12 May 1999
National Assembly for Wales
The Welsh Government (Welsh: Llywodraeth Cymru) is the executive of the devolved National Assembly for Wales. The government was established in 1999 as the Welsh Assembly Government by the Government of Wales Act 1998, which created a devolved administration for Wales in line with the result of the 1997 referendum on Welsh devolution. The government consists of cabinet secretaries, who attend cabinet meetings, and ministers who do not, and also of a counsel general. It is led by the first minister, usually the leader of the largest party in the National Assembly, who selects cabinet secretaries, ministers and deputy ministers with the approval of the assembly. The government is responsible for tabling policy in devolved areas for consideration by the assembly and implementing policy that has been approved by it.
- 1999 to 2007 Executive Committee of the National Assembly
- Legal separation
- Transfer of functions
- Welsh ministers
- Functions and areas of competence
- Cabinet Secretaries Ministers and Counsel General
- Civil service
- Permanent secretary
- Strategic Delivery and Performance Board
- Welsh Government sponsored bodies
1999 to 2007 (Executive Committee of the National Assembly)
As initially established, the Welsh Government had no independent executive powers in law (unlike, for instance, the Scottish ministers and British government ministers). The National Assembly was established as a body corporate by the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the executive, as a committee of the assembly, only had those powers that the assembly as a whole voted to delegate to ministers.
The Government of Wales Act 2006 formally separated the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government, giving Welsh ministers independent executive authority, this taking effect after the May 2007 elections. Following separation, the Welsh ministers exercise functions in their own right. Further transfers of executive functions from the British government can be made directly to the Welsh ministers (with their consent) by an Order in Council approved by the British parliament.
Separation was designed to clarify the respective roles of the assembly and the government. Under the structures established by the Government of Wales Act 2006, the role of Welsh ministers is to make decisions; develop and implement policy; exercise executive functions and make statutory instruments. The 60 assembly members in the National Assembly scrutinise the government's decisions and policies; hold ministers to account; approve budgets for the Welsh Government's programmes; and enact acts of assembly on subjects that have been devolved to the Welsh administration.
The result mirrored much more closely the relationship between the British government and British parliament and that between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament.
The new arrangements provided for in the Government of Wales Act 2006 created a formal legal separation between the National Assembly for Wales, comprising 60 assembly members, and the Welsh Government, comprising the First Minister, Welsh ministers, deputy ministers and the counsel general. This separation between the two bodies took effect on the appointment of the First Minister by Queen Elizabeth II following the assembly election on 3 May 2007.
Separation was meant to clarify the respective roles of the assembly and the government. The role of the government is to make decisions; develop and implement policy; exercise executive functions and make statutory instruments. The 60 assembly members in the National Assembly scrutinise the Welsh Government's decisions and policies; hold ministers to account; approve budgets for the Welsh Government's programmes; and have the power to enact assembly measures on certain matters. Assembly measures can now go further than the subordinate legislation which the assembly had the power to make prior to 2007.
Transfer of functions
The assembly's functions, including that of making subordinate legislation, in the main, transferred to the Welsh ministers upon separation. A third body was also established under the 2006 Act from May 2007, called the National Assembly for Wales Commission. It employs the staff supporting the new National Assembly for Wales, and holds property, enters into contracts and provides support services on its behalf.
The 2006 Act made new provision for the appointment of Welsh ministers. The First Minister is nominated by the Assembly and then appointed by Her Majesty the Queen. The First Minister then appoints the Welsh Ministers and the Deputy Welsh Ministers, with the approval of Her Majesty. The Act created a new post of Counsel General for Wales, the principal source of legal advice to the Welsh Government. The Counsel General is appointed by the Queen, on the nomination of the First Minister, whose recommendation must be agreed by the National Assembly. The Counsel General may be, but does not have to be, an Assembly Member. The Act permits a maximum of 12 Welsh Ministers, which includes Deputy Welsh Ministers, but excludes the First Minister and the Counsel General. Accordingly, the maximum size of the Welsh Government is 14.
Functions and areas of competence
Following the "yes" vote in the referendum on further law-making powers for the assembly on 3 March 2011, the Welsh Government is now entitled to propose bills to the National Assembly for Wales on subjects within 20 fields of policy. Subject to limitations prescribed by the Government of Wales Act 2006, Acts of the National Assembly may make any provision that could be made by Act of Parliament. The 20 areas of responsibility devolved to the National Assembly for Wales (and within which Welsh ministers exercise executive functions) are:
The Welsh Assembly Government was renamed Welsh Government (Llywodraeth Cymru) under the Wales Act 2014.
Cabinet Secretaries, Ministers and Counsel General
The government is composed of cabinet secretaries and ministers. The counsel general attends cabinet meetings. The current government is formed by Welsh Labour and also the sole Liberal Democrats Assembly Member, Kirsty Williams.
The Welsh Government also includes a civil service that supports the Welsh ministers. According to a report from 2014, there are over 5,000 civil servants working across Wales. The civil service is a matter reserved to the British parliament at Westminster: Welsh Government civil servants work within the rules and customs of Her Majesty's Civil Service, but serve the devolved administration rather than the British government.
The permanent secretary heads the civil service of the Welsh Government and chairs the Strategic Delivery and Performance Board.
The permanent secretary is a member of the Her Majesty's Civil Service, and therefore takes part in the permanent secretaries management group of the Civil Service and is answerable to the most senior civil servant in Britain, the cabinet secretary, for his or her professional conduct. He or she remains, however, at the direction of the Welsh ministers.
Strategic Delivery and Performance Board
The Strategic Delivery and Performance Board translates the strategic direction set by the Welsh cabinet and its committees into work that is joined up across Welsh Government departments and makes the best use of its resources. The board is made up of two deputy permanent secretaries, the director-general for health and social services/NHS Wales chief executive, four directors and 3 non-executive directors, and is chaired by the permanent secretary.
Board members are appointed at the discretion of and by the permanent secretary. Membership is not wholly dependent on functional responsibilities; it is designed to provide balanced advice and support to the permanent secretary, and collective leadership to the organisation as a whole.
Welsh Government sponsored bodies
The Welsh Government is responsible for a number of Welsh Government sponsored bodies (WGSBs). These are, respectively,
WGSBs are staffed by public servants rather than civil servants.
The Welsh Government is also responsible for some public bodies that are not classed as WGSBs, such as NHS Wales, and the Welsh Offices of England and Wales legal offices.
The Welsh Government has a total of 35 offices across Wales, with a number in London and overseas. Historically, most Welsh Office staff were based in Cardiff, especially in Cathays Park. However, in 2002, the Fullerton Review concluded that "the Assembly could no longer sustain having the majority of its operational functions located in and around Cardiff". Since 2004, Welsh Government civil servants have been relocated across Wales as part of the Location Strategy, which involves the creation of new offices at Merthyr Tydfil, Aberystwyth and Llandudno Junction. In 2006, the mergers of ELWa, the Wales Tourist Board and the Welsh Development Agency into the Welsh Government brought these agencies' offices into the Welsh Government estate.
The office of the First Minister is in Tŷ Hywel and the Senedd in Cardiff Bay; an office is also kept at the Welsh Government building in Cathays Park where the majority of Cardiff-based Welsh Government civil servants are located.
The Welsh Government receives a budget allocation from the UK Government determined by the Barnett Formula.