Wales politics

How Welsh devolution has evolved over two decades

Temporary assembly chamber
Image caption AMs in their temporary assembly chamber in 2000

From an assembly with very limited powers, and a debating chamber once described as resembling a restaurant on a cross-channel ferry, to plans to call itself a Welsh Parliament - how devolution in Wales has developed from a decidedly wobbly start.

1 May 1997: Tony Blair's Labour government sweeps to power in a landslide general election victory with a manifesto commitment to devolve power to Wales and Scotland subject to public approval in referendums.

Image caption Tony Blair said devolution was part of his government's modernisation plans for the UK

July 1997: The "New Labour" administration announces its Welsh devolution plans in a White Paper - A Voice for Wales. A 60-member assembly would take over responsibility for a £7bn budget from the UK Cabinet's Welsh secretary. With more limited legal powers than the proposed Scottish Parliament, it would pass secondary legislation amending certain existing laws. There would be no legal separation between the new Welsh ministers and the assembly which, unlike Westminster, would be one corporate body aiming to work on the basis of "consensus".

Image caption Yes campaigners celebrate their narrow referendum victory for devolution

18 September 1997: In a referendum voters are asked to decide whether "I agree there should be a Welsh Assembly" or "I do not agree there should be a Welsh Assembly". The government's devolution plans were endorsed by 50.3% of the vote on a turnout of 51.3%. Wales previously voted four to one against creating an assembly in 1979. The winning margin was 6,721 votes out of more than 1.1m cast.

31 July 1998: The Government of Wales Act receives Royal Assent, after legislation was steered through Parliament by Welsh Secretary Ron Davies. The new assembly is to be established after an election in May 1999.

19 September 1998: Ron Davies defeats Rhodri Morgan to become Labour's candidate for first secretary of the assembly at a special Welsh Labour Party conference.

27 October 1998: Ron Davies resigns as Welsh Secretary after what he called a "moment of madness" on Clapham Common, in which he was robbed after agreeing to go for a meal with a stranger. He is replaced by Cardiff South and Penarth MP Alun Michael.

Image caption Alun Michael said his administration would create "jobs and opportunity"

20 February 1999: The Wales Labour Party narrowly votes for Alun Michael to be its leader in the assembly, thanks to trade union block votes. Grassroots party members had overwhelmingly backed Rhodri Morgan in his second bid for the job. Tony Blair is accused of parachuting Mr Michael into the post to keep control of Welsh politics.

6 May 1999: The first assembly election, to choose 40 constituency assembly members and 20 regional list members, is held. The list members are elected using a form of proportional representation. Labour wins 28 of the 60 seats - short of a majority - with Plaid Cymru taking 17, including some Labour strongholds in the south Wales valleys. The Conservatives win nine seats and the Liberal Democrats six.

12 May 1999: Alun Michael is elected first secretary to lead a minority Labour administration when the assembly meets for the first time at a former office building, the home of a temporary debating chamber in Cardiff Bay. A purpose-built chamber is to be built nearby. Addressing the new AMs, Mr Michael says: "Let us build that confident new Wales together." He faces criticism when it emerges his new agriculture secretary, Christine Gwyther, is a vegetarian.

Image caption Opening the assembly, the Queen said it was a moment of renewal for Wales

26 May 1999: The Queen and the Prince of Wales officially open the new assembly.

9 February 2000: Opposition parties propose a no-confidence motion in Alun Michael, in a row over EU funding that has been building up for months. Mr Michael resigns before the vote takes place. The motion was backed by 31 votes to 27 with one abstention. Rhodri Morgan, the man Tony Blair sought to deny the top job in Welsh politics, becomes acting first secretary.

11 February 2000: Rhodri Morgan is confirmed by his party as the new leader of Labour's group in the assembly and the party's choice for first secretary. There is speculation Mr Morgan may seek to form a coalition administration to avoid being vulnerable to opposition votes of confidence.

15 February 2000: Assembly members elect Rhodri Morgan as first secretary. Wales' fledgling institution, he said, needed a "period of calm and continuity" after the previous week's high drama, and his "number one aim as first secretary is to survive until the half-term recess at the end of this week". "I regard now as the end of the beginning of devolution," he told AMs.

Image caption Rhodri Morgan said his deal with Mike German would mean a new style of government for Wales

17 October 2000: Now using the title first minister, Rhodri Morgan signs a coalition deal with Liberal Democrat assembly group leader Mike German, who becomes deputy first minister and holds the economic development portfolio.

26 November 2001: Rhodri Morgan decides his administration should now be known as the Welsh Assembly Government, to help people distinguish it from the assembly as a whole. Civil servants are instructed not to use the acronym WAG.

1 May 2003: There are 30 men and 30 women members following the second assembly election, making it the first such body in the world to have gender balance. With Labour up from 28 to 30 AMs, it will now rule alone, without seeking support from a rival party. Plaid Cymru loses five seats and has 12, the Conservatives gain two to reach 11 with the Liberal Democrats again sending six politicians to Cardiff Bay. Former Labour AM John Marek also becomes the assembly's first independent politician, retaining the Wrexham seat despite being deselected by Labour following a row with his local party.

The Labour government's policies for the next four years include phasing out NHS prescription charges and introducing free breakfasts for primary school pupils across Wales.

31 March 2004: A commission, launched under the previous Lib-Lab coalition administration and chaired by Labour peer Lord Ivor Richard, recommends primary law-making powers should be given to the assembly. It also proposes the creation of an additional 20 assembly members and for the assembly to be a legally separate entity from the assembly government.

14 July 2004: Rhodri Morgan announces that the Welsh Development Agency, Wales Tourist Board and education quango Elwa will be absorbed into his government by April 2006. "Today marks the end of the quango state as we have known it," he told the assembly.

Image caption Peter Law overturned Labour's 19,000 Westminster majority in Blaenau Gwent to win by 9,121

4 April 2005: Peter Law, sacked from the cabinet when Rhodri Morgan formed a coalition in 2000, quits Labour to stand as an independent against the party in Blaenau Gwent at the UK general election. There had been much local opposition to the selection of Maggie Jones from an all-women shortlist. The defection means Labour now holds 29 of the 60 seats in Cardiff Bay. Mr Law goes on to overturn Labour's biggest majority in Wales on polling day.

18 May 2005: The Queen's Speech includes UK government plans which it says will give the assembly more legislative freedom.

1 March 2006: A new £67m assembly building, designed by Richard Rogers, hosts its first debates. It will be known as the Senedd, the Welsh word for parliament. Originally £12m had been put aside for the building.

25 July 2006: A bill giving AMs a mechanism to make laws in areas they are responsible for is given Royal Assent. To do so they will need to get permission from both Houses of Parliament. The legislation includes the option of full law-making powers for the assembly provided this is backed in a referendum. Welsh Secretary Peter Hain says it will "settle the constitutional argument on the future of Wales, if not forever then for generations to come".

Image caption The new assembly building is officially opened by the Queen on St David's Day 2006

1 April 2007: Prescription charges end in Wales, as the cost rises to £6.85 in the rest of the UK. The fees had already been gradually reduced to £3 but were now free for all patients in Wales for the first time since 1968. Northern Ireland and Scotland follow Wales in scrapping the charges over the next four years but are still payable in England.

3 May 2007: The number of Labour assembly members drops from 30 to 26 in the third assembly election. Plaid gain three seats and now have 15, the Conservatives are up one to 12 and the Liberal Democrats again return six AMs.

8 May 2007: Rhodri Morgan says Labour AMs have given him permission to speak to the Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru leaders to "provide good governance for Wales". Talks exploring the possibility of forming an alternative Plaid-Conservative-Liberal Democrat "rainbow coalition" also take place.

23 May 2007: Prospects of a rainbow coalition appear to collapse, after a meeting of senior Liberal Democrats in Llandrindod Wells reject a deal with Plaid and the Conservatives.

25 May 2007: Rhodri Morgan is re-nominated as first minister of a minority Labour administration promising "to build a progressive consensus and reach out to others of a like mind".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ieuan Wyn Jones and Rhodri Morgan marking the first 100 days of their coalition

27 June 2007: Labour and Plaid Cymru announce they have agreed in principle to share power, a decision backed by special party conferences the following week. Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones becomes deputy first minister. The deal includes holding a referendum on giving the assembly full law-making powers "as soon as practicable, at or before the end of the assembly term" in 2011.

1 April 2008: Health Minister Edwina Hart announces patients, staff and visitors will be able to park free at almost every NHS hospital in Wales by the end of 2011. Hospitals where parking is run by private companies are told to reduce parking charges costs until contracts expire.

2 September 2008: A new system of play-based learning is launched in primary schools, beginning with three and four year olds and later extending to seven-year-olds. Education Minister Jane Hutt says it is based on schooling in Denmark, New Zealand and Italy.

14 July 2008: An All Wales Convention to measure public support for full law-making powers for the assembly holds its first meeting. It is led by former UK's ambassador to the United Nations Sir Emyr Jones Parry.

18 November 2009: The convention's report backs giving the assembly full law-making powers in devolved areas through a referendum. A public vote for boosting powers is obtainable but not guaranteed, the document advises.

Image caption Rhodri Morgan congratulating Carwyn Jones on wining the race to succeed him

1 December 2009: Carwyn Jones wins the Welsh Labour leadership election after Rhodri Morgan steps down, replacing him as first minister the following week.

6 May 2010: The Conservatives return to power at Westminster, as David Cameron forms a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats to end 13 years of Labour rule. For the first time UK and Welsh ministers are from different parties. An inquiry into Welsh devolution is part of the Tory-Lib Dem deal.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Cheryl Gillan - the first woman to serve as Welsh secretary

12 May 2010: Cheryl Gillan, an MP in Buckinghamshire, is appointed Welsh secretary, the first woman to hold the post. Cardiff-born Mrs Gillan, who had served as shadow Welsh secretary since 2005, promises a "common-sense approach to help cut through the bluff and bluster of Welsh politics".

17 May 2010: Visiting Cardiff Bay, new Prime Minister David Cameron calls for an "agenda of respect" between Westminster and the assembly.

21 September 2010: The assembly government proposes 3 March 2011 as the date for a law-making powers referendum.

3 March 2011: Wales backs direct assembly law-making powers in a referendum by 63.5% to 36.5% on a turnout of 35.4%.

5 May 2011: The fourth assembly election leaves Labour with 30 of the 60 AMs. The Conservatives have 14, Plaid Cymru 11 and the Liberal Democrats five.

18 May 2011: Announcing his cabinet, Carwyn Jones refers to his administration as the Welsh Government, rather than Welsh Assembly Government. The name change is later recognised in law under the Wales Act 2014.

12 July 2011: David Cameron says an inquiry into devolution will look at the "right level of powers" for Wales.

Image caption Leading Yes campaigners celebrate winning the 2011 assembly powers referendum

1 October 2011: Wales becomes the first UK nation to introduce a minimum 5p charge on single-use carrier bags. The number of bags handed out falls by around 70%, a report the following year estimates.

11 October 2011: Former clerk to the assembly Paul Silk is named as the leader of the UK government's inquiry into the Welsh devolution settlement. Funding will be investigated first and constitutional arrangements later.

16 July 2012: An opinion poll for the Silk Commission suggests two-thirds of people in Wales think the amount of income tax they pay should be decided in Wales. But Mr Silk says the report also highlighted a "limited understanding" of tax issues.

4 September 2012: Clwyd West MP David Jones is promoted from junior Wales Office minister to Welsh secretary, as his ex-boss, Cheryl Gillan returns to the back benches.

Image caption Paul Silk's commission said a referendum was needed to devolve income tax powers

19 November 2012: The Silk Commission's first report says the Welsh Government should have the power to vary an element of income tax by 2020, subject to the proposal receiving backing in a referendum. The commission also wants smaller taxes devolved, including stamp duty land tax, landfill tax and stamp duty on long-haul flights.

27 March 2013: The Welsh Government buys Cardiff Airport for £52m, after Carwyn Jones criticises a slump in passenger numbers from two million in 2007 to just over one million in 2012. Mr Jones said it would be managed "at arm's length" and "on a commercial basis".

1 November 2013: David Cameron says Welsh ministers will be offered some control over income tax, subject to a referendum. New financial powers, including control of the stamp duty paid by house buyers and powers to finance upgrades on the M4 are also announced.

18 November 2013: The Treasury announces the power to vary individual income tax bands will not be devolved, meaning changes to the basic rate would also have to be made to the higher rates in a "lockstep" system.

28 November 2013: Wales is the first part of the UK to force food outlets to prominently display food hygiene inspection ratings, from 0 (the lowest) to 5 (the highest), to drive up standards.

19 January 2014: Carwyn Jones describes the income tax powers on offer to Wales as "pretty much useless", due to the lock-step. "It's a bit like someone giving you a car and saying 'by the way there's only one gear on it'," he tells BBC Wales.

Image caption Andrew RT Davies sacked four front benchers for defying him on income tax devolution

30 January 2014: All three assembly opposition party leaders criticise the lockstep restriction, including Conservative Andrew RT Davies.

13 February 2014: Mr Davies sacks four members of the Tory front bench team for rebelling against him in an assembly vote critical of the lockstep. Welsh Secretary David Jones says Mr Davies is expressing "very much a personal view of his own".

3 March 2014: The second Silk Commission report recommends the devolution of youth justice and policing, large-scale energy projects and the number of assembly members increased from 60 to 80. The commission recommends changing the way the assembly's powers are defined to list the powers that are not devolved, rather than those that are - known as the "reserved powers" model, which already exists in Scotland.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Stephen Crabb (L) replaced David Jones as Welsh secretary (R)

15 July 2014: David Jones is sacked as Welsh secretary and replaced by his deputy, Stephen Crabb.

10 December 2014: Stephen Crabb tells MPs the lockstep restriction on income tax powers is being dropped from the Wales Bill.

27 February 2015: In the so-called St David's Day agreement, David Cameron announces a new devolution package for Wales removing "the last remaining barriers" to holding a referendum on devolving income tax powers to Wales. The deal includes guaranteed minimum funding for the Welsh Government "in the expectation" of a referendum being called. Labour insists there had been no agreement.

Image caption Devolution plans announced by David Cameron and Nick Clegg followed cross-party talks

17 April 2015: The Welsh Conservative general election manifesto repeats the pledge to introduce a Treasury "funding floor" for the Welsh Government "in the expectation" ministers in Cardiff hold a referendum on devolving some income tax raising powers.

7 May 2015: David Cameron's Conservatives win a majority of 12 at the general election and the party governs the UK alone for the first time in 18 years.

20 October 2015: A draft Wales Bill is published. UK ministers say it will extend Welsh devolution with new powers over tax, energy, transport and the assembly's own affairs. But Carwyn Jones says it amounts to an "English veto on Welsh laws" that would put devolution into reverse by requiring the UK government to back much legislation before it becomes law. UK ministers accuse him of "peddling nationalist rhetoric".

Image caption George Osborne promises income tax devolution without a referendum

25 November 2015: Chancellor George Osborne tells MPs some income tax powers can be devolved without a referendum. In his spending review, he also promises spending per head on devolved services in Wales would not fall below 115 percent of spending per head in England.

1 December 2015: Wales become the first nation in the UK to introduce a new system to increase the number of organ donors. Adults are regarded as having consented to organ donation unless they have opted out. First Minister Carwyn Jones said it was "law making in Wales at its best".

29 February 2016: Stephen Crabb says plans for further devolution will be delayed until summer to allow time for "significant changes".

7 March 2016: Carwyn Jones unveils an alternative draft Wales Bill, saying it would cut the list of powers to be kept by Westminster and set up a separate legal system for Wales.

Image caption Alun Cairns said he wanted to "deliver for Wales" as secretary of state

19 March 2016: Junior Wales Office minister Alun Cairns is promoted to Welsh secretary after Stephen Crabb is promoted to work and pensions secretary, replacing Iain Duncan Smith - he had resigned from the Cabinet, calling planned cuts to disability benefits "indefensible".

5 May 2016: In the fifth assembly election Labour wins 29 of the sixty seats, UKIP wins seven while the Liberal Democrats are left with just one AM, party leader Kirsty Williams. Plaid Cymru has 12 seats and the Conservatives 11. Plaid leader Leanne Wood celebrates ousting Labour minister Leighton Andrews in Rhondda.

11 May 2016: Assembly members fail to elect a first minister when a vote is tied 29:29. Carwyn Jones is backed by Kirsty Williams and his own Labour Party while Plaid Cymru AMs nominate their leader Leanne Wood, with support from the Conservatives and UKIP.

Image caption Plaid Cymru AM Rhun ap Iorwerth proposed party leader Leanne Wood for first minister in 2016

17 May 2016: Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs back a deal to end the deadlock, with Labour in power and Plaid Cymru in opposition but with promised concessions. The two parties say there have been "constructive and positive talks" about "shared priorities for the coming assembly, and future working arrangements".

18 May 2016: Carwyn Jones's reappointment is confirmed in the assembly. Leanne Wood said it was "not about coalition" but a "one-off vote to allow Labour's nomination to go through". Meanwhile, at Westminster, the Queen's Speech confirms revised devolution plans will be presented to MPs over the following year.

Image caption Kirsty Williams is the only non-Labour politician in Carwyn Jones's cabinet

19 May 2016: Carwyn Jones announces his new cabinet, including sole Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams in charge of education. Ministers are now to be described as cabinet secretaries. Deputy ministers are to be called ministers.

23 June 2016: The UK votes to leave the European Union in a referendum. In Wales, 52.5% of voters back Brexit, just slightly more than the UK-wide majority. Welsh Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Lib Dems had backed Remain, while Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies had defied David Cameron by campaigning to Leave.

12 September 2016: MPs back the Wales Bill, giving it an unopposed third reading.

19 December 2016: It is announced income tax rates in Wales could be varied by 10p within each band from April 2019 as part of a deal with the UK Treasury. The amount the Welsh Government can borrow for capital spending - funding for building and infrastructure - will also double to £1bn.

9 January 2017: UK ministers narrowly avoid defeat in the House of Lords on the Wales Bill, after peers vote 222 to 222 on a Labour amendment that would transfer responsibility for industrial relations in public services in Wales to Cardiff. By convention, under tied votes, amendments are not carried.

17 January 2017: Assembly members back the Wales Bill in a Senedd vote. Carwyn Jones says the bill could be improved but it "takes Wales forward". The bill receives its third reading in the Lords the next day.

31 January 2017: The Wales Bill receives Royal Assent.

Image caption Legislation including the name change is due to be published in 2018

13 June 2017: The assembly announces plans to rename itself Welsh Parliament, after the proposal was backed in a consultation. A law making the change is expected to pass before the 2021 assembly election.

17 July 2017: Alun Cairns says a new reserved powers model for the assembly should come into force from 6 April 2018. This will define what is under the control of Westminster, with everything else assumed to rest with Cardiff Bay. Control of stamp duty land tax and landfill tax are due to be devolved on the same day.

12 September 2017: Carwyn Jones says his government will formally object to Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to transfer EU laws to the UK when the UK leaves the EU. It follows months of claims UK ministers' are using the Brexit process to snatch powers from Wales. Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns insists Wales will not only lose none of its current powers but will actually gain new ones.

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