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AMs back Wales Bill in Assembly vote

Credit: PA Images

Assembly Members have voted to back the Wales Bill in today's Assembly vote. The vote was 38-17 in favour of the bill.

The Assembly's right to rename itself a parliament is one of the powers unambiguously given to Cardiff Bay by the Wales Bill.

The main concern of Plaid Cymru - and many in Labour who've agreed to swallow their doubts - is that because law and justice won't be devolved, the Assembly's ability to legislate will be curtailed.

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Labour AMs decide to back Wales Bill

Labour AMs have agreed to back the UK Government's Wales Bill when it's debated in the Senedd today.

Although the bill includes significant new powers for the Assembly, the Welsh Government has argued that it also gives ministers at Westminster new opportunities to curtail devolution.

The UK Government had made it clear that it would not over-ride the Assembly if it refused legislative consent for the Wales Bill to be passed. It also said that a new deal with the Treasury on how the Welsh Government is funded would be dropped if the bill did not go ahead.

The decision to back the bill was taken at a meeting of the Assembly Labour group on Monday evening.

As the Conservatives are also committed to supporting the UK Government's legislation, it now seems certain to pass when the vote's taken in the Senedd tomorrow.

As the party who delivered devolution for Wales we have rightly adopted a challenging, but responsible approach towards the passage of the Wales Bill.

This is not the Bill we would have developed and it is not the Bill that Wales deserves. However, on balance this legislation will give the country more constitutional certainty and the fiscal framework in particular represents a real step forward.

After a considered debate, the Labour Group has decided to vote in favour of allowing the UK Government to proceed.

– Labour Group Chair Hannah Blythyn AM

Law to make Welsh councils share services "as soon as possible"

Credit: Senedd TV

A new law to compel the 22 Welsh local authorities to share services rather than try to do everything themselves will be passed as soon as possible, the First Minister has told AMs. The Welsh government has abandoned plans to cut the number of councils but wants to see much more co-operation.

We will have to change the law to force local authorities to work together. Legislation will be placed before the Assembly as soon as possible.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones told AMs on an Assembly scrutiny committee that education consortia, where councils co-operate in providing support to schools, were working well.

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If AMs can't agree on First Minister, there'll be another election

The Assembly authorities have issued guidance on how a failure to nominate a First Minister would eventually lead to a new election. Carwyn Jones remains in post for now -he serves "at Her Majesty's pleasure" but AMs have 28 days to either nominate him once again to the Queen or put forward somebody else. The 28 days began on polling day -May 5- and end on June 1.

The First Minister of Wales is the leader of the Welsh Government and is appointed by Her Majesty the Queen following nomination by Assembly Members.

A First Minister must be nominated by the Assembly within 28 days, so by the end of 1 June 2016. The First Minister is nominated by the Assembly and the nomination is submitted by the Presiding Officer for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's approval. She is responsible for appointing the First Minister. If a First Minister isn't nominated within 28 days of the election, another Welsh general election must be held.

The Presiding Officer, following consultation with the political parties, will notify Members of the date and time of the next Plenary meeting, where another vote by roll call can take place.

– National Assembly for Wales

Elin Jones is new Assembly Presiding Officer

Ceredigion AM Elin Jones has been elected the new Presiding Officer of the National Assembly.

She defeated her Plaid Cymru colleague Dafydd Elis-Thomas by 34 votes to 25. There was one abstention.

The Presiding Officer holds significant powers and responsibilities that make the position the single most important office in the National Assembly for Wales.

The role shapes every aspect of the Assembly – from its day-to-day operation, the routine management of business, to its development as the primary democratic institution in Wales, its position in the constitution of the UK and its standing in the eyes of the public.

In paying tribute to her predecessor Elin Jones AM said: “Dame Rosemary Butler has been an excellent ambassador for the Assembly over the past five years."

She has broken down barriers to participation in the democratic process in Wales, particularly amongst women through her Women in Public Life campaign; for young people by placing them firmly at the centre of Assembly business and created more opportunities to hold the Welsh Government to account.

I look forward to building on her the success she has had in making the work that we, as Assembly Members, do here at the Senedd.

– Elin Jones AM, Presiding Officer for Wales
  1. Nick Powell

Melding won't stand for Presiding Officer

The Conservative AM David Melding, who was Deputy Presiding Officer in the last Assembly, has ruled himself out of standing to succeed Dame Rosemary Butler as Presiding Officer.

Assembly rules require that the roles of Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officer are shared between the Government and Opposition. Which opposition party loses one its AMs to a politically neutral role will have a significant impact on the balance of power in the Senedd.

After much soul searching I have come to realise that I am at my best as one of life’s lieutenants. For this reason I do not believe that I am the right person to lead the National Assembly through its next stage of development. I am very grateful to family, friends and colleagues who have given me such generous support and provided me the space to make this decision.

Consequently,I will not seek nomination to become the Assembly’s Presiding Officer.

I look forward to making a full contribution to the work of the 5th Assembly and in particular initiatives to strengthen Welsh democracy and the efficiency of public services.

– David Melding AM

David Melding's decision brings other names into play. One possibility is that Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, who was Presiding Officer in the first three Assemblies, will return to the post. He has often proved a troublesome backbencher for Plaid Leader Leanne Wood but ultimately it's a decision for all AMs, who will vote in a secret ballot if there's more than one candidate.

The sole remaining Liberal Democrat AM, Kirsty Williams, could be a popular choice but if she became Presiding Officer, her party would lose its voice in the Senedd.

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