National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government
The National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government are two distinct organisations.
The National Assembly is the democratically elected body that represents the people of Wales, makes laws and regulations and holds the Welsh Government to account through its debates and questions to ministers. The sixty Assembly Members are elected every four years and meet in the Senedd building in Cardiff Bay.
The Welsh Government comprises those AMs who are elected by the Assembly as ministers and who form a Cabinet under the leadership of the First Minister. The Cabinet controls the Welsh Civil Service.
The Assembly decides on its priorities and allocates the funds made available to it from
the Treasury. Within its powers, the Assembly develops policy and approves legislation which reflect the needs of the people of Wales.
Wales remains part of the UK and the Secretary of State for Wales and Members of Parliament (MPs) from Welsh constituencies continue to have seats in the Westminster Parliament. Laws passed by Parliament still apply to Wales.
Following a referendum on the National Assembly for Wales’s legislative powers held on 03 March 2011, the people of Wales voted in favour of granting the National Assembly for
Wales further powers for making laws in Wales.
The powers & responsibilities of the Assembly
The Assembly has considerable power to develop and implement policy within a range of areas including:
agriculture, ancient monuments and historic buildings, culture, economic development,
education and training, the environment, Fire and rescue services, Food, health and health services, Highways and transport, housing, local government, Public administration, Social welfare, Sport and recreation, tourism, town and country planning, Water and flood defence and the Welsh language.
How the Assembly works
The essential structures and procedures for the Assembly are laid down in the Government of Wales Act 1998. The more detailed processes are set out in the Assembly Standing Orders.
The Presiding Officer
The Assembly is chaired by the Presiding Ofﬁcer, who is the equivalent of the Speaker of the House of Commons and who is elected by the whole Assembly. Once elected, the Presiding Ofﬁcer serves the Assembly impartially. There is also a Deputy Presiding Ofﬁcer who is elected in the same way.
The role of Committees
Assembly Members from all parties can voice their opinions on how the Assembly operates through Subject Committees, such as Children and Young People Committee, and Health and Social Care Committee. These Subject Committees develop policies and examine what the Assembly does. Assembly Members are elected to serve on these committees. The committee membership reflects the balance of political groups within the Assembly.
The Business Committee is responsible for the organisation of Assembly Business. It is the only Committee whose functions and remit is set out in Standing Orders. Its role is to “facilitate the effective organisation of Assembly proceedings”.
The Presiding Officer chairs the meetings, which are attended by the Leader of the House and a Business Manager from each of the parties represented in the Assembly. The Committee usually meets weekly when the Assembly is in session, to comment on proposals for the organisation of Government business and to determine the organisation of Assembly business in Plenary session.
The Committee may meet publicly on an ad hoc basis, to make recommendations on the general practice and procedure of the Assembly in the conduct of its business, including any proposals for the re-making or revisions of Standing Orders. These meetings are subject to the normal procedures for public meetings and members of the public are welcome to sit in the public gallery to observe them.
Plenary meetings are attended by all Assembly Members and provide one of the key mechanisms for Members to hold the Welsh Government and Assembly Commission to account, make laws for Wales and represent their constituents. Plenary meetings take place in the Siambr, the Assembly’s debating chamber on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in public and are broadcast. The topics discussed in Plenary meetings are organised by the Business Committee and announced on a weekly basis in Plenary. A Plenary Agenda is published for every meeting. Different categories and types of business can be taken in Plenary. These include questions, debates, statements and legislative proceedings.
Questions to government Ministers or Assembly Commissioners may be answered orally or in writing. Ministers from each government department attend Plenary on a rota basis to answer oral questions. The First Minister answers questions every Tuesday. The Presiding Officer or Deputy Presiding Officer, Assembly Commissioners or other AMs with particular responsibilities (e.g. AMs proposing legislation) may also make oral statements.
Legislative Competence Orders
Legislative Competence Orders (LCOs) grant the National Assembly for Wales greater law-making powers.
LCOs are a new category of legislation, brought about by the Government of Wales Act 2006. They are a type of Order in Council which enables the National Assembly for Wales to acquire the power from the UK Parliament to legislate in a particular area for Wales. Where the National Assembly has legislative competence it can pass Assembly Measures which can do anything that an Act of Parliament can do in relation to Wales.
The LCOs that have been made and are in force are published to the National Assembly website.
Following a referendum on the National Assembly for Wales’s legislative powers held on 03 March 2011, the people of Wales voted in favour of granting the National Assembly for Wales further powers for making laws in Wales.
The National Assembly for Wales will now be able to pass laws on all subjects in the 20 devolved areas without first needing the agreement of the UK Parliament. The result of the referendum does not mean that the Assembly can make laws in more areas than before.
There will no longer be a need for negotiation between the governments of the UK and Wales over what law-making powers should or should not be devolved to the Assembly. The ‘yes’ vote also removes the involvement of Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords in scrutinising proposals to give the Assembly the power to make laws. Instead, the responsibility rests on the Welsh Government and the Members of the National Assembly to decide how to use the Assembly’s law-making powers.
Assembly laws will no longer be called Assembly Measures. Proposed laws will now be called Bills, and enacted laws will be called Acts. The Measures made since 2007 will continue to be called Assembly Measures and will continue to have the same legal effect. What will change is that it will not be possible to make any more Measures and new laws made by the Assembly will be called Acts. Legislative Competence Orders will no longer be necessary, as these were requests to the UK Parliament to allow the Assembly to make laws in new subjects within the 20 devolved areas.
The Welsh Government
The Welsh Government is the executive branch of the devolved government in Wales. It is accountable to the National Assembly for Wales and makes laws for Wales.
Welsh laws are officially known as Assembly Bills. They apply only to Wales and not to other parts of the UK.
The Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales were established as separate institutions under the Government of Wales Act 2006. The Government is referred to in that Act as the Welsh Assembly Government, but to prevent confusion about the respective roles & responsibilities of the National Assembly and the Government, the devolved administration became known as the Welsh Government in May 2011.
The Welsh Government consists of the First Minister, usually the leader of the largest party in the National Assembly for Wales; up to twelve ministers and deputy ministers, appointed by the First Minister; and a Counsel General, nominated by the First Minister and approved by the National Assembly.
Welsh Government is elected by the people of Wales to carry out a programme of government. This involves making decisions and ensuring delivery on areas devolved to us on matters that affect people’s daily lives.
The Assembly is able to pass Assembly Bills, following from a yes vote in the referendum on the law making powers of the National Assembly for Wales.This is done by developing and implementing policies, setting up and directing delivery and governance in these key areas, such as local government and the NHS in Wales, making subordinate legislation (e.g. regulations and statutory guidance), and proposing Welsh laws (Assembly Bills).
The Welsh Government and the UK Government both look after different interests in Wales. The Welsh government is responsible for most of the day-to-day issues, for example health, education, agriculture and local government. The UK Government is still responsible for certain public services in Wales, for example, police, prisons and the justice system. Matters such as tax and benefits, defence, national security and foreign affairs are also dealt with by the UK Government.
The Welsh Government may also seek to extend the subjects on which the National Assembly for Wales can pass Assembly Bills. Different types of legislation put forward by the Welsh Government are subject to different procedures which may require scrutiny and approval by the National Assembly for Wales. These areas include education, health, local government, transport, Planning, economic development, social services, culture, Welsh language environment, agriculture and rural affairs.
You can contact the Welsh Government at the following address:
Cardiff CF10 3NQ
English: 0300 060 3300 or 0845 010 3300
Welsh: 0300 0604 400 or 0845 010 4400
You can write to Ministers at:
5th Floor Tŷ Hywel
Cardiff Bay CF99 1NA