The National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government have each enjoyed a growing role in the governance of Wales as the devolution process has evolved. Yet the UK Parliament still plays a very important part in the governance of Wales. The National Assembly may pass laws only in those subject areas where power has been devolved (more information on its legislative competence can be found here). Parliament retains the power to legislate on any topic, and has exclusive competence (subject to EU law) to legislate for Wales in all the non-devolved areas. This includes some important areas such as policing, justice, social security and most areas of commercial/business law.
Even in those areas which are devolved, there is a huge volume of UK legislation which still applies in Wales. For example, there are many Acts of Parliament which pre-date devolution, and Parliament can still legislate for Wales post-devolution (with the consent of the National Assembly).
Many executive powers (powers to enforce the law) in both devolved and non-devolved areas now reside with the Welsh Ministers. The Welsh Ministers have many functions under Acts of Parliament as well as under Assembly Acts and Assembly Measures. However, functions under Acts of Parliament are not always delegated to Welsh Ministers. Sometimes those functions are delegated to the Secretary of State (that is, a UK Minister) instead.
The Wales Office and Secretary of State for Wales
The Wales Office and the Secretary of State for Wales provide an important link between the National Assembly and the Welsh Government in Wales and the UK Government. Their role involves:
- representing the UK Government in Wales
- representing Welsh interests in Westminster
- overseeing the working of the devolution settlement
- steering Welsh-specific legislation through the UK Parliament