June did her things and I did my things, and we did some things together. We were always very, very careful to state that it was a job share, to state that we were joint cabinet members.
To some extent, there's a bit of tiptoeing around a bit of egg shells because of the situation I mentioned earlier, where people are used to being acknowledged. And we still have that, even just in the WLGA. We have a number of spokesperson roles, and my colleague Susan Elsmore, who's a councillor here in Cardiff—she and I were discussing a role that we both wanted. Who's going to be spokesperson? Who's going to be deputy? Who's going to be deputy? And then we decided, 'Let's not do deputy; let's just do joint', and we're both equal. She focuses on migration and asylum, I focus on areas of low income and deprivation, and we come together on the general equality discussion, like we're having today, and everybody's perfectly comfortable with that. It's not an issue.
That doesn't mean that, if people wanted to be oppositional about it, they could whip it up, they could make it seem negative—and I've had that about my childcare claims, for sure. And you just have to be really, really firm and say, 'Yes, I claim back my childcare costs so that Swansea council benefits from having the voice of a working mother in the room.' And I think that works better for everyone, so I have absolutely no embarrassment about claiming my childcare costs. And we should be able to make the same statement about job sharing.
Okay. Just one final question from me: there have been a number of opinion polls that have been commissioned around this issue of job sharing in political posts, and it varies—the responses we get vary—and it seems to vary depending on what people are actually asked and how much information they're given. But what are your thoughts on public opinion around this?
Well, the public opinion reported in the Fawcett Society report is that it's kind of agnostic, that there's a big chunk against and a big chunk in favour and lots of 'don't knows', and I think that speaks to a lack of information and discussion, and, where you provide a reason for why you might be doing this, then support seems to increase, that it's more supported amongst younger people and women, and when we've surveyed parliamentary candidates—this is quite dated now, parliamentary candidates back in 2015—it's women in all of the political parties and Green men who are in favour, and men in all of the political parties, apart from the Green Party, who are less supportive of it. So, I think it speaks to this idea of the need to—if you were to introduce this—have a public campaign about why this matters and why it’s a good thing. I think to introduce it and try and hide it—bring it in surreptitiously—would be the wrong way to go. I think it would be something about developing, maybe, Wales's legacy on equalities, which it obviously had from the moment the Assembly started, and this is the next stage. And I think it would be about making sure that people understood why this was being done, and that it was worth it.
Okay. [Interruption.] Sorry, just a second. Mary, did you want to say something on this, because—?
I've got a quote from the Fawcett paper, which is:
'When reasons for allowing job-shares were also given to the survey respondents—for example, to allow more women or disabled people to stand—support rose from 37 percent with no explanation, to between 42-48 percent'
Just a brief point: I think the main issue is that we're still, in the UK, wedded to a particular political culture, which is—and it applies to the proportional representation debate as well, where it's, 'Your elected representative is one man; one man, one constituency. So, everyone knows where they are, you've got strong leadership, even though hardly anybody—no MP or AM has got 100 per cent backing'. But we like the strength of that, and we're very ill-thought-out about any more than one Member—like regional Assembly Members, and I posit an interest—because it seems to dilute the nature of strong politics. So, that feeds into the PR debate, why we shouldn't have PR, and also into this debate, why we shouldn't have job sharing. Just a point.
Just a point that's actually brought out in our papers about you have a job-sharing partnership, and then one partner really doesn't work. He doesn't work anywhere near as hard as the other. Now, I know this from my own personal business arrangement. I knew someone for many years—a good work ethic, everything seemed really well. We went into a project together and his work ethic collapsed. Now, I could make a financial arrangement to get out of that. You can't do that as political representatives, and, of course, the knock-on effect of that is the one hard-working partner gets tarred with the same brush, if you want, at the next election, which is clearly unfair. How do you think you might get over that?
We suffer this now. Again, in local councils, we already suffer this. In multi-member wards, you will get people who are not pulling their weight and you will get people who attract such criticism from the electorate that the rest of you suffer next time around. In my own ward, historically, this has been seen.
I'm sure. Yes, exactly. We all know this. So, in a job share, I think the thing that's different is that you're so intertwined that, actually, people who would swing the lead a bit and not pull their weight have got—they're accountable to the individual who they've made a personal arrangement with. That's got to be more motivating, I think. It's not going to say it's never going to happen. We can't say that bad things are never going to happen that are associated with job sharing, but we're already seeing pretty bad things happening because of the lack of diversity in politics. We're seeing policy making—. The most consumers of public services are those on low incomes and with disabilities, and yet they're not the ones around the table saying how things should be run. It's left to middle-class advocates with a sense of noblesse oblige to speak on their behalf, and this needs to change. I would love to imagine a parallel universe where job sharing is the norm, and we're talking about moving to a simpler, more direct, clear system of individual responsibility and accountability—and let's talk about how bad that could be, because, actually, that's where we are with politics now.
Yes, definitely. As one of those former working-class, now middle-class, people with—I don't about noblesse oblige; I hold to my constant values. But your point is absolutely right, and I'm always aware of the fact that we have voices that are missing, and we only see them in surgeries and advice clinics or when we're out meeting groups, so your point is right. But can I ask, before we get to final questions and so on—maybe you could let us know subsequently—who are the experts, the informed people that it would be worth us as a committee—who would argue for the difficulty of this, for the obstacles to this, that we ought to be looking at as well? Because I'm worried that we've had a really good session, but we're scratching at the surface of some of these things, so I think it would be worth the committee—if you could flag with us anybody you think would be worth looking at, including those who would say, 'Actually, on balance, this is too difficult to do,' or, 'On a philosophical basis, don't do it.'
But my main question is this: based on the fact that we will not be doing this for the Assembly elections 2021—so, actually, we're looking towards 2026—it does still seem to me there's a hell of a lot to work through. Now, on that basis, should we be looking at a committee, do you think, as part of our recommendations, and saying, 'We need to set up a task-and-finish—whatever you want to call it—working group'; clear terms of reference that looked at this, went through all the obstacles, went through the opportunities as well, looked at it, and looked at the legal issues, to see what impact, what issues there are for UK Government and for our devolved responsibilities, and then could bring something forward for the next Assembly, the next Parliament? Would that be worth—? Do you think that's a reasonable way, rather than rush at it?
If I was at Westminster, I would be wanting the Procedure Committee to undertake an inquiry and to report back how it could be done. So, in the same way that the proxy voting for baby leave was approved in principle by the House, the Procedure Committee was then tasked with determining how it would be implemented, and that, to me, would be the way to go, and I think particularly considering whether you might have a trial basis with a maximum number in the first instance to reassure the public that this wasn't going to suddenly distort— whatever that might mean—the institution, the Assembly, too significantly. But I think—yes, I think that would be a very sensible way forward.
Yes, I think Assembly Members Rowlands and Lloyd made, in different ways, a very interesting point: why hasn't anybody done it before? Well, it's always been one strong man being the MP. And my colleague answered: well, it's tradition. Yes, it is tradition, but there is an important point in the tradition that needs to be overcome. UK electoral laws—the electoral laws of the United Kingdom—are based upon a mid-nineteenth-century model. And there is a very interesting mixture between politics and law here. And when we look at the fundamental election law—the Representation of the People Act 1983—being nothing more than a rehash, with some very minor amendments, of the 1868 Act and the 1872 Act, with some horrible bits added since 2000, women getting the vote in 1918 and 1928 was important, but that's been the only real innovation.
The problem is that we have got an ossified electoral law in these countries, and it is added to by an ossified UN Human Rights Committee: article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is something that hangs on the end, is picked up by somebody with a bee in their bonnet, because they're far more interested in torture, inhumane and degrading treatment and all these other very important issues—but article 25, basically, if somebody picks up on something. And you can see it in the general comment to the ICCPR. And the problem is that nobody is working on this. And the places where they are working on it—and you mentioned Sweden; the issue in Sweden is that the political culture is that there has been far less inequality. Where they have tried to change the political culture—and looking at South Africa as a particular example, South African election laws are very interesting indeed. They had other pressing problems—the Apartheid system, and they had to deal with the Apartheid system before they could get on to do deal with other things, and then the whole thing fell to pieces again. The problem is that—. I would hope that the Assembly would use its good offices with the Westminster Parliament to try and get something done about our foul election law. It is a stinking heap. There is nothing more to be said about it.
I'm happy to speak about all the negatives, and I shouldn't do it, but—. [Laughter.] I did it for two municipal years. But you could think about—. Think about disability access: if you imagine somebody, for the first time, being invited into a building who's wheelchair dependent and being told, 'We really want your voice here; please come in'. And then they're trying to manoeuvre their chair around and they find that the doorways are not wide enough and that the tables are not at the right height and that nobody is used to them being there. And, actually, it gets very hard—you have to be a real tough crusader to just stay in there and keep fighting and keep making the point. But, really, the reason why I ended up coming out of the job-share role was that I couldn't afford to stay in it. I need a full-time salary. I've got two school-age children; we need two incomes. My husband jokes that it's a good job that he gets a good salary from Bridgend council to support my political hobbies. But that's the reality of it; I would not be able to be in elected office if I didn't have his income behind me, and that's shocking.
So, I chair a committee, because I feel that's a way of having my voice heard, bringing my expertise to the council, but I can still work and earn money, whereas, as a job share and cabinet member, I couldn't do that. Now, my colleagues who are still job sharing now, they aren't having that problem. And I think that, because it was a new portfolio, as well as me being a brand-new councillor, I was just too fluid and too easily pulled in, and very, very conscientious. And I think that people need to be looked after, and not allowed to give too much of themselves to a role that's supposed to be part-time.
Well, thank you all very, very much. We've run out of time, I'm afraid; I'm sure we could have carried on discussing this for another couple of hours. But thank you very much indeed for your time. You will be sent the transcript of today's proceedings to check for accuracy. But, in the meantime, can I thank you all very much for your time this morning?
Okay. If we can now move on to item 3, which is papers to note. The first paper to note was the written evidence from Wales Environment Link on the capacity of the Assembly. We then move on to 3.2, letters from committee Chairs on the Assembly's capacity. So, paper to note 2 from the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee; paper to note 3 from the Petitions Committee; paper to note 4 from the Finance Committee; paper to note 5 from the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee; paper to note 6 from the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee; paper to note 7, Standards of Conduct Committee; paper to note 8, Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee; paper to note 9, the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee; paper to note 10, Health, Social Care and Sport Committee; paper to note 11, Children, Young People and Education Committee; and paper to note 12, Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee. And there is a letter, also, to note from the Llywydd with additional information following the meeting on 2 December, which is paper to note 13. Everyone happy to note those documents?
Yes, I'm happy to note those. Can I just say how much I welcome the fact that an organisation externally has submitted written evidence—to the Wales Environment Link, in this case—and we'll have opportunities, in the work that we're doing as a committee, to hear from others? But I think just the message out from the committee that we would welcome other written submissions, reports. It's good to see one in here, but—
Absolutely. Well, Wales Environment Link, of course, were invited to the initial roundtable stakeholder group that we had and they couldn't come, so this was their written evidence in lieu of them not being able to attend that session. But, yes, absolutely, we would welcome any evidence from any external organisations on any of the work of this committee.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod a'r cyfarfodydd ar 24 Chwefror a 2 Mawrth, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting and from the meetings on 24 February and 2 March, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Okay. If we could then move on to item 4, which is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting and from the meetings on 24 February and 2 March. Everyone content?
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:02.
The public part of the meeting ended at 12:02.