Welsh law

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Welsh law is the primary and secondary legislation generated by the National Assembly for Wales, using devolved authority granted in the Government of Wales Act 2006 and in effect since May 2007. Each piece of Welsh legislation is known as an Act of the Assembly. The first Assembly legislation to be proposed was the NHS Redress (Wales) Measure 2008. This was the first time in almost 500 years that Wales has had its own laws, since Cyfraith Hywel, a version of Celtic law, was abolished and replaced by English law through the Laws in Wales Acts, enacted between 1535 and 1542 during the reign of King Henry VIII.[1]

Legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales

Both the Government of Wales Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006 set out areas of devolved responsibility for the National Assembly for Wales (commonly known as the Welsh Assembly). The 2006 Act granted the Assembly legislative competence to make laws (known as Assembly Measures) in clearly defined "matters". In order to draft laws within its areas of responsibility, but where the powers of legislative competence have not been devolved to it, the Welsh Assembly can request these powers using a Legislative Competency Order or can receive the transfer of power and the right to make laws through parliamentary bills at Westminster.

Each Order in Council for an area of legislation must be approved by the Secretary of State for Wales, both Houses of Parliament, and the Queen in Council, in order for the Assembly to legislate in that area. Once the Queen has approved the Order, the new area of legislative competence is added to Schedule 5, Part 1 of the Government of Wales Act 2006.[2] There is a Counsel General for Wales who oversees the approval and creation of these laws, and gives advice to the Welsh Government.

The 2006 Act also included provisions which would allow for a referendum to be held on whether to grant the Assembly legislative competence to pass primary legislation to be known as "Acts of the Assembly" in all matters within twenty subject areas without the need for further Legislative Competency Orders. A referendum under these provisions was held in March 2011 and resulted in a vote in favour of granting the assembly the competence to pass the Acts of the Assembly. Therefore, the Assembly now has the legislative competence to pass Acts of the Assembly in all twenty devolved areas.

Following the devolution of legislative competence to the Welsh Assembly in some area of responsibility, it is unlikely that the UK Parliament would draw up legislation in that area without a Legislative Consent Motion being passed by the Welsh Assembly to allow them to do so (Assembly Standing Order 26).[3] This is done to preserve the autonomy of the Welsh Assembly, and to prevent legislative confusion.