How Welsh elections work

The way the Welsh Assembly is elected is a little more complicated than in the rest of the UK. The Assembly has 60 elected Assembly Members (AMs). Assembly elections take place every four years and each registered voter has two votes. The first vote is for a local constituency Member.

A Member is elected for each of the 40 constituencies in Wales by FPTP, with the remaining 20 AMs elected by the Regional Top-Up system in which voters have an extra vote for a specific region that they reside in. The regions are South Wales East, South Wales Central, South Wales West, Mid and West Wales and North Wales. Each region elects four AMs.

These additional member seats are allocated from the lists by what is called the d’Hondt method, with constituency results being taken into account in the allocation. The overall result is relatively proportional.

Our Welsh content it produced by our Welsh Political Editor, Brett John.

Devolution

Following the landslide election of Tony Blair’s Labour government in 1997, a referendum was held in Wales over whether there was support for the establishment of a national assembly. A referendum had previously been held in 1979 but had been defeated comfortably. This time a narrow majority voted in favour, and the Government of Wales Act 1998 saw the creation of the Welsh Assembly Government.

Unlike in Scotland, the Welsh Assembly has no tax varying powers, but a further Yes vote in a referendum in 2011 saw the Assembly given the power to make laws without consulting UK parliament.

The National Assembly for Wales is based in Cardiff Bay, and has power in a number of devolved areas, most notably health, education, housing, and transport. Since 1998, the Assembly has passed a number of prominent laws independently from the UK government. These include the smoking ban of 2007, the capping of tuition fees so that no Welsh student pays more than £3,685 a year, and the system of ‘presumed consent’ which will see Wales will become the first UK nation where consent for organ donation will be assumed unless people have opted out.


Retained Powers

The UK Parliament remains sovereign in relation to all UK law and can still legislate in all areas relating to Wales. By convention however, it does not legislate for matters which have been devolved to the National Assembly without first obtaining its consent through a mechanism known as a Legislative Consent Motion.

Examples of areas which have not been devolved to the National Assembly include:

    • Criminal justice
    • Foreign affairs
    • Defence
    • Welfare
    • Social security
    • Taxation.

Devolved Powers

The National Assembly for Wales has the ability to pass bills in 20 ‘Subjects’ outlined in schedule 7 of the Government of Wales Act 2006. These include:

      • Education
      • Environment
      • Social welfare
      • Sport and recreation
      • Culture (including the Welsh Language)
      • Tourism
      • Town and country planning
      • Health and health services

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