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The National Assembly for Wales

The National Assembly for Wales

Posted by matt-terrell | 25 January 2009

The proposal for the creation of a National Assembly for Wales was approved in a referendum on September 18th 1997 with 559,419 votes (50.3%) in favour of the Assembly and 552,698 votes (49.7%) against it.

Voter turnout: 50.3%

Subsequently, the UK Parliament passed the Government of Wales Act 1998, which established the National Assembly for Wales, and The National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999, which enabled the transfer of the devolved powers and responsibilities from the Secretary of State for Wales to the Assembly.

The elections for the First Assembly were held on 6th May 1999. The first plenary meeting of the Assembly took place at 11 am on Wednesday 12th May 1999, when Members elected the first Presiding Officer, Deputy Presiding Officer and First Secretary of the Assembly.

Further elections were held for the National Assembly for Wales on 1st May 2003. The final results for the 60 seats within the Assembly saw Labour return with 30 seats, Plaid Cymru with 12, Conservatives with 11, Liberal Democrats with 6, and former Labour AM Dr John Marek returned as an independent, with Rhodri Morgan AM remaining First Minister. The only notable change from the 1999 elections was the lower number of Plaid Cymru AMs, down 4 from 1999.

The most recent elections were held on 3rd May 2007. The final results saw Labour returned with a lower total of 26 seats, Plaid Cymru with 15, Conservatives with 12, Liberal Democrats with 6, and Trish Law returned as an independent. This led to the formation of a Labour – Plaid Cymru coalition with Rhodri Morgan continuing as First Minister.

The powers of the National Assembly for Wales

(see Government of Wales Act 1998, s 22; The National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999, SI 1999/672); Government of Wales Act 2006

Key areas of devolved responsibility

From 1st July 1999, the Assembly had the power to develop and implement policy in a range of areas: agriculture, ancient monuments and historic buildings, culture, economic development, education and training, the environment, health and health services, highways, housing, industry, local government, social services, sport and leisure, tourism, town and country planning, transport and roads and the Welsh language.

The original National Assembly for Wales did not have the same level of power and responsibility as that enjoyed by its counterparts the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly, each of which can pass primary legislation (Acts).

Until the passage of the Government of Wales Act 2006, Westminster retained control of primary legislative powers in all areas while the Assembly took control over secondary legislative powers (statutory instruments) in those areas shown above. Since the passage of the 2006 Act the Assembly’s powers have increased with the ability to pass Assembly Measures, subject to approval by the UK Government.

System of Government

The Assembly is chaired by a Presiding Officer elected by the whole Assembly, equivalent to the Speaker in the House of Commons. Once elected, the Presiding Officer serves the Assembly impartially. There is also a Deputy Presiding Officer who is elected in the same way.

The 2006 Act saw a creation of a new Welsh Assembly Government, distinct from the Welsh Assembly itself rather than a committee thereof. The First Minister heads the Government and has power of nomination for the Welsh Ministers and Deputy Ministers. The Welsh Government’s decisions and policies remain subject to scrutiny by the Assembly.

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