Wales politics

Welsh Assembly now fully-fledged parliament, Alun Cairns says

Alun Cairns
Image caption Alun Cairns says Wales' devolved institutions are coming of age

The Welsh Assembly has matured into a fully-fledged parliament, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has said, as new devolved powers come into force.

They increase borrowing powers for Wales and allow Welsh and UK ministers to reach legal agreement on water flowing across the border with England.

Changes under the Wales Act also mean the assembly could change its name to Welsh Parliament if members wished.

But some AMs have said the legislation claws back powers in some areas.

In November, Mr Cairns described ending his ability to block some laws made in Wales about water as putting right a "long outstanding injustice" 50 years after the flooding of a Gwynedd village to create the Tryweryn reservoir to supply Liverpool.

The Welsh Government can now borrow up to £1bn for infrastructure projects, rather than the current £500m.

Other measures in the act that now apply include the reaffirming of the assembly and Welsh Government as permanent features of the British political landscape.

It also enshrines the convention that Westminster will not normally pass laws on devolved matters without permission from AMs.

"From today, the assembly can decide on a new title if that's what assembly members want," Mr Cairns said.

"I and my successors will no longer be entitled to a seat in the assembly, nor will we be required to give an annual address to the assembly on the Queen's Speech.

"Together, these changes reflect the coming of age of the devolved institutions in Wales and mark the beginning of the transition to the new settlement that the Wales Act will put in place."

The powers came into force automatically on Friday, two months after the Wales Bill received Royal Assent on 31 January.

The date when many of the act's other provisions will take effect has not yet been decided.

They include changing the way the assembly's powers are defined to a "reserved powers" model.

This would specify what Westminster controls, with everything else assumed to be the responsibility of Cardiff Bay,

The current system lists what is a matter for the assembly, with other powers deemed to belong to the UK Parliament.

Some Welsh politicians have claimed the reserved powers model actually rolls back devolution in some areas.

Mr Cairns will consult the Welsh Government and the assembly's Presiding Officer Elin Jones on timescales.

Agreement has also yet to be reached on when powers to vary rates of income tax - included in the 2014 Wales Act - will be used.

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