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Thursday, April 8, 1999 Published at 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK

Structure and powers of the assembly

Powers and the relationship with Westminster

Welsh Assembly's powers Westminster's retained powers
  • Economic development
  • Agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food
  • Industry and training
  • Education
  • Local government
  • Health and personal social services
  • Housing
  • Environment
  • Town and country planning
  • Transport and roads
  • Arts, culture and the Welsh language
  • The built heritage
  • Sport and recreation
  • Tourism
  • Water and flood defence

  • Foreign Affairs
  • Defence
  • Taxation
  • Macro-economic Policy
  • Fiscal and Common Markets Policy
  • Broadcasting Policy
  • The Justice System and Prisons
  • Police and Fire Services
  • National Lottery and Related Matters
  • Social Security Benefits
  • Competition Policy
  • Labour Market Policy

  • The Welsh Assembly and its officials will take over the functions currently carried out by the secretary of state for Wales.

    To do so, it will have a similar budget to that enjoyed by the Welsh Office, currently 7bn a year.

    The Welsh Assembly will not, however, have the same level of power and responsibility as that enjoyed by the Scottish Parliament.

    Westminster will retain control of primary legislative powers in all areas and the assembly is taking over secondary legislative powers only in those areas shown above.

    Primary legislation is effectively the type of law passed currently at Westminster in that it lays down the scope of legislation. It might, for example, say that there must be a national curriculum in schools.

    Secondary legislation governs the way the laws work in practice. Following the above example, it might allow the minister in charge to decide exactly which subjects the national curriculum contains.

    While it can debate any matter it wishes, the Welsh Assembly has only these secondary powers and only in the above areas.

    It will also have some powers over quangos, being able to question, monitor and reduce their numbers.

    In addition, the secretary of state for Wales will continue to represent Welsh interests at meetings of the UK Cabinet. There will be a "close working relationship" between the secretary and the assembly, but he or she will not be bound by its views and though able to participate in debates, will not be able to vote.

    The 40 Welsh MPs at Westminster will continue to play a full part in the House of Commons.

    Structure of the Welsh Assembly

    The 60 members of the new Welsh Assembly will sit initially at Cardiff's Crickhowell House. From the autumn of 2001, they will move to the new Assembly Building at Pier Head in Cardiff.

    Although the assembly will meet in the week after the election, the official opening is not until 26 May, when the ceremony will be carried out by the Queen and the Prince of Wales.

    The Members of the Welsh Assembly are likely to meet for three days a week and keep normal business hours, rather than follow the Westminster tradition of late-night sittings.

    The political leader of the assembly will be elected by a majority vote of the members and will be known as the first secretary. He or she will appoint assembly secretaries, who will have responsibility for areas over which the assembly has powers, such as education or tourism.

    Each of these areas will have a specialist committee, made up of MWAs from all parties represented in the assembly according to their strength. The relevant assembly secretary will also sit on these committees.

    The specialist committees will report to the executive committee, a body made up of all the assembly secretaries and headed by the first secretary, who will be responsible to the assembly for its actions.

    The members will elect from among their number a presiding officer and a deputy to perform a similar role to the Speaker in the House of Commons - chairing and keeping order during meetings.

    The assembly will sit for four years between elections, so the next ones will take place in May 2003, then 2007 and so on.

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