Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 15:17 UK

Queen approves Wales' new powers

Windsor Castle
The ceremony at Windsor Castle marks the beginning of a new era

The Queen has approved the transfer of new powers to the Welsh assembly in a ceremony at Windsor Castle.

The order allows the assembly to draw up Welsh laws to help people with additional learning needs.

The power transfer received backing from AMs and both Houses of Parliament and is the first under the 2006 Government of Wales Act.

A further nine orders are in the pipeline, on issues ranging from mental health services to fire safety.

The act, which came into effect last May, allows the assembly to ask for the UK Government's agreement to pass laws in specified areas.

Welsh Assembly Government Education Minister Jane Hutt promised "the first Welsh law passed in many centuries will be aimed at improving the lives and opportunities for those with special educational needs".

First Minister Rhodri Morgan celebrated the making of "a little bit of Welsh history".

Nick Bourne AM
An awful lot of time and energy has been spent on this which needn't be spent on this process because I believe it could be far simplified
Nick Bourne AM, Welsh Conservative leader

"For the first time in 500 years the people of Wales are now able to create laws to help improve their day-to-day lives," he said.

Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne agreed it was an "historic occasion" but described it as just a "staging post" in the development of Welsh devolution.

"I believe that it has exhibited, probably, why we do need full powers," he said.

"An awful lot of time and energy has been spent on this which needn't be spent on this process because I believe it could be far simplified and I look forward to that day".

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Mike German also welcomed the order and made similar criticisms.

He said: "We need to move further and faster to a position where Wales, through its national assembly, has primary law making powers in all the devolved fields - and doesn't have to take the begging bowl to London in order to get them."

'Careful scrutiny'

Assembly Presiding Officer Lord Elis-Thomas denied the constitutional process was a stop-gap measure.

"We are making laws and no law is stop-gap," he said

"This will liberate people who have particular needs in education and training throughout their lives and that's the important thing, the outcome of this.

"I don't think we should apologise for the fact that we have a constitution which requires careful scrutiny and has a role for Members of Parliament in Westminster as well as Assembly Members," Lord Elis-Thomas added.

Q&A: Welsh devolution
04 Mar 08 |  Wales

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