The Welsh Parliament (currently National Assembly for Wales) / Senedd Cymru (currently Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) currently has law-making powers covering the areas of devolved responsibility what are the arguments for and against a bicameral legislature in the context of Wales?

Currently the Assembly is a unicameral legislature consisting of the elected Assembly Members (AMs), Scotland and Northern Ireland also maintain unicameral legislatures whilst the United Kingdom as a whole has a lopsided bicameral legislature.

I'm aware that this question could be boiled down to a simple "is a bicameral legislature better than a unicameral legislature" question. I'm particularly interested in answers which can speak to UK/Europe specific arguments.

To narrow the scope further this question should be interpreted to refer to a second chamber which is roughly equivalent to either the first chamber (current Assembly or House of Commons) OR the current UK House of Lords. I.e a second chamber which is entirely equivalent to the first or a second chamber which exists to 'temper' the first but without the power to overrule or deadlock it.

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    I'm not quite ready to vote to close, but this is a bit broad in its way. You've narrowed one aspect of this question (Wales specific) but left another aspect wide open. How would the two chambers differ? The primary advantage of two chambers is to force compromise between competing principles. And many of the disadvantages derive from that. Do you want just generic disadvantages? Realize that some may not exist in all possible configurations.
    – Brythan
    Jul 6, 2017 at 23:57
  • @Brythan I'll have a go at narrowing the scope a bit further. Thanks Jul 7, 2017 at 7:03
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    This isn't quite a full answer, but beyond the generic pros and cons of bicameralism, the big issue with this is that the UK is still a unitary state. The power of the Welsh assembly is devolved from Westminster to Cardiff, but could in principle be taken back unilaterally by Parliament at any time. In this sense the Welsh Assembly is only somewhat more powerful than bodies such as local councils with the power to make byelaws (in that the byelaws are approved by central government first, rather than having to be quashed later).
    – origimbo
    Jul 8, 2017 at 0:52

1 Answer 1


In the past, the two houses were intended to represent different classes. In the UK the Lords represented the aristocracy, the commons represented the landowners. In the USA the Senate represented the rich men, the House represented other men.

This reason for two houses has now diminished, the purpose of two bodies is to allow for legislation to be reconsidered. This is seen as important in a system in which Parliament is sovereign, as there is no higher authority to overrule parliament and prevent it from making bad law.

In the case of the Welsh (and Scottish and Northern Irish) assembly, it is not sovereign. It gains its authority from Westminster, which can overrule any decision of the assembly (though this may require primary legislation).

There is no tradition, in the UK, of an elected second chamber. If the second chamber is elected, should it be equal in power to the lower?

Finally, the law making powers of the assembly are limited to those granted by Westminster. The function of the assembly is more to hold the Welsh executive to account. When devolution happened for Wales, many of the executive powers of the Welsh Office transferred to the devolved assembly, and to the executive chosen from that assembly. Holding that executive to account is a major function of the assembly and that function doesn't require a second elected chamber.

The usual reasons for a second chamber: To represent the upper class and to prevent bad laws, are weaker for a devolved assembly. The usual reasons against (it costs more, it makes legislation take longer, it provokes constitutional deadlock, it duplicates roles) are relatively stronger.

  • Hi @JamesK thanks for the answer. I've made an edit to clarify and reduce the scope of the question, I don't think it warrants any changes to your answer but I wanted to mention it explicitly in case you feel any revision is warranted. Your answer as it stands answers the question as I saw it in my head. I'll wait a little longer to accept invade further answers are given. Jul 10, 2017 at 22:29
  • "it makes legislation take longer" can also be considered a reason in favour. Indeed, part of the House of Lords' remit is to revise legislation that may have been rammed through the Commons with insufficient scrutiny, and on occasion, to make the Government think again. Jul 11, 2017 at 8:08
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    @SteveMelnikoff That is true. I've sliightly edited to emphasise that law making is not the only role of the assembly, and may not be the main one. The task of questioning an executive doesn't require a second chamber.
    – James K
    Jul 11, 2017 at 11:44

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