Welsh Secretary: AMs should work longer hours

It's an idea that may be more popular with the electors than the elected in Cardiff Bay: make politicians work harder.

Welsh Secretary David Jones has rejected calls for the National Assembly for Wales to have more members - and suggested the existing 60 AMs should work longer hours instead.

Mr Jones said there was "a lot of spare capacity in the assembly" despite it acquiring more powers since 1999. He said the current 60-seat Assembly did the job.

Asked what he meant by "spare capacity", he added: "They could sit longer. At the moment plenary sessions are very short. Broadly speaking the working week at the Assembly is two and a half days. There is plenty of scope for them to emulate Westminster sitting hours."

Mr Jones was speaking as the UK government confirmed plans to lift a bar on candidates standing in both constituencies and on regional lists. - reversing a rule introduced by the last Labour UK government which forced would-be AMs to choose which electoral route to go down.

In other changes confirmed today, AMs and MPs won't be allowed to sit in both Cardiff Bay and Westminster, although those who get elected to a second institution will be allowed a transition period before having to resign their seat.

The "double-jobbing" bar won't apply to members of the House of Lords or elected councillors, which may be a relief to one or two current AMs.

Mr Jones also confirmed plans to hold assembly elections every five years to avoid clashes with UK general elections.

The changes will require separate legislation which will go through parliament before the next general election and could be included in the Queen's speech at the state opening of Parliament in May.

It's not yet clear whether the new government of Wales Bill will also include other changes to the assembly's powers. UK ministers have promised to respond to the first report from the Silk commission on devolution this spring.