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National Assembly for Wales

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The National Assembly for Wales (or NAW) (Welsh: Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) was established in 1998, following the approval by a small majority of Welsh voters in a referendum held in 1997 of the Labour Government's proposals for devolution. Its members use the title AM (Assembly Member) or, in Welsh, AC (Aelod y Cynulliad).

Unlike the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly, the National Assembly for Wales cannot pass its own primary legislation, nor can it raise its own taxes, as these powers remain with Westminster. This is largely because, unlike those other parts of the United Kingdom, Wales has always had the same legal and administrative system as England. However, supporters of the Assembly argue that it is at least more democratically accountable than the Welsh Office, which was represented in the British Cabinet by a Secretary of State who often did not even represent a Welsh constituency at Westminster.

In July 2002 the Welsh Assembly Government established an independent commission, with Lord Ivor Richard (former leader of the House of Lords) as chair, into the powers and electoral arrangements of the National Assembly in order to ensure that it is able to operate in the best interests of the people of Wales. The Richard Commission reported in March 2004. It recommended that the National Assembly should have powers to legislate in certain areas, whilst others would remain the preserve of Westminster. It also recommended changing the electoral system to the single transferable vote (STV) which can produce more proportional representation [1] (http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/topstories/wales.htm).

In the white paper Better Governance for Wales - published on 15 June 2005 - the UK Government rejected Richard's recommendation to change the electoral system, whilst proposing a half-way house between the status quo and the National Assembly having full Scottish Parliament-style legislative powers.

 - the flag of Wales
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Y Ddraig Goch - the flag of Wales

The Assembly is composed of 60 Assembly Members, or AMs (in Welsh, Aelodau'r Cynulliad, ACau). Under the Additional Member System [2] (http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/publications/leaflets/welshassembly.htm), 40 of the AMs are elected from single-member constituencies on a First Past the Post (more accurately termed single member plurality or SMP) basis, the constituencies being equivalent to those used for the House of Commons, while the remaining 20 AMs are elected from regional closed lists using an alternative party vote. This attempts to achieve a somewhat more proportional result than SMP, though there are too few 'top-up' seats to achieve any true proportionality. The Assembly sits in Cardiff, and will have a new, high-end assembly chamber in Cardiff Bay once construction is finished.

To date there have been two elections to the Assembly, the first taking place in 1999 and the second in 2003. The second election produced the first ever democratically elected legislature in the world in which 50 % of the members were women.

The First Minister and the Cabinet form the Welsh Assembly Government.

Party political make-up of the Assembly
    Party Seats Current Assembly (elected in 2003)
1999 2003
  Labour 28 30*                                                            
  Plaid Cymru 17 12                                                            
  Conservative 9 11                                                            
  Liberal Democrat 6 6                                                            
  Forward Wales N/A 1                                                            

* The current number of Labour Party AMs is 29, after Peter Law stood against the Labour candidate in Blaenau Gwent in the General Election 2005 and was automatically expelled from the party.


See also

External links

fr:Assemblée Nationale du Pays de Galles kw:Kuntelles Kenedhlek Kembra nds:Natschonaalversammeln vun Wales

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