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Introduction to law in Wales
Introduction to law in Wales

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3 Devolution in Wales: the modern era

The White Paper A Voice for Wales set out the detailed proposals for creating the Welsh Assembly. The Assembly of 60 members would assume most of the former powers of the Secretary of State for Wales. (These include executive powers, and powers to make law in the form of ‘secondary legislation’, where these powers had been granted under an Act of Parliament passed by the Westminster Parliament.)

Following the referendum vote the Government of Wales Act 1998 (the 1998 Act) received Royal Assent on 31 July 1998. It provided for the establishment of an Assembly of 60 members, divided into 40 constituency representatives and 20 members for regional seats.

The 1998 Act gave the Welsh Assembly authority to pass secondary legislation affecting Wales (in specified areas) and executive powers as to how UK laws were implemented in Wales.(This could have the important consequence that legislation might be brought into force in Wales but not in England, or vice versa.) It could not pass primary legislation or raise taxes, although it could debate issues that extended to Wales.

The transfer of powers to the National Assembly took place when the National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 1999 came into force.

The 1998 Act in effect granted a form of Executive Devolution, where the powers of the Secretary of State for Wales were transferred to the ministers of the National Assembly for Wales. The model of government established was derived partly from the precedent of local government, with ministerial functions and powers over secondary legislation belonging to the Assembly.

The first elections to the National Assembly for Wales were held on 6 May 1999 and the second elections took place on 1 May 2003.