Call for fair representation for the Assembly as it celebrates 20 years

Published 07/05/2019   |   Last Updated 17/04/2023   |   Reading Time minutes

In celebrating 20 years of devolution, the Llywydd (Presiding Officer) of the National Assembly, Elin Jones AM, is calling for the Assembly's capacity to be increased for the people of Wales to have a "fair and proportionate representation in their national Parliament."

The Llywydd's call comes as the National Assembly officially marks 20 years since the first Assembly elections in 1999. The Presiding Officer and First Minister will make a special address in the Chamber during the plenary session today (Tuesday, May 7) to Members and former Assembly Members.

In her speech the Llywydd will refer to the Assembly's successes while recognising that it had been a fully bilingual and inclusive Parliament from the outset, becoming the first legislature in the world to achieve gender balance in 2003 and one which today has the highest proportion of females through all UK parliaments.

But she will emphasise that there is a need to build on all the developments to date and the increase in powers while keeping a firm focus on the future.

"Piece by piece, the construction of a Parliament, of building a nation, has gone on and by today we stand on the solid foundations of the early architects of devolution. But let's not rest on our laurels. There is so much to do.

And one fact that remains unchanged, despite the change in our responsibilities. On Day One, we were 60 Assembly Members and today, 7301 days later, we are still only 60 Members.

If we are to realise any ambition to increase the powers of this Parliament, or to inject more creativity and originality into the use of the powers that we already have, we need to increase our capacity. There are no more hours in the day, you can't be in two places, or in two Committees, at the same time - and so to represent the people of Wales at our best, then we need more Members."

The Presiding Officer will also emphasise the need to involve the people of Wales in discussing the Assembly's future and, in doing so, will announce more details about the Assembly's 20 year programme over the coming months.

"That is why we will be convening the Citizen's Assembly this summer. We will give the people and people of Wales the opportunity and opportunity to present their aspirations for the next 20 years in Wales. It will be a source of original ideas to shape our future work and priorities.

And then in September, we will be holding our first ever Democracy Festival. A festival which will be a feast of discussing issues of importance to the people of Wales - from sport to technology to the arts, with the aim of attracting new audiences to the Senedd in the Bay. "

After the address which will close the plenary session of the day in the Chamber, the Presiding Officer will lead members, former members and guests of the Hall for a short reception to celebrate 20 years of devolution. As one who was given his first job opportunity in 1999 during the excitement of devolution, the radio and television presenter Huw Stephens will present a short programme of performances by musicians and writers to celebrate Wales' cultural talent.  Among them will be a special poem written to mark 20 years of devolution by the National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn.

The official noting of the anniversary comes a day after the Senedd opened its doors on Bank Holiday to welcome people of all ages to a public celebration at the Senedd Jamboree. Over 1350 people came through the doors for a day of activities. This marks the start of a 5 month programme of events and activities across Wales to mark 20 years of devolution which will end in September with a festival of democracy back in Cardiff Bay.