Bill to cut voting age and rename assembly the Senedd

Elin Jones
Image caption,
Presiding Officer Elin Jones says the bill is as a "golden opportunity to renew our democracy"

A bill to allow 16-year-olds to vote at the next assembly election, in 2021, and change the institution's name to Senedd has been published.

The legislation says the body "may also be known as the Welsh Parliament".

Presiding Officer Elin Jones, who is in charge of assembly day-to-day business, said the name change would "better reflect the institution's status".

There are plans to work with ministers on political education for young people before the reduction in the voting age.

Ms Jones has written to schools with an information pack to help generate classroom discussions.

The estimated cost of the changes required to the voting system is £2.4m over five years. That includes the extra cost of annual voter registration for 16 and 17-year olds, updating systems and raising awareness of the change.

Tensions have emerged over the renaming plan, with the Tories calling for a bilingual name "Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament".

Welsh language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith has also criticised Ms Jones, demanding she stick to an original decision to only use the Welsh word Senedd.

Changing the name will cost an estimated £294,600, including the cost of buying new signs and updating websites.

The bill also makes changes to who is eligible to stand for elections.

AMs would not be able to also sit as members of the House of Lords, but could take a formal break from their Westminster duties to allow them to take up a seat in Cardiff Bay.

'Future generations'

Ms Jones said she hoped the bill will "spark interesting and meaningful debate about our democracy and political engagement in Wales".

"The provision to lower the voting age to 16 will, I hope, engage young people in particular in the democratic process," she said.

"The proposal to change the assembly's name to Senedd will better reflect the institution's status as a parliament.

"After twenty years, this is a golden opportunity to renew our democracy and ensure that Wales's national parliament enables us to do our best for our constituents today and for future generations."

The legislation will be scrutinised by assembly members in the coming months, and will require the backing of at least 40 of the 60 AMs to become law.