Wales politics

First minister's tribute to AMs Edwina Hart and Gwenda Thomas

Gwenda Thomas and Edwina Hart
Image caption Gwenda Thomas and Edwina Hart are both from the assembly class of '99

First Minister Carwyn Jones has paid tribute to two senior Labour assembly members who are set to stand down.

Gower AM Edwina Hart and Neath AM Gwenda Thomas are to stand down at the 2016 assembly election.

Mr Jones praised the economy and transport minister's "determination and energy" and said former deputy minister Mrs Thomas was "a passionate advocate for the rights of carers and children".

Labour Llanelli AM Keith Davies is also leaving Cardiff Bay next year.

Mrs Hart and Mrs Thomas were elected to the first assembly in 1999, while Mrs Hart has also been a member of the cabinet since the start of devolution.

'Talented'

Paying tribute to the women, Mr Jones said: "I know that for both Gwenda and Edwina, representing their 'home' areas was incredibly important to them - and both Neath and Gower are losing very talented and passionate advocates."

Mrs Hart said it had been an "honour and a privilege" to serve her constituency for 16 years.

"I am very grateful for the support they have given me during this time, and I will continue to represent their views vigorously until the end of the assembly term next year," she added.

Mrs Thomas said: "It has been a privilege to be part of Wales' political journey, but most of all, I am happy to have had the chance to work for communities I love and call home."

ANALYSIS by BBC Wales' political editor Nick Servini:

Image copyright Media wales
Image caption Despite criticism, Mrs Hart's approach has been unashamedly interventionist

Edwina Hart has been a defining figure in Welsh devolution.

She oversaw a dramatic reduction in the number of boards running the Welsh NHS.

More recently, she helped define a new era of economic development following the abolition of the Welsh Development Agency.

There are no other Welsh government departments with a personal stamp on it like hers, and I understand she enjoys a degree of autonomy that is not afforded to any other minister.

Despite criticism, her approach has been unashamedly interventionist.

It is impossible to say whether the Welsh government would have bought Cardiff Airport for £52m two years ago without her - but the decision had the Edwina Hart stamp all over it.

If something is failing in the private sector, Mrs Hart believes in using the levers at her disposal to step in.

Without great fanfare, she built up the Welsh government's property portfolio to try to inject life into the economy after the recession and she has proposed what would, in effect, be the re-nationalisation of the biggest rail franchise in Wales.

The biggest question following her departure is whether plans for the £1bn M4 relief road around Newport will succeed without its biggest champion driving it through.

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