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Election 2011, News, Politics

New Welsh Assembly powers will come into force in May, says First Minister Carwyn Jones

Increased legislative powers given to the Welsh Assembly following last week’s referendum will come into force following May’s election, First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced.

Voters endorsed Wales being able to pass its own laws in 20 devolved fields when they went to the polls last Thursday.

Mr Jones said an order to activate the assembly’s new powers would be debated in the Senedd on March 29.

It will need the support of a majority of AMs for them to start on election day – May 5.

From then on, the assembly will no longer need Westminster’s approval to pass primary legislation – with the current system of Legislative Competence Orders replaced by Bills and Acts.

Mr Jones said the result would change the assembly’s relationship with Westminster.

“It wouldn’t be the first time there has been discussion on this issue and I’m sure the discussion will continue over the next few months,” he added.

He also said “careful thought” would have to be given to how Wales was represented in Westminster and Whitehall in the future.

Earlier this week, two senior assembly ministers – both from Plaid – sparked a row when they questioned whether there was now any need for the Wales Office.

On Monday, Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones, AM for Ynys Mon, said it was now “difficult to justify” having separate Cabinet secretaries for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

And presiding officer Lord Elis-Thomas said the Wales Office should be wound up – “the sooner the better”.

The comments were met with an angry response from former Secretary of State for Wales, and Labour’s Neath MP, Peter Hain.

He said: “Ieuan Wyn Jones wants a discussion that goes wider than the future of the Wales Office.

“I think we need to have a mature debate about the future role of the Welsh Deputy First Minister.

“Can you really justify having a Deputy First Minister in an assembly cabinet of only nine?”

Carwyn Jones distanced himself from the remarks made by Mr Hain during a press briefing yesterday at the Senedd.

He said: “Those are Peter’s comments. These are not comments that are issued by the government.

“I don’t have any ineffective ministers in my government.”

Welsh Conservatives’ leader in the assembly, Nick Bourne, said Carwyn Jones’s statement was a “public slap-down” for Mr Hain.

He added: “The Wales Office is a matter for the Prime Minister. In the event Cheryl Gillan has delivered successfully a referendum, it does seem an extraordinary thing to say.”

Mr Bourne also said that at a time when the Assembly was set to have discussions with Westminster about the way it is funded – via the Barnett formula – it was “very useful having a Wales Office”.

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