National Assembly for Wales |
The National Assembly for Wales (Welsh: Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru; commonly known as the Welsh Assembly or Senedd) is the devolved parliament of Wales, with power to make legislation, vary taxes and scrutinise the Welsh Government. The Assembly comprises 60 members, who are known as Assembly Members, or AMs (Aelodau y Cynulliad). Since 2011, Members are elected for five-year terms under an additional members system, in which 40 AMs represent geographical constituencies elected by the plurality system, and 20 AMs represent five electoral regions using the D'Hondt method of proportional representation. Typically the largest party in the Assembly forms the Welsh Government.
After the 1997 general election, the new Labour Government argued that an Assembly would be more democratically accountable than the Welsh Office. For eleven years prior to 1997 Wales had been represented in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom by a Secretary of State who did not represent a Welsh constituency at Westminster. A referendum was held in Wales on 18 September 1997 in which voters approved the creation of the National Assembly for Wales with a total of 559,419 votes, or 50.3% of the vote.
The Act also reforms the Assembly's electoral system. It prevents individuals from standing as candidates in both constituency and regional seats. This aspect of the act was subject to a great deal of criticism, most notably from the Electoral Commission.
The Wales Act 2017, based on the second set of recommendations of the Silk Commission, proposed devolving further areas of government, including some relating to water, marine affairs (ports, harbours, conservation), energy (subsidies, petroleum extraction, construction of smaller energy-generating facilities, etc.), rail franchising and road travel.
After each election, the Assembly elects one Assembly Member to serve as Presiding Officer (Welsh: Llywydd), and another to serve as a deputy. Elin Jones, Plaid Cymru AM, has been Presiding Officer since the beginning of the 2016 term, having taken over from Rosemary Butler. The Presiding Officer also acts as Chair of the National Assembly for Wales Commission. Both the Presiding Officer and the Deputy Presiding Officer are expected not to vote.
Initially, the Assembly did not have primary legislative or fiscal powers, as these powers were reserved by Westminster. The Assembly did have powers to pass secondary legislation in devolved areas. Sometimes secondary legislation could be used to amend primary legislation, but the scope of this was very limited. For example, the first Government of Wales Act gave the Assembly power to amend primary legislation relating to the merger of certain public bodies. However, most secondary powers were conferred on the executive by primary legislation to give the executive (i.e. Ministers) more powers, and the Assembly had wider legislative powers than appearances might suggest. For example, the Assembly delayed local elections due to be held in 2003 for a year by use of secondary powers, so that they would not clash with Assembly elections. In 2001 the UK parliament used primary legislation to delay for one month local elections in England during the Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic.
Dafydd Elis-Thomas quit the Plaid Cymru group on 14 October 2016. As a result of the defection, Leanne Wood lost the title of leader of the opposition. Two months later, he pledged to back the Welsh Labour-led Government, giving the new government an overall majority in the Welsh Assembly.
On 27 December 2017 it was announced that Nathan Gill had resigned as an AM. As 3rd on UKIP's list for the North Wales region, Mandy Jones was sworn in as an Assembly Member on 29 December 2017. On 9 January UKIP Wales announced that she would not be joining the UKIP group in the Assembly, due to employing members of other parties in her office.