The role and responsibility of an Assembly Member
What is an Assembly Member?
The National Assembly for Wales is made up of 60 Assembly Members. Elections are held in May every five years. Assembly Members are elected to represent a specific area of Wales as members of a political party (for example: Conservative, Labour, Plaid Cymru or Welsh Liberal Democrat) or as independent members.
What does an Assembly Member do?
Assembly Members carry out the Assembly’s democratic work; they represent the interests of Wales and its people, make laws for Wales and hold the Welsh Government to account.
The Welsh Government is formed following an Assembly election, and is made up of up to 12 Ministers plus the First Minister. The Government is usually formed from the largest political party or a partnership of parties.
Assembly Members meet twice weekly when the Assembly is in session to discuss issues of importance to Wales and its people. They meet in Plenary, where Members ask questions to Welsh Government Ministers, debate issues such as Government policies and committee reports and examine Welsh laws. Opposition parties can have debates on issues of their choice, usually on a Wednesday, and are allocated on the relative size of their parties in the Assembly.
Assembly Members also meet in committees that have been set up by the Assembly for specific tasks. These include examining laws, scrutinising policy, running the Assembly’s business and carrying out other tasks.
Through committees, the Assembly is able to carry out more work more quickly and Members are able to specialise in particular fields. The membership of committees usually roughly matches the overall representation of the parties within the Assembly.
The Assembly decides which Members should be on a committee. Other Assembly Members can usually attend committee meetings, but they are not able to vote. Committees can choose to meet in private when necessary, but most committees meet in public. Anyone can watch these meetings from the public galleries in the Senedd, or on the Assembly’s Senedd.tv website.
Scrutinising the work of the Welsh Government
One of the most important roles for Assembly Members is to examine what the Welsh Government does. This involves debating policies, asking detailed questions about policies and Government actions, holding inquiries into specific issues or the work of public bodies and holding Ministers to account in the Assembly.
This monitoring role is carried out in two main ways: through Plenary meetings, when the Assembly meets in full; and through a range of committees.