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Introduction to law in Wales
Introduction to law in Wales

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4 How is law made in the Welsh Assembly?

There is a set process through which a Bill must go to become law in the Assembly. The Assembly also has powers to make secondary legislation, which is covered in Section 5.

In a similar way to the UK and Scottish Parliaments, the drafts of laws are known as Bills. Once a Bill has been considered through the appropriate procedures and passed by the Assembly it is then given Royal Assent and becomes an Act of the Assembly. Acts are applicable in all areas of Wales unless otherwise stated.

Although most Bills are introduced by Welsh government ministers, they can also be introduced by an Assembly committee, an individual member if their name is drawn from a ballot or the Assembly Commission. Each Bill is accompanied by an explanatory memorandum that sets out policy objectives, details of any consultation undertaken, and estimates of the cost of implementing the Bill. They are available in both English and Welsh.

Stage 1

The Bill is formally introduced into the Assembly, meaning that the Bill is laid with officials in the Table Office. The officials then arrange for the Bill to be published on the National Assembly website the following day.

Stage 1 involves the consideration of the general principles of the Bill by a committee followed by agreement on the general principle by the Assembly. The committee’s role is to consider the main purposes of the Bill rather than to scrutinise the fine detail, which is undertaken at later stages. The committee also has the power to invite representations from interested parties and to take evidence to assist its work. Once the committee has made its report, the Assembly is then asked to debate and agree the general principles.

Stage 2

This involves a more detailed consideration scrutiny of the Bill by a committee. The committee will also consider any amendments that have been proposed. While any Assembly member can table amendments to a Bill, only committee members may vote on those amendments. Stage 2 is complete when all amendments have been considered.

Stage 3

This involves detailed consideration of the Bill by the National Assembly and any proposed amendments. Again, members can propose amendments. At this stage it is the presiding officer who decides which amendments should be considered by the Assembly.

Stage 4

This is the final stage. Here there is a vote by the National Assembly to pass the final text.

Royal Assent

Once the Bill has completed Stage 4, it requires Royal Assent becoming law. However, if a Bill is not passed at Stage 4, no further action can be taken on it.

Historically, the monarch formally assents to a Bill in order for it to pass into law. Since the sixteenth century no monarch has actually signed a Bill themselves; instead, the monarch signs Letters Patent, which announce that an assent has been given. Once Royal Assent has been given, the Bill is an Act of the National Assembly.

Following the Royal Assent, the Act will usually come into force at midnight of that date. However, many Acts do not come into force immediately: instead the Act itself either states the date when it will commence, or the Act passes responsibility to the appropriate Minister to fix the date when it will come into force by issuing a commencement order.

Royal Assent is a common feature of all primary legislation in the UK, whether the legislation originates from the UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly.