Policy

Maintaining and strengthening the Welsh devolution settlement

Issue

Since 1999, Wales has had 2 governments: the UK government and the Welsh government. The division of responsibilities between the 2 governments is known as the ‘devolution settlement’.

The settlement has developed since 1999, with more powers devolved to Wales. We want to continue to maintain and develop the settlement to make sure it gives people in Wales effective and accountable government.

Actions

Commission on Devolution in Wales

We set up an independent Commission on Devolution in Wales in October 2011 to review the financial and constitutional arrangements in Wales. The commission is chaired by Paul Silk, a former clerk of the National Assembly for Wales and the UK Parliament. It includes 3 other independent members and 4 members nominated by the political parties represented in the Welsh Assembly.

The first part of the commission’s review looked at how responsibilities for taxes and public spending are shared between the UK and Welsh governments. The commission published its first report, ‘Empowerment and responsibility: financial powers to strengthen Wales’, in November 2012.

The Secretary of State made a written ministerial statement in November 2012 welcoming the report, and the UK government is now considering the detail of the recommendations made. The UK government will respond to the Commission’s report in spring 2013.

The second part of the review will look at the powers of the Welsh Assembly. The commission is consulting experts and the public, and will publish its report in spring 2014. The UK government made its submission to the second part of the review on 1 March 2013.

Funding arrangements for Wales

On 24 October the UK government and the Welsh government published a joint statement outlining new commitments on funding in Wales. The statement followed discussions between the two Governments on funding reform in Wales.

The government is also considering the recommendations made by the Commission on Devolution in Wales on tax-raising and borrowing powers and will respond in spring 2013.

Background

Referendum on further law-making powers

On 9 February 2010, Welsh Assembly Members voted unanimously for a referendum on devolving further law-making powers to the Welsh government. The UK government agreed to introduce the referendum, and it took place on 3 March 2011.

The Welsh electorate voted in favour of the proposal that full law-making powers should be devolved to the Welsh government. Following the affirmative result, the Assembly has approved an order which brought the new powers into force on 5 May 2011. This means that the Assembly can make laws in all areas covered by the original devolution settlement.

Memorandum of Understanding

The UK government and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland agreed a Memorandum of Understanding in June 2011. It sets out the principles that guide relations between the administrations, and provides for a Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) including the UK government and the 3 devolved administrations.

Individual UK government departments and their counterparts in the devolved administrations have also agreed and published bilateral agreements.

Reforming the electoral system in Wales

In May 2012, we published a consultation paper proposing to reform the electoral arrangements in Wales. The consultation closed in August 2012, and we published a summary of responses.

On 12 March 2013, the Secretary of State for Wales announced, in a written ministerial statement to Parliament, how the Government intended to proceed on three aspects of the consultation paper.

Further information about the devolution settlement in Wales

Our detailed guidance on the devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland gives more information about how the UK government and devolved administrations work together.

Our detailed guidance on the devolution settlement in Wales gives further information about the powers that are devolved to the National Assembly for Wales.

Bills and legislation

Government of Wales Acts 1998 and 2006

The National Assembly for Wales was established in 1999 by the Government of Wales Act 1998. The Act transferred many of the former powers of the Secretary of State for Wales to the new Assembly.

The Government of Wales Act 2006 formally separated the National Assembly and the Welsh Government. It also provided for a referendum and new processes to devolve more law-making powers to the Assembly.

The Assembly’s new powers to make laws are set out in part 4 of and Schedule 7 to the Government of Wales Act 2006. These parts of the Act are collectively known as the ‘Assembly act provisions’.

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