Understanding devolution in Wales
Understanding devolution in Wales

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Understanding devolution in Wales

5.4 Referendum on law making powers

Wales’ third referendum on devolution was described by Guardian Whitehall Editor, Michael White as ‘strikingly low-key’. With just 8 weeks to go until the next set of Assembly elections, the political parties were largely pre-occupied, and campaigning fell to Yes For Wales and True Wales (the no campaign). True Wales decided not to seek official status and funding so Yes For Wales was denied official status and the attached funding.

The arguments were familiar. Yes For Wales claimed primary legislative powers would make the Assembly more efficient and accountable to the people of Wales. True Wales argued that AMs were not up to the task and MPs should remain involved in the process.

Activity 4 Referendum (2011)

The referendum was held on 3 March 2011. Take a look at these campaign materials for both sides.

This is a screenshot from a website set up by Yes for Wales. The banner image shows a cartoon megaphone with a speech bubble: 'It's time to say "Yes"'. Underneath the banner there are buttons linking to other sections of the website, labelled with the text: 'What is the vote all about? Let us explain it in plain English' and 'Who Says Yes? See who is supporting a Yes vote'.
Figure 8 ‘It's time to say “yes”’
This is a screenshot from a website set up by True Wales. Its headline is 'No More Law-Making Power for the Welsh Assembly'. Underneath there is a heading 'Unlocking the puzzle' and the following sections: 'The referendum is about deciding what is the best for Wales', 'What power are these Failures seeking?' and 'What is the 'Yes' campaign promising?'
Figure 9 ‘Say “no” to direct law-making power for the National Assembly for Wales’

How would you vote? Make your decision, then reveal the discussion below to find out the results.

This image recreates a referendum ballot, written in both English and Welsh. The English version reads as follows: Referendum. Vote (X) in one box only. The National Assembly for Wales: what happens at the moment. The Assembly has powers to make laws on 20 subject areas, such as: agriculture, education, the environment, health, housing, local government. In each subject area, the Assembly can make laws on some matters, but not others. To make laws on any of these other matters, the Assembly must ask the UK Parliament for its agreement. The UK Parliament then decides each time whether or not the Assembly can make these laws. The Assembly cannot make laws on subject areas such as defence, tax or welfare benefits, whatever the result of this vote. If most voters vote 'yes' – the Assembly will be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for, without needing the UK Parliament's agreement. If most voters vote 'no' – what happens at the moment will continue. Question: Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for? YES / NO The Welsh version reads as follows: Refferndwm. Pleidleisiwch (X) mewn un blwch yn unig. Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru: yr hyn sy'n digwydd ar hyn o bryd. Mae gan y Cynulliad bwerau i lunio deddfau mewn 20 maes pwnc, megis: amaethyddiaeth, addysg, yr amgylchedd, iechyd, tai, llywodraeth leol. Mae'r Cynulliad yn gallu llunio deddfau ar rai materion ym mhob maes pwnc ond nid ar faterion eraill. Er mwyn llunio deddfau ar unrhyw un o'r materion eraill hyn, mae'n rhaid i'r Cynulliad ofyn am gytundeb Sendd y DU. Yna, mae Senedd y DU yn penderfynu bob tro a gaiff y Cynulliad lunio'r deddfau hyn neu beidio. Ni all y Cynulliad lunio deddfau mewn meysydd pwnc fel amddiffyn, trethi neu fudd-daliadau lles, beth bynnag fo canlyniad y bleidlais hon. Os bydd y rhan fwyaf o bleidleiswyr yn pleidleisio 'ydw' – Bydd y Cynulliad yn gallu llunio deddfau ar bob mater yn yr 20 maes pwnc y mae ganddo bwerau ynddynt, heb orfod cael cytundeb Senedd y DU. Os bydd y rhan fwyaf o bleidleiswyr yn pleidleisio 'nac ydw' – Bydd yr hyn sy'n digwydd ar hyn o bryd yn parhau. Cwestiwn: A ydych yn dymuno i'r Cynulliad allu llunio deddfau ar bob mater yn yr 20 maes pwnc y mae ganddo bwerau ynddynt? YDW / NAC YDW
Figure 10 Referendum ballot

Discussion

Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?
ResponseVotes%
Yes517,13263.49%
No297,38036.51%

In summary:

Both the financial arrangements and the powers of the Assembly conferred under the 2006 Government of Wales Act were reviewed during the third Assembly and found wanting. There was a referendum on whether the Assembly should be given primary law-making powers which passed. There was still no reform of funding.

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