#Assembly15 - National Assembly is 15-years-old

Published 12/05/2014   |   Last Updated 14/07/2014

#Assembly15 - National Assembly is 15 years old

12 May 2014

The National Assembly for Wales marks its 15th anniversary today (12 May).

In that time the Assembly has evolved from a democratically elected body with powers to pass secondary legislation to a law-making body.

The Assembly is also now considered an exemplar for parliamentary practice with delegations from countries as far afield as Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada visiting us to look at how we scrutinise legislation and policy, and how we engage the people we serve in our work.

Those delegations have come to find out how the Assembly uses technology in Assembly proceedings, provides support to our Assembly Members, structures our committees and how our petitions system works.

“They say young people grow up very fast these days,” said the Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler AM.

“In its first 15 years the National Assembly for Wales has matured into a fully-fledged law-making body.

“We are increasingly viewed as an exemplar for modern democracy with many legislative bodies from around the world visiting the Assembly to learn about how we work.

“The pace of constitutional change in Wales, and the rest of the UK, has been dramatic and the institution today is very different from the one envisaged by the UK Parliament as recently as 2006. Fifteen years since the Assembly was established, the Assembly enjoys overwhelming public support from the people it represents.”

But the Presiding Officer added that further clarity is needed in the constitutional settlement for the Assembly to be allowed to mature further, reiterating her comments to the UK Government’s Commission on Devolution in Wales (The Silk Commission), where she called for changes to ensure:

  • that the institution has sufficient capacity to fulfill its functions;

  • that the boundaries of the Assembly’s powers are clear and intelligible; and

  • that the Assembly has the maximum possible autonomy to act on matters affecting Wales.

“Given the weight of responsibility resting with the institution, and the unavoidable scale of the workload faced by Members, I am in no doubt that the number of Assembly Members should be increased from 60 to 80,” Dame Rosemary added.

“We need clarity on the future of the United Kingdom – and a central part of that should be informed by what is best for the people of Wales, recognising that the vast majority of people in Wales believe that there should be a devolved legislature.

“I believe that the best way of securing this clarity is to have a UK Constitutional Convention, with the aim of developing a coherent constitutional framework between the different legislative institutions of the UK.”

To mark the anniversary the Assembly is highlighting some of the key moments in the past 15 years on its Twitter feed, @assemblywales, such as:

  • 1999 - The 60 Members which make up the National Assembly for Wales first met in Plenary on this day in 1999;

  • 2003 – Assembly achieves gender parity;

  • 2006 – Government of Wales Act: law making powers for the first time;

  • 2007 – First Assembly Measure;

  • 2011 – ‘Yes’ vote in referendum on enhanced powers for National Assembly;

  • 2012 - Assembly passes first ever Act;

  • 2012 - Recognising Welsh and English as the Official languages of the Assembly through the Official Languages Act.

We have also asked Members to record their own highlight of the past 15 years which can be viewed here.