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The law-making process in England and Wales
The law-making process in England and Wales

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8.1 Devolution in Wales

The political roots for devolution in Wales originated in 1886 when a body known as Cymru Fydd (Young Wales) was created by the Liberal political party, which was asking for home rule in Wales. The transfer of power from Westminster to Wales has been a slow process and it was not until 1964, after a general election, that the role of the Secretary of State for Wales was created and the Welsh Office was established in Cardiff. Yet, all law-making processes took place in the Westminster Parliament. It was not until May 1997, when the Labour party won the general election, that a referendum was arranged. The referendum asked the people of Wales whether they wanted their own assembly. The result of the referendum in July 1997 was 50.3% in favour of a Welsh Assembly and 49.7% against it. The result triggered a White Paper, which was called ‘A Voice for Wales’: it was published on 18 September 1997 and outlined the need for a Welsh Assembly and its law-making powers. This was debated in the House of Commons by the then Secretary of State for Wales, Ron Davies. The extract below has been taken directly from Hansard, which is the official transcript of the proceedings. It is easy to see why the Secretary of State was in favour of a Welsh Assembly.

Box 2 The road to devolution

22 Jul 1997 : Column 757

Welsh Assembly

3.30 pm

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr Ron Davies): With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the Government’s proposals for creating an Assembly for Wales. The Government believe that, in the United Kingdom, too much power is centralised in the hands of too few people. We believe that there is too little freedom for people in each part of the United Kingdom to decide their own priorities. Our manifesto made clear our intention to give Britain a modern constitution fitting a modern and progressive country. We believe that it is right to bring decisions closer to people, to open up government, to reform Parliament and to increase individual rights.

The White Paper [‘A Voice for Wales’] that I am publishing today marks a major step forward in the achievement of our proposals for Wales. We propose to create a democratically elected Assembly that will give the people of Wales a real say in the way public services in Wales are run.

Since the Welsh Office was set up more than 30 years ago, there has been a progressive devolution of administration to Wales. As Secretary of State for Wales, I am responsible for taking decisions about health, education, economic development, roads, planning and many other public services that matter to people’s everyday lives. I am accountable to the House, but our procedures here are too often seen as remote from the day-to-day realities of devolved administration.

(Davies, 1997)

This was the road to devolution, which was slowly being carved out for Wales. In the next sections you will see how the limited law-making powers within Wales have now been transformed to full law-making powers.