Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon, everybody, from Cardiff, Wales.
Since my last appearance at the committee was in 2020, I'm going to outline the experience of the Senedd in virtual proceedings in terms of what we currently do, how we do it and why.
In terms of what the Senedd is doing, the chamber proceedings are now fully hybrid—that's a permanent position going forward—and voting is by a remote voting app that was designed in-house.
Our committees have a choice: They can determine for themselves if they meet physically, in hybrid or virtually. I'll remind you that the Senedd is, like the Canadian Parliament, a bilingual institution. We operate through the mediums of English and Welsh, so our physical, hybrid and virtual proceedings are all translated.
How do we do this? Like yourselves, we have a licensed version of Zoom that is incorporated with our broadcast and web-based technology. We're digital by default, so since its inception, the Senedd has had electronic voting and electronic papers, and that has continued. We have no legal or procedural barrier to participation not being physical, so that has always enabled us to meet as a virtual or a hybrid entity.
In terms of the why, initially, as with many other legislatures, it was the requirement of the pandemic and the public health requirements that drove us to have virtual and then hybrid participation. We were the first U.K. legislature to meet virtually during the pandemic to continue our proceedings. As in Scotland, we've had a review by one of our committees of future virtual participation.
The views were in support, but in terms of the pros and the cons, the pros were in relation to the accessibility and the inclusivity of virtual proceedings, particularly around diversity of witnesses and also future diversity of parliamentary candidates; being family-friendly in terms of balance with caring responsibilities of members; better use of time in constituencies; and a cost benefit in terms of savings on travel and reducing the carbon footprint.
The downsides of virtual participation were found to be some aspects of the quality of debate, particularly around the ability to scrutinize legislation and ministers in committees on a virtual basis, and also a debate around whether ministers should have the right to attend virtually or if they should be required to attend in physical form.
We hope that we have a new way of working here that is the best of both worlds. It retains the advantages of a virtual environment but also brings with it some of the advantages of the physical way of proceeding.
I'll finish my contribution by pointing out that we had an election last year in which a third of our membership changed over, so a third of our members have never known any other way of meeting other than either virtually or in hybrid. It's very much around the way of the Senedd determining its future ways of working as moving forward and learning from the lessons of the pandemic rather than reverting to things as they were before.
Hopefully, Madam Chair and committee, that gives you an indication of where we're at in Wales. We're a hybrid institution by default, with choice for the committees and a fully functioning translation capability throughout all of our proceedings, as is required by statute.
I'll finish there. I'm very happy to answer any questions you may have.