PLANS to increase the number of Senedd members and change the electoral system have passed their first hurdle.

MSs agreed the general principles of the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) bill, which would expand the Welsh Parliament from 60 to 96 members.

Under the bill, the 32 constituencies that will be used in the next general election would be paired to create 16 for the 2026 Senedd vote – with each returning six members.

Senedd elections would be held every four years under a “closed list” form of proportional representation, which would see people voting for parties rather than specific candidates.

Mick Antoniw, the Welsh Government's counsel general and constitution minister, stressed compromise is necessary because the bill requires a two-thirds majority to become law.

“It will improve democracy and ensure every vote counts, it will lead to a Senedd that is far more representative of the people of Wales,” he said.

Darren Millar, the Conservatives’ shadow constitution minister, said Wales needs more doctors, nurses, dentists and teachers – not 60 per cent more politicians in the Senedd.

He claimed there is no public mandate as he criticised “woolly” references to Senedd reform in Labour and Plaid Cymru manifestos for the 2021 election.

“No-one mentioned this closed-list voting system that has been proposed,” he said.

“This is a system that amounts to a power grab by political parties, taking power away from the voters and preventing them from being able to vote for a candidate of their choice.”

Mr Millar warned that losing direct accountability between elected representatives and the public they serve would be devastating for Welsh democracy.

Calling for a referendum, he said: “Give the people of Wales the choice on whether to endorse this atrocious system … and I can tell you which fingers they will use to salute you.”

Former Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price urged MSs to grasp the opportunity – pointing out that just one private member’s bill being passed in the past eight years.

The Conservatives’ Natasha Asghar described Senedd reforms as a vanity project, suggesting the money would be better spent on 150 consultants to ease waiting times.

Challenged about where the extra doctors would come from, the South Wales East MS said: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way – if you’ve got the money, anything’s possible.”

Closing the debate, Mr Antoniw said the bill is an investment in democracy and 0.07 per cent of the budget is a price worth paying.

MSs backed the proposals 39-14 in the vote on January 30. The bill now moves to stage two, which will see a committee of the whole Senedd consider amendments.