The National Assembly for Wales (or NAW) (Welsh: Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) was established in 1998, following a 1997 referendum in which a small majority of voters (but not the electorate) voted in favour of the Labour Government's plans for devolution.
Unlike the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly, the National Assembly for Wales cannot pass its own primary legislation, nor can it raise its own taxes, as these powers remain with Westminster. This is because unlike those other parts of the UK, Wales has had the same legal and administrative system as England. However, supporters of the Assembly argue that it is more democratically accountable than the Welsh Office, which was represented in the British Cabinet by a Secretary of State who often did not even represent a Welsh constituency at Westminster.
In July 2002 the Welsh Assembly Government established an independent commission, with Lord Ivor Richard (former leader of the House of Lords) as chair, into the powers and electoral arrangements of the National Assembly in order to ensure that it is able to operate in the best interests of the people of Wales. The Richard Commission reported in March 2004. It recommended that the National Assembly should have powers to legislate in certain matters, while other matters would be retained by Westminster. It also recommended other changes that would be needed as a result of this. The matter is still under discussion.
The Assembly is composed of 60 Assembly Members, knowns as AMs (in Welsh, Aelodau'r Cynulliad, ACau). Under the Additional Member System of proportional representation, 40 of the AMs are elected from single-member constituencies on a First Past the Post basis, the constituencies being equivalent to those used for the House of Commons, while the remaining 20 AMs are elected on regional lists, in order to achieve a proportional result overall. The Assembly sits in Cardiff, and will have a new, high-end assembly chamber in Cardiff Bay once construction is finished.
There have thus far been two elections to the Assembly, the first taking place in 1999 and the second in 2003. The second election produced the first ever democratically elected legislature in which 50 per cent of its members were women.
The First Minister and his Cabinet form the Welsh Assembly Government.
- Assembly website in English http://www.wales.gov.uk/
- Assembly website in Welsh/Gwefan y Cynulliad yn Gymraeg http://www.cymru.gov.uk/
- Richard Commission http://www.richardcommission.gov.uk/content/template.asp?ID=/index.asp
- Assembly Online, an independent site for Assembly media briefings with comments http://www.assemblyonline.org/en/
- Government of Wales Act 1998 http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/19980038.htm
Last updated: 02-09-2005 06:43:09
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55