Ministers seek Senedd consent for emergency Bill to manage Senedd election during Covid pandemic

The Welsh Government is to seek the Senedd’s consent for an emergency Bill to be introduced to ensure the next Senedd election happens safely, enabling the electorate to participate and vote during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

If consent is given by Members of the Senedd, an emergency Bill would be introduced before the Senedd tomorrow (Wednesday 27th January) to provide a range of measures to adapt and manage the conduct of the next Senedd election.

As a last resort, it would enable the Senedd election on 6th May to be postponed for up to six months, if the pandemic presents such a serious threat to public health that it is not safe to hold the election at that time. This would be subject to the agreement of two-thirds of Members of the Senedd. Members would also need to agree a new date for the election.

Opponents of the emergency Bill point towards other democratic countries including the United States that have successfully held elections during the pandemic and believe that the Senedd elections should follow suit and continue to be held on 6th May this year, despite the health crisis.

Given that Wales is currently experiencing its worst wave of the coronavirus pandemic where hundreds of people are sadly dying each week and many more become seriously ill, the emergency Bill will allow for contingency plans to be put in place, which would allow for the Senedd election to be postponed if deemed necessary. Given the unpredictable nature of the coronavirus pandemic where different variants have emerged and more people have become infected, this emergency Bill allows for the Senedd election to be held later on this year to ensure that the electorate and administrative staff are safeguarded.

Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James, said:

“The Welsh Government’s clear intention is that the next Senedd election should be held on Thursday 6th May 2021. We are also determined to do everything in our power to ensure people can vote when the election takes place.

“However, due to the unpredictable nature of coronavirus, there is significant uncertainty about what the situation will be like in May. That is why we are seeking the Senedd’s consent to introduce an emergency Bill that would give Members of the Senedd the powers necessary to manage the conduct of the election, in order to protect public health.

“If the prevalence of the pandemic requires that the election is postponed, the Bill will provide the powers, to be used as a last resort, to postpone the election for up to six months. The Bill would ensure this is subject to the agreement of two-thirds of Members of the Senedd, which means all Members would have a role in the final decision.”