How Does It Work?
The National Assembly for Wales is the devolved legislature for Wales which sits in Cardiff. The Assembly was established through the Government of Wales Act 1998 and initially had both executive and legislative functions.
The National Assembly for Wales is only able to enact legislation in areas where power has been transferred to it from the Westminster Parliament. At the current time the Assembly has the power to legislate with regard to twenty subjects.
The draft Wales Bill 2015 also proposes giving the Assembly additional powers in relation to transport, energy, the environment and local elections.
60 AMs are elected to sit in the National Assembly for Wales. Currently in Wales there is one AM per 38,000 constituents (approx.). At the time of writing 24 AMs, 40%, are women.
In 2007, the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government were formally separated, following the passage of the Government of Wales Act 2006. From that point on, the Welsh Government, headed up by the First Minister, became and remains separate and distinct from the National Assembly. The Welsh Government develop policies and laws which the National Assembly then goes on to scrutinise.
While the roles of the National Assembly and Welsh Government are formally separate, the Welsh Government is made up of Assembly Members from the largest party or from a coalition of parties. In voting for the National Assembly, therefore, one is also voting for the Welsh Government.
The National Assembly for Wales has the power to make primary legislation in relation to appropriately devolved policy competences. The process of doing so is set out below:
- Introduction of the Bill: The Bill is formally introduced to the Assembly by a Minister, an individual AM or an assembly committee.
- Stage One: This stage involves the consideration of the general principles of a Bill by a committee (or committees), followed by the agreement of the general principles by the Assembly.
- Stage Two: This stage involves the detailed consideration, by a committee, of a Bill and any amendments (proposed changes to a bill) proposed by AM’s. Any AM can propose amendments to a bill. This stage ends when all amendments have been considered.
- Stage Three: This stage involves the detailed consideration, by the Assembly, of the Bill and any amendments proposed by Assembly Members.
- Stage Four: At this stage, there is a vote by the Assembly to pass the final text of the Bill.
- Royal Assent: Following all its stages in the Assembly, a Bill must receive Royal Assent.
The Assembly also makes secondary legislation such as statutory instruments, regulations and orders. These allow the Assembly to stipulate specific requirements, broadly set out in Bills and Acts. The secondary legislation making process is similar to Westminster in that they may either be subject to ‘affirmative’ or ‘negative procedure.’ If they are subject to ‘affirmative procedure,’ the proposals must be formally considered and scrutinised by the Members of the Assembly before they are enacted.
To find out more about the National Assembly for Wales visit: www.assembly.wales
To find out more about the Welsh Government visit: www.gov.wales
Elections to the National Assembly for Wales are conducted using an election system called the Additional Member System (AMS). AMS is a hybrid voting system. It combines elements of First Past the Post used for elections to the Westminster Parliament, and Proportional Representation, where votes are cast for a list of candidates for each party standing to represent a larger regional constituency.
Under AMS, each voter gets two votes – one for a candidate and one for a party. Each constituency returns a single candidate, through First Past the Post. The votes for the party list candidates are then allocated on top of these constituency seats to ‘top up’ the number of seats won by each party to represent their share of the votes proportionally. These are the ‘additional members’.
In Wales 40 AMs are elected in single-member constituencies while 20 AMs are elected under Proportional Representation to represent one of five regions in Wales. This means that four AMs represent each Welsh region.