Tackling coronavirus remains “the priority” as the National Assembly for Wales officially became Senedd Cymru and Welsh Parliament today, the speaker has said.
The new name reflects the institution’s full status as a national parliament, with law-making powers and the ability to vary taxes.
But the name change on a date written into law passed at the beginning of the year, will not distract from the ongoing pandemic, Senedd Llywydd Elin Jones said.
The Senedd is currently meeting virtually over video link as Wales remains under lockdown.
“Responding to the Coronavirus crisis remains the priority of the Senedd and its Members,” Elin Jones said.
“Now, more than ever, our citizens expect a strong national parliament working for Wales: Members asking questions of the Government, scrutinising emergency powers and laws, and representing their communities to the best of their ability in the Senedd.
“The role of our parliament is of far more significance than its name. But it is right that the name reflects the range of powers and responsibilities this parliament holds on behalf of the people of Wales.
“The Senedd today is a very different institution to the one established as the Assembly in 1999. Now with full law-making powers and the ability to vary taxes, the new name reflects the Senedd’s constitutional status as a national parliament.”
The date was chosen as it is exactly one year from the scheduled date of the 2021 Senedd Elections.
The 60 Members elected to represent the people of Wales are now known as Member of the Senedd (MS), and Aelod o’r Senedd (AS) in Welsh.
Votes for 16-year-olds
Other changes introduced in the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Act mean that from today 16 and 17 years old have been given the right to vote in the Senedd Elections.
Eligible foreign nationals will also able to vote which, together, implements the largest franchise extension in Wales since 1969. Registration for this newly enfranchised age group opens on 1 June 2020.
The main changes introduced in the Senedd and Election (Wales) Act are:
- The new official name of Senedd Cymru and Welsh Parliament.
- Lower the voting age to 16 at Senedd Elections
- Giving the vote to eligible foreign nationals at Senedd Elections
- Allowing people who would be disqualified from taking up a seat in the Senedd to stand for election, thereby allowing more people to stand for election.
- Making the Electoral Commission funded by and accountable to the Senedd for Welsh elections.
The Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill became law in January 2020.