Wales politics

Referendum on Welsh powers to use revised question

Welsh assembly at night, Cardiff Bay
Image caption If voters say yes, the Welsh assembly will gain further devolved powers from Westminster

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan has confirmed next year's referendum on further Welsh powers will use a revised question by the Electoral Commission.

A consultation with members of the public showed they found the original question posed by the Wales Office hard to understand.

Cheryl Gillan has said she will adopt the revised question following discussions with the first minister.

The referendum is expected to take place in March next year.

The legislation paving the way for the vote will be published shortly.


The Electoral Commission, which has a legal duty to scrutinise any potential referendum question, said the original wording put forward by the Wales Office contained ambiguous and confusing definitions of what was being voted on.

The body conducted 10 weeks of 'road-testing' the proposed question with members of the public.

Mrs Gillan said: "Over 10 weeks the commission conducted a thorough assessment of the preamble and question, including carrying out public opinion research, inviting and gathering views from interested parties and seeking advice on both English and Welsh versions.

"I welcome the objectivity and independence that the Electoral Commission has brought to the process.

"It has suggested changes that take into account the generally low level of public awareness of issues and terminology relating to devolution and the referendum encountered during the testing process.

"I have discussed the conclusions of the report with the first minister and the deputy first minister and, with their agreement, have decided to accept the commission's recommended revision of the question and its preamble.

"The presiding officer has also indicated his agreement to the decision of the secretary of state to adopt the Electoral Commission's recommended question."

Spring 2011

Now the question has been formally agreed legal moves begin to call the referendum vote.

Mrs Gillan also reiterated her intention that the referendum would take place next spring.

"I will lay the draft Order before Parliament shortly for consideration by both Houses, and my intention remains, subject to the remaining procedural steps, for the referendum in Wales to take place in the first quarter of next year," she said


The National Assembly for Wales - what happens at the moment

The Assembly has powers to make laws on 20 subject areas, such as:

· agriculture

· education

· the environment

· health

· housing

· local government

In each subject area, the Assembly can make laws on some matters, but not others. To make laws on any of these other matters, the Assembly must ask the UK Parliament for its agreement. The UK Parliament then decides each time whether or not the Assembly can make these laws.

The Assembly cannot make laws on subject areas such as defence, tax or welfare benefits, whatever the result of this vote.

If most voters vote 'yes'

The Assembly will be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for, without needing the UK Parliament's agreement.

If most voters vote 'no'

What happens at the moment will continue.


Do you want the Assembly now to be able to make laws on all matters in the 20 subject areas it has powers for?

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