The structure we are proposing has three elements, the Welsh Assembly, the will of the people expressed through referendums, and the Constitutional Commission. The Assembly will continue with the debate and enactment of legislation, however with our system in place the people will have the power to reject any law they believe to be unfair or unjust. The people will also have the power to propose legislation and initiate referendums. To initiate a referendum the sponsors of the legislation must collect a certain number of signatures from voters. In Switzerland the system requires 100,000 signatures, but Switzerland is a larger country than Wales so we would need to specify a smaller number, perhaps 50,000. Once the signatures have been collected a referendum must be held, unless the Assembly agrees to put the legislation through. In Switzerland once a proposal has reached the signature level required, the government is allowed to put forward a counter proposal if they feel the proposers have gone to far with their demands. This gives the Swiss people a genuine choice between proposal and counter proposal, rather than just a straight yes or no to the referendum and we believe this system should be used here in Wales. In this way the referendum process acts as a check on Assembly power, and the counter proposal system acts as a check on the proposers of referendums.
An important part of our structure is the Constitutional Commission. The Commission will deal with legislation that reforms the political system, and the influences on the system. Groups and organizations in civil society would propose reforms and send their proposals to the Assembly in the normal way. If rejected by the Assembly, then the group proposing the reforms can appeal to the Commission. To take a proposal to the Commission the sponsors would still have to demonstrate public support, but the barrier would be lower and would only require the collection of say, 10,000 signatures. If the Commission supports the proposal they refer it back to the Assembly. If the Assembly rejects the legislation, then the legislation automatically goes to Welsh national referendum. Commissioners could be selected by lot, but they must be independent from the Assembly, and party members would not be allowed to be commissioners. The purpose of the Commission is to put pressure on Assembly Members to bring about the reforms we need through their own procedures, rather than relying solely on the practice of citizen initiatives and referendums. The procedure will accelerate the evolution of our political systems.
If the Commission decides to reject the proposal, then the group who initiated the reform can still attempt a citizens initiative to take the proposal to a Welsh national referendum. To do so, they must collect the full amount of signatures from voters over a certain period of time. If they manage to get the required support then the referendum is called. If they fail to get support, then the proposal dies. With this system in place any legislative reform that has sufficient support will go to referendum.
To summarise, if the Assembly fails to deal with a problem, the Commission deals with it, if the Commission fails to deal with it, then the people will ultimately decide through the procedure of direct democracy. The result is not just a series of checks and balances but also real pressure for change. Over time the political system will be reformed, and redesigned to deliver solutions. Bringing about these changes will take time, but it can happen, will happen, and will happen in a way that is truly democratic.