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Understanding devolution in Wales
Understanding devolution in Wales

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2 The evolving devolution settlement

As you will see in the first section of this course, the devolution settlement in Wales was transformed in the two decades following the 1997 referendum. House of Commons researcher, David Torrance, set out five phases of this transformation, charting the transfer of powers from Wales to Westminster.

As you work through this course, you’ll come to understand these phases much better.

Five broad phases of devolution:

  • administrative devolution (1964-1999)
  • executive devolution with secondary law-making powers (1999-2007)
  • executive devolution with enhanced secondary powers (2007-2011)
  • legislative devolution under a ‘conferred powers’ model (2011-2018)
  • legislative devolution under a ‘reserved powers’ model (2018-)

Primary law-making powers refer to the ability to draft and enact legislation without recourse to another legislature. The Assembly began as a body with secondary law-making powers (it could request legislation be passed in Westminster) but became a primary law-making legislature (free to make its own laws within certain policy areas) following a referendum in 2011.

A conferred powers model is where a legislature is granted permission to make changes in a number of defined areas. Everything else remains reserved. A reserved powers model is where an Assembly is not permitted to make changes in a number of defined areas, but it is free to act where there is no reservation. The Assembly had a conferred powers model at the outset of devolution, but this became a reserved powers model in 2014.

Both of these changes will be explored in depth throughout this course.