Wales

From James Bond to Lemmy - the Welsh Assembly turns 20

Daniel Craig, the Senedd and Lemmy Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption James Bond was denied access to film at the Senedd but Lemmy was allowed in the Welsh Assembly

As Cool Cymru reached fever pitch, Wales' first parliament for 600 years sat for its first session.

Scott Gibbs' try famously help Wales beat England in the rugby at Wembley while the Manics, 'Phonics, Super Furries and Catatonia were at the peak of their musical powers.

As the Millennium Stadium opened just up the road, the Welsh Assembly started life as a new Wales started to emerge.

It's 20 years since that historic year.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWhat has the Welsh Assembly done for you?

We look back at 20 things you may not know about the National Assembly for Wales and how it has helped shape today's Wales.

Building for the future

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Senedd architect also helped design some of the world's most iconic buildings

What does London's iconic Millennium Dome, Paris' unique Pompidou Centre, Strasbourg's European Court of Human Rights building, 3 World Trade Center in New York and Ashford designer outlet village have in common with the Senedd? Renowned award-winning British-Italian architect Richard Rogers helped design them all.

Flying start

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Madrid airport is one of the busiest airports in the world

Well, the actual inspiration behind the assembly building design was one of the world's largest airport terminals. The Richard Rogers-designed award-winning £1bn terminal four at Madrid's Barajas Airport - all 1.5m sq ft (140,000 m²) of it - was a template for the Senedd's look with its distinctive wavy roof and vast, inviting interior.

Sound as a pound

Image caption Former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies decided the new assembly would be in Cardiff Bay

Wales was quids in back in 1998 as the then Welsh Secretary Ron Davies bought the site on which the Senedd was to be built for £1. The shot of Mr Davies paying Grosvenor Waterside representative Alan Davies a pound for a 150-year lease in Cardiff Bay was shown live on the BBC Wales evening news.

Green with envy

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Siambr is the debating chamber at the Senedd

Politicians are occasionally accused of talking a lot of hot air - well you needn't worry as the £67m assembly building is one of the most green parliaments in the world and controls its temperature naturally.

The distinctive funnel-like roof isn't just a design feature, it's functional - it allows natural daylight and air into the Siambr while the wind cowl on the top of the roof controls temperature, eliminating the need for air conditioning.

The ground, together with a biomass boiler, is a heat source thanks to geothermal heat pump systems using the the constant temperature of the earth for heating and cooling. Rainwater isn't wasted either - it's either used to flush toilets or irrigation.

Stamp of approval

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Only the National Assembly for Wales has the CF99 1NA postcode

The National Assembly for Wales has a unique postcode. CF99 1NA - 99 is the year the assembly started work while 1NA stands for one National Assembly. Critics have questioned whether the assembly actually delivers...

Strong deliverer

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Welsh Government has introduced laws that other nations have followed

The assembly will, however, argue that it helped deliver some pioneering, agenda-setting legislation for such a young legislative body. It was the first UK nation to introduce a minimum 5p charge on single-use carrier bags, the first to force food outlets to prominently display food hygiene inspection ratings, the first to introduce presumed consent on organ donations.

People in Wales also get free prescriptions, free parking at hospitals while primary school children are entitled to a free breakfast.

Child's play

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The future generations commissioner looks after the issues affecting Wales' adults of tomorrow

Wales also prides itself on leading the way when it comes to putting children first.

The Welsh Government was the first to introduce a commissioner for future generations which represents people who haven't even been born yet.

Sophie Howe challenges the impact, environmental and otherwise, of major projects and ensures government policies do not threaten the future of our children and our children's children. Wales was also the first UK nation to appoint a children's commissioner.

Equal opportunity

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Both Jenny Rathbone and Julie Morgan have been members of the assembly since 2011

The Welsh Assembly made political history in 2003 by becoming the world's first legislative body to have equal numbers of men and women.

Women's rights groups hailed the political breakthrough after 30 women were elected to the 60-strong assembly in its second term.

The National Assembly for Wales and Welsh Government have often been hailed as world leaders in women's representation as more than half of all cabinet ministers between 2000-2005 were women.

Good sports

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The 2010 Ryder Cup and 2017 Champions League final were held in Wales

Cristiano Ronaldo and Tiger Woods are two of sport's global superstars that have graced the green, green grass of Wales thanks to backing of the devolved Welsh administration.

Some of sport's biggest events have been staged in Wales since 1999, most notably football's 2017 Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus in Cardiff, and golf's 2010 Ryder Cup in Newport.

Attracting major sporting events - like the first London 2012 Olympic Games event, cricket's England v Australia Ashes series and various Rugby World Cups - is part of a Welsh Government plan to market Wales to the world.

Heart of Glass

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Siambr has been the Welsh Assembly's debating chamber since 2006

To symbolise the assembly being the new heart of Wales, internationally renowned artist Alexander Beleschenko's two-metre wide structure in the centre of the Siambr oak floor cannot be walked on - maybe to symbolise Wales won't be walked over?!

Anyway, the 10mm toughened glass piece is supposed to express "one of emergence, a reflection and statement about the assembly itself which is new and emerging".

Order, order!

You can be forgiven for thinking that any insult goes goes in politics these days but, believe it or not, you can't insult or question another AM's honesty in the Welsh Assembly chamber.

Abusive phrases such as "bumbling idiot", "rent-a-gob", "hypocrites", "pathetic" and "political vermin" are among 50 words or phrases that are unacceptable.

Describing The Queen as a "parasite" and "Mrs Windsor" is also "unparliamentary" - as former Plaid leader Leanne Wood found out in 2004 - while a load of swear words are also frowned upon. Play nice everybody.

A warm welcome

Image copyright Getty Images/Melin Tregwynt
Image caption The Welsh Assembly is unique as it has its own woollen blanket

Well even if it did get cold in the Senedd, you could cwtch up in a bespoke woollen blanket made specifically for the assembly.

Renowned 200-year-old Welsh mill Melin Tregwynt designed the cloth with a slate grey background, to match the assembly's floor, and red, green, yellow and blue spots to represent the political parties. This was designed before UKIP members were elected, in case you're wondering where the purple spots are.

Dr No

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThere was a row over a decision not to allow a James Bond film to be shot in the Senedd

Politicians were shaken and stirred when a request to shoot scenes of James Bond film Spectre in the Welsh Assembly debating chamber were refused.

Some politicians pointed the goldfinger at Welsh Assembly officials and thought it a missed opportunity when they denied 007's request, insisting the chamber was "not a drama studio".

Bond ended up filming in Mexico City - and it was the opening scene. The row must have scared the living daylights out of assembly chiefs as they allowed War of the Worlds to be filmed in the Senedd.

Ace of Spades

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionLemmy visited the Welsh Assembly to tell politicians their policy on heroin had failed

Where 007 failed, Lemmy succeeded. Although he had graced the world's most iconic music arenas, one of the rock star's most bizarre gigs was in the Welsh Assembly.

The Motorhead frontman and Ace of Spades singer shared a stage with Tory AM William Graham in Cardiff Bay in 2005 to tell politicians their policy on heroin had failed.

Christmas presence

Image caption AM Mick Bates turning up to the assembly dressed as Santa caused a row

If devolution was Wales' ultimate gift, Santa Claus turning up at an early-days plenary session in December 2002 was the ultimate seal of approval.

But AM Mick Bates making an appearance dressed as Father Christmas caused a right row as the then-AM Alun Cairns, now Welsh Secretary, accused the Liberal Democrat politician of "making a mockery of the assembly by clowning around in a Santa suit".

Presiding Officer Lord Elis-Thomas also stuck his boot in, telling AMs they should appear there "in normal dress". So much for Christmas spirit.

Didn't push the right buttons!

Image caption Brian Gibbons inadvertently gave Welsh Assembly backing to an ambulance enquiry

By pressing the wrong button in a yes or no debate, the then-health minister inadvertently voted against his own recommendation and made the Welsh Assembly support a 2006 public inquiry into the state of the Welsh Ambulance Service.

Plaid Cymru had called the debate in the wake of the resignation of the service's acting chief executive as the service failed to meet emergency call-out targets. And Labour minister Brian Gibbons' "wrong vote" was crucial as the assembly voted 28-26 in favour of an inquiry.

One party dominance

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Labour has dominated in the Welsh Assembly since 1999

The Welsh Labour government is the longest standing administration in the UK, having been in power since the advent of devolution in 1999. But Labour have usually had to rely on votes of AMs from other parties to govern, with the exception of a short period in the early 2000s.

Seven year itch

Image copyright STEVE PARSONS/AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Royal assent for the Government of Wales Act in 2006 gave Wales more powers

Even though devolution had started seven years earlier, the Welsh Government as a body didn't legally exist until 2006.

But once the Government of Wales Act 2006 gained royal assent, the assembly's powers were strengthened as it allowed more powers to be transferred from the UK to the Welsh Government.

No growing pains here!

Image caption There have been suggestions that the assembly should be expanded to 80 AMs

All isn't as it seems in the Senedd's debating chamber as the walls behind where AMs sit are fake! But it's nothing sinister, it's just so the Siambr can be increased to accommodate 20 AMs and take the capacity to 80 AMs if required.

X marks the spot

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Welsh assembly elections usually have turnout below 50%

Devolution isn't universally popular and opinions have always been divided - as the 1997 referendum results show. It was achieved by the narrowest of narrow margins - with just 50.3% voting yes.

With a turnout of registered voters in Wales at 50.2%, about 20% of people in Wales - 559,419 of the estimated 2.89m population in 1997 - actually voted in favour of creating the assembly.

Related Topics

More on this story