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  1. Nick Powell

Minister confirms departure from Cardiff Bay

Economy Minister Edwina Hart has now issued a statement confirming that she's stepping down as an AM at next year's Assembly election.

It has been an honour and a privilege to serve the people of Gower, the constituency in which I was born, for the last 16 years. Since I was first elected to the Assembly in 1999, I am pleased that I have been able to champion the cause of so many local organisations, and work with so many constituents. I am very grateful for the support they have given me during this time, and I will continue to represent their views vigorously until the end of the Assembly term next year.

– Economy minister Edwina Hart AM

Together with Finance Minister Jane Hutt, Edwina Hart is one of just two AMs to have been in the Welsh Cabinet since it was first formed under Alun Michael in 1999. She contested the Welsh Labour leadership when Rhodri Morgan stood down as First Minister but was defeated by Carwyn Jones.

Edwina has brought a wealth of experience to Government. Under her guidance the Economy, Transport and Science portfolio has just presented the best ever inward investment figures for Wales – a tribute to her determination and energy in going out to sell Wales around the world. The fact that Edwina was able to command respect in portfolios as diverse as health, EST, Social Justice and Finance demonstrates her political abilities and attention to detail.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Two of Edwina Hart's constituency neighbours have also announced today that they're standing down. Gwenda Thomas also confirmed her decision to her local party in Neath this evening, with Keith Davies earlier making his announcement in Llanelli.

  1. Nick Powell

Minister to leave Assembly as three Labour AMs decide not to stand again in 2016

Edwina Hart, Keith Davies and Gwenda Thomas are all leaving Cardiff Bay Credit: ITV News Cymru Wales

One of the two Assembly members to have served in every Welsh cabinet since the first election in 1999 is expected to announce tonight that she won't stand again next year. Economy and Transport Minister Edwina Hart is understood to be making the announcement to her Gower constituency party this evening.

The former Deputy Health Minister Gwenda Thomas is also due to tell her local party in Neath tonight that she too won't be seeking re-election. They join Keith Davies who announced earlier today that he will be quitting Llanelli after just one term as an AM.

So three Labour AMs in neighbouring seats are all leaving the Assembly next year. But it's Edwina Hart's decision that will command the most attention. One of the most powerful figures in the Welsh Government, responsible over the years for finance, health and now the economy, she'd been tipped as a possible successor to Dame Rosemary Butler as the Assembly's Presiding Officer.

The Labour party encourages its AMs and MPs not to leave it so late to declare their intentions and another five have already done so. Last minute announcements are by no means unusual but by delaying her decision Edwina Hart has left herself open to suggestions that she fears the loss of Gower to the Conservatives, who won the Westminster seat for the first time at the General Election last month.

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Plans to speed up adoption process

The Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services says she can "learn a lot from families" who have already been through the adoption process, as she tries to eliminate delays in the system. Gwenda Thomas met a family who have adopted two of their three children in Cardiff this morning.

Any delay to a child’s case can be detrimental to their prospects for adoption and we are looking at all possible ways to help a child settle with their adoptive family sooner. The new national adoption service will work with existing agencies, in ensuring that children languishing in care... are not left one more day than is necessary. I want to eliminate waiting lists for prospective adopters, who routinely face delays for training and assessment, improve the matching process, allay adoption breakdown by a comprehensive adoption support service and streamline the adoption process.

– Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services