13 November 2019
Today Assembly Members are debating the Senedd and Elections Bill - which could introduce voting at 16 in Wales and change the name of the Assembly - as it reaches Stage 3 of its journey to becoming law.
But what does that mean? And what happens next?
Where does a new law come from?
Every new law starts as an idea to change how something works or to make something better. When a law first begins its journey, it’s called a Bill – it’s a draft version of the law.
How does a Bill become an Act?
A Bill must pass through four stages at the National Assembly and receive Royal Assent if it’s going to become an Act of the Assembly – a new Welsh Law.
The journey of a Bill: Stage 1
The Assembly Members you elect decide if Wales needs the new law.
The Bill starts its journey with a committee. Committees are small groups of Assembly Members who look at specific subjects.
The committee looking at the Bill meet with subject experts, who help shape the Bill. The committee might run a public consultation, where you could give your opinion.
You can find a list of consultations running now by visiting www.assembly.wales/consultations.
Stage 1 lets the committee collect evidence from everyone they speak to, and write it all into a report. This report will say if the committee agrees with the main aims of the Bill. It might also suggest changes to its wording.
Finally, Assembly Members debate in the Chamber all reports written about the Bill. They vote to decide if Wales needs this new law. If a majority of Assembly Members vote ‘no’, the Bill stops at this stage.
Stage 1: Assembly Members look at the basics. They meet and decide, in principle, if Wales needs the new law.
- One or more committees look at the Bill and write Stage 1 reports.
- Assembly Members debate in Plenary all reports written about the Bill.
- Assembly Members vote in Plenary to decide if Wales need the new Law.
The journey of a Bill: Stage 2
Assembly Members meet in committee.
They look at the Bill, and make changes to the wording. Every Assembly Member can review the Bill, and suggest changes. They may see a way they could improve it. They might think it would be better if it also did something else or that it does too much and needs to be more specific.
Every change they suggest is an amendment.
The committee working on the Bill looks at all the amendments suggested by Assembly Members. They meet and discuss what the amendments would do to the Bill, and vote to decide if they should be included. An amendment is only included if a majority of the committee’s members vote that it should be.
Stage 2: Assembly Members shape the Bill: a small group of Assembly Members meet as a committee and look at suggestions to amend the Bill.
- Every Assembly Member can suggest an amendment to the Bill.
- The committee working on the Bill looks at what each amendment will do to the Bill.
- The committee members vote on which amendments should be included in the Bill
The journey of a Bill: Stage 3
Assembly Members meet in Plenary. Plenary is a meeting of all Assembly Members in the Siambr, the debating chamber.
They look at the Bill, review suggestions and make final changes to its wording. Every Assembly Member can review the Bill, and suggest amendments. During Plenary, every Assembly Member who suggested an amendment can explain their amendment, and give their reasons for suggesting it. Other Assembly Members can explain whether they agree with the proposed amendment.
It’s important that every Assembly Member who wants to speak in Plenary is able to have their say. Sometimes, the Bill will need more work. There is an option for the Bill to have further amendments debated and voted on. We call these extra stages Further Stage 3, Report Stage and Further Report Stage.
Most Bills don’t go through these stages though. Once every Assembly Member in Plenary has debated and voted on the final amendment, the wording of the Bill is completed. The Bill now has its final wording and is ready to move to its final stage at the National Assembly.
Stage 3: Assembly Members refine the Bill. The Bill returns to the Chamber for Assembly Members to make final changes.
- Every Assembly Member can suggest an amendment to discuss and debate in Plenary.
- Assembly Members who proposed an amendment can explain why they suggested it.
- Assembly Members vote on which amendments should be included in the final Bill.
The journey of a Bill: Stage 4
Assembly Members vote in Plenary to agree the final wording of the Bill. Once the Bill has reached Stage 4, its wording is final. Assembly Members can’t amend the Bill any further.
During the Stage 4 debate, Assembly Members look at the final text of the Bill, and decide if it should become a new law. After the debate, they vote – ‘should this Bill become an Act, a new Welsh Law?’ If a majority of Assembly Members vote against passing the Bill, the Bill falls. Nothing further can happen with the Bill once it has fallen. If a majority of Assembly Members vote in favour of passing the Bill, then it has successfully made its way through the National Assembly. It can go on to its final stop to become a new law (an Act of the Assembly) – as long as there is no legal challenge to it.
Stage 4: Assembly Members cast a final vote on the Bill: a successful Bill completes its journey through the National Assembly.
- Assembly Members debate the final wording of the Bill.
- A final vote takes place to agree the final wording of the Bill.
- If the Bill doesn’t pass this stage, it falls.
The Queen grants Royal Assent to the Bill. It’s a formal agreement that the Bill can become an Act of the Assembly and Welsh law. To get to this stage, Assembly Members have written, scrutinised, amended and voted on the Bill. They have spoken to experts on the subject, and you may have had your own say by responding to a committee consultation.
The Queen grants Royal Assent to all Bills that successfully make it through all four stages at the National Assembly. Royal Assent is a formal agreement the Bill can become an Act of the Assembly. All primary laws made by all the Parliaments and the Assemblies of the UK must receive Royal Assent.
You can see the laws we’ve made in Wales since 2016, and how we made them by visiting www.assembly.wales/acts.
Royal Assent: the final stop on the journey where the Bill becomes an Act of the Assembly.
- The Queen grants Royal Assent to the Bill.
- The Bill becomes an Act of the Assembly.