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Marking 20 years since Wales said ‘yes’ to devolution

18/09/2017

​20 years since Wales said 'yes' in the referendum to create the National Assembly, a group of young people for whom the institution has always been a feature of their lives, will visit the Senedd (Monday 18 September) and meet the Llywydd, Elin Jones AM.

Representatives of the 'devolution generation' will take part in a Question and Answer session with the presiding officer and will be given a tour of the National Assembly building in Cardiff Bay.

In 1997 Wales went to the polls and voted to establish the National Assembly for Wales.

Since then the Assembly gained primary law-making powers through the Government of Wales Act 2006 before Wales voted again in 2011 to unlock further powers from Westminster.

Wales Acts in 2014 and 2017 have seen the Assembly's responsibilities widen further to include tax-raising powers for the first time in almost 800 years.

Landmark laws passed by the Assembly include adopting a system of presumed consent for organ donation and minimum staffing levels on hospital wards, while a petition calling for a ban on single-use carrier bags led to a 5p charge which has greatly reduced their use and been adopted across the UK.

To mark the occasion around 70 young people will take part in a question and answer session with the Llywydd of the National Assembly, Elin Jones AM, where topics including voting age, a youth parliament and the future of the Assembly will be discussed.

Elin Jones AM said:

"Support for devolution and the National Assembly has grown significantly in Wales. In 1997 the vote in favour was very close, but a BBC Wales St David's Day poll in 2017 had 73 per cent of people either saying the Assembly's powers should be increased or were sufficient.

"Our priority for the future is to ensure that we have a parliament that is well-equipped to represent the interests of Wales and its people, make laws for Wales and hold the Welsh Government to account; a parliament that is an equal of its counterparts across the UK."

The question and answer session is part of a series of events marking the 20th anniversary of the referendum on devolution including:

  • The changing face of the Chamber: Wales said yes - IWA devolution conference – Wales Millennium Centre, 18 September 2017
  • The launch of 'Pen ar y Bloc' by Vaughan Roderick, the BBC's Welsh Affairs Editor who has reported on the Assembly since the 1997 Referendum - Senedd, 19 September 2017

The National Assembly's education outreach team will also be visiting schools in Gwynedd, Carmarthenshire and Cynon Valley.

How Assembly legislation has changed Wales and the UK:

  • Wales was the first UK nation to restrict smoking in enclosed public places; 
  • Wales was the first UK nation to have a national conversation about changing organ donation law and to pass legislation bringing in the soft-opt-out system.  Now Scotland and England are looking to follow; 
  • The Nurse Staffing Act, introduced by Kirsty Williams AM was the first legislation of its kind in the UK and Europe, requiring the NHS to take steps to calculate and maintain nurse staffing levels in adult acute medical and surgical inpatient wards;
  • A member-proposed measure by Ann Jones AM, now Deputy Presiding Officer, required all new homes built in Wales to be fitted with a sprinkler system;
  • The 5p charge on single use carrier bags was originally proposed via the Petitions Committee process and went on to become legislation through the Assembly.  Wales went on to become the first country in the UK to introduce a charge on single use carrier bags in October 2011.  Others have followed.
  • At a time when public confidence in politicians was at its lowest, the Assembly took the radical step in 2008 to review its arrangements for determining Members' pay and allowances. The independent Remuneration Board was established in 2010 to determine the remuneration and allowances for Members of the National Assembly for Wales.
  • In 2013 the Assembly passed a law that cemented both English and Welsh as the Assembly's official languages placing a statutory duty on itself to provide services to Members and the public in the official language of their choice.

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