Following implementation of the Government of Wales Act 1998 (GoWA 1998), a consensus soon emerged that the National Assembly for Wales’ powers were too limited and that its status as a single body corporate was inappropriate. The Government of Wales Act 2006 (GoWA 2006) established a newly constituted National Assembly as a fully fledged legislature, and a separate executive initially named the ‘Welsh Assembly Government’ and later changed to simply the ‘Welsh Government’.
Significantly GoWA 2006 gave the National Assembly power to pass its own primary legislation – initially by ‘Assembly Measure’ under a system by which limited competence was conferred (either by a Legislative Competence Order or by an Act of Parliament) on a piecemeal basis – and since the referendum on further law making powers in 2011 onwards by ‘Assembly Act’.
Under the former conferred powers model, the extent of the National Assembly’s competence to legislate was limited to twenty one subject areas which were conferred by section 108 of, and Schedule 7 to, GoWA 2006, though these were subject to exceptions.
The Wales Act 2014 has subsequently extended Senedd Cymru’s legislative competence in relation to certain tax matters. These subjects conferred were:
- Agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development
- Ancient monuments and historic buildings
- Devolved taxes
- Economic development
- Education and training
- Fire and rescue services and promotion of fire safety
- Heath and health services
- Highways and transport
- Local government
- Public administration
- National Assembly for Wales
- Social welfare
- Sport and recreation
- Town and country planning
- Water and flood defence
- Welsh language
The Wales Act 2017 changed the system for determining the powers of Senedd Cymru from a ‘conferred powers’ model to a ‘reserved powers’ model, which is consistent with the models adopted for Scotland and Northern Ireland. In a reserved powers model, there is no specific list of devolved subjects. The model operates on the basis that everything is devolved unless it is reserved to the UK Parliament. The extent of Senedd Cymru’s legislative competence is set out in Section 108A and schedules 7A and 7B of GoWA 2006 as amended by the Wales Act 2017.
Further details of the reserved powers model is set out below, though in practice few changes were made by the Wales Act 2017 to the subjects upon which Senedd Cymru may legislate.