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Understanding devolution in Wales
Understanding devolution in Wales

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Barnett formula
The formula that dictates payments made from the UK Government to the Welsh and Scottish governments. The formula takes into account how much money is spent in England, the degree of devolution in particular areas e.g. health and education, and the relative populations of the countries.
D’Hondt method
Also known as ‘highest average’, a system for calculating seats won in an election.
Also devo-hostile. A political position which generally opposes the existence of or extension to the powers of the devolved administrations.
The branch of government that sets the policy agenda, aiming to get policies passed by the legislature. The current Welsh Government is an example of an executive body – this was made law by the Government of Wales Act 2006.
First Minister
Leader of the Welsh Government. Responsible for policy, appointing ministers, chairing the Welsh Cabinet, and representing Wales at home and abroad. Accountable to the Senedd. Originally known as the First Secretary but this was changed in 2000.
Government of Wales Act (GoWA) (2006)
An act that separated the legislature and the executive in Wales and enabled the Assembly to pass primary law in 20 areas.
Holtham Commission
The Independent Commission on Funding and Finance for Wales, chaired by economist Gerald Holtham and commissioned in 2008. The Commission reported that the Barnett formula is out of date, and that some areas of taxation should be devolved.
Internal Market Bill
A controversial Brexit-related bill passed by the UK Parliament in 2020. The bill aimed to standardise regulations and strengthen the UK's internal market i.e. the way goods move between the four nations. Rejected in the Welsh and Scottish Parliaments, the bill received heavy criticism from many pro-devolution figures.
Legislative competence orders
Known as LCOs. A piece of constitutional legislation that would transfer legislative power from the UK Parliament to the National Assembly for Wales. LCOs had to be approved by the Assembly, both Houses of Parliament and the Secretary of State for Wales.
The elected branch of government that scrutinises the executive and votes on laws. Examples of legislatures are Senedd Cymru, the House of Commons, and the US Senate.
Member of the Senedd. Formerly referred to as an AM, or Assembly Member.
One Wales
The One Wales government was the result of a coalition between Labour and Plaid Cymru. In power between 2007 and 2011, with a Labour First Minister and a Plaid Cymru deputy.
Primary legislation
An act passed by a parliament. An act of Senedd Cymru is an example of primary legislation, as is the UK Internal Market Act. Within primary legislation there is a section dictating what changes can be made to the act by secondary legislation.
An acronym for ‘quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation’. Examples include the Wales Centre for Public Policy think-tank and Literature Wales.
Rainbow coalition
A government formed of MSs from a range of parties. There were talks of a rainbow coalition between Plaid Cymru, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats after the 2007 election but this did not materialise.
Richard Commission
Led by Lord Richard and commissioned by Rhodri Morgan in 2002. The Commission's report recommended changes to the electoral system, the structure of the Assembly, and the powers of Cardiff lawmakers.
Secondary legislation
A piece of legislation that makes changes to an act. Initially, the National Assembly for Wales was only able to pass secondary legislation.
Senedd Cymru
Formerly known as the National Assembly for Wales, this 60-member parliament is elected every five years and is tasked with holding the Welsh Government to account.
Silk Commission
Led by Paul Silk and commissioned by the Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, following the 2010 general election. The first report focused on finance, and the second on the powers of the Assembly. Both reports called for greater devolution to Wales.
St David's Day Agreement
A 2015 policy announcement by the UK coalition government, led by David Cameron. The majority of the recommendations aimed to strengthen the devolution settlement, with many taken directly from the second Silk Commission report.
Supreme Court
The final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases and criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It also hears cases of constitutional importance including disputes between governments.
Third sector
The voluntary and non-profit sector, consisting of charities and organisations such as the Welsh Council for Voluntary Action.
Thomas Commission
The Commission on Justice in Wales, chaired by Lord Thomas and commissioned by Carwyn Jones in 2017. The Commission reported that the present legal system was letting people in Wales down, recommending legislative devolution of justice to the Assembly.
Wales Bill 2014
The bill that made much of the St David's Day Agreement into law. Notably the passing of the bill allowed the Assembly to raise money via taxation for the first time.
Wales Bill 2016
A controversial bill that eventually passed to form the Wales Act 2017. The passing of the bill marked a switch to a reserved powers model of devolution, as well as devolving elections and some powers over energy.