The National Assembly For Wales

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Visit from the Scottish Parliament

Ty Hywel

Back in June the Scottish Parliament’s Gaelic development officers, Mark and Alasdair, came on a two day visit to learn about the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff.

By Alasdair MacCaluim

During our visit we wanted to find out about education, social media, community outreach, translation and the place of the Welsh language at the Assembly.


Our visit started in Tŷ Hywel with Mari Wyn Gooberman, Head of Education. There is a very special room in this building called Siambr Hywel. This was the Assembly’s main debating chamber from 1999 until 2006 when Plenary meetings and committees of the Assembly moved to their new home in the Senedd building next door.

When the Assembly Members (AMs) moved out of Siambr Hywel, the youth of Wales moved in. It is now the base for educational visits, giving young people the opportunity to sit in a real debating chamber in a real legislature where they can use voting buttons and microphones just like the AMs themselves.

The team work in both languages, delivering sessions both to Welsh and English schools. Like the Scottish Parliament, education sessions are offered in schools throughout Wales as well as at the Assembly.


Languages and Powers

As part of our trip, we met with many people connected with promoting the Welsh language at the Assembly. We had a meeting with Mair Parry Jones, Head of Translation and Interpretation and Sarah Dafydd, Official Languages Scheme Manager.

We learnt that the National Assembly has been very much involved in developing machine translation for Welsh. With this, basic translation is done by computer. The Assembly’s translation team then proofs and corrects the draft to create a finished document. This is a very large, important and innovative project.

The Languages Scheme is underpinned by a philosophy that each member of staff has a part to play in the development of Welsh – even if they don’t speak any – or much – of the language.

Here is a short extract from the scheme’s statement of ambition:

“Everyone has a right to interact with the Assembly in the official language of their choice. Where there are barriers to this, we will work to remove them so that the Assembly demonstrates a continuous drive towards becoming a truly bilingual institution where Welsh his used and heard”.

As part of the scheme, all staff have been undertaking Welsh language awareness training.

The whole scheme can be read here.

At the end of our first day, we had the opportunity to attend a team meeting of the Assembly’s Communications Team. This was very interesting as we learnt about the new taxation powers which the National Assembly is to receive through the Wales Bill 2014.


Building, Plenary and Committees

On the last day of our visit we were given a tour of the Senedd building by Richard from the Front of House Team, and were given the opportunity to enter the Chamber itself and visit the translation booth. We also saw the committee rooms and the public café and learned that some scenes from Dr Who and Sherlock had been filmed in the Senedd!

Later we were able to see the Chamber in action during First Minister’s Questions when we saw the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones AM (Labour) answer questions from the opposition parties. Some questions were in English and others in Welsh.

As with the Scottish Parliament, committees play a key role in Assembly business, working closely with the Education and Outreach teams to consult with the public on enquires, including collecting the views of children and young people.

We saw some of the videos that the outreach team had made for committee enquiries and we then visited the web and social media team for more information about the National Assembly’s online presence.

The Assembly, like the Scottish Parliament, has a YouTube channel with many videos, not only about Assembly business but also to promote engagement.  It also has a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook and all posts are bilingual.

The Welsh Assembly – like the Scottish Parliament – celebrates its 15th birthday this year and a series of videos have been made called 15 years in 15 seconds!


Even though we only had two days to learn about 15 years of devolution in Wales, we amassed a great deal of information and a great number of ideas which should be useful to our work in Scotland.

Diolch yn fawr Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru!
Alasdair’s original blog posts in Gaelic can be read here:


All photos by Mark and Alasdair

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Health and Social Care Committee – visits and focus group discussions for the inquiry into new psychoactive substances.

On Thursday 2 October, Members of the Health and Social Care Committee divided in order to hold two simultaneous visits in north and south Wales. The purpose of the visits was to discuss the Committee’s inquiry into new psychoactive substances (also known as ‘legal highs’) with service users and service providers.

Darren Millar AM, Janet Finch-Saunders AM and the Chair of the Committee, David Rees AM, travelled to Wrexham.

The day started with a visit to the LOTS (Life on the street) project, which is a project established by the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham (AVOW). Members spoke with people who have been affected by new psychoactive substances, talking about the impact their use has had on them, how easy they are to obtain, and the ways in which the Welsh Government and others could help tackle the problem.

After visiting the LOTS project, Members met with staff at Dan 24/7, Wales’ publicly funded drug and alcohol helpline. Discussions were held about the number and type of calls the helpline takes every day, and the way the helpline is currently being promoted to the people of Wales.

The last discussion of the day took place at Glyndwr University. Here, Members met with focus groups of front line staff from the NHS, the police force, charities and various other organisations currently dealing with the impact of new psychoactive substances. These discussions lasted an hour and were followed by Assembly Members feeding back the main points from their tables for all attendees to hear.



The main points for discussion at the focus group discussions included:

  • Is the availability and capacity of services to provide support to users of new psychoactive substances adequate, and how could these services be improved?
  • What different factors and approaches need to be considered when dealing with the use of new psychoactive substances in the rural / urban setting?
  • Is the level of coordination, both within Wales and between the Welsh and UK Governments in tackling the issue of the use of new psychoactive substances sufficient, and what needs to be done to improve these partnerships?
  • What different levers should be utilised in order to tackle new psychoactive substances, for example legislation, enforcement activity (trading standards) etc.?

In south Wales John Griffiths AM, Kirsty Williams AM, Lynne Neagle AM, Gwyn Price AM and Lindsay Whittle AM visited Drugaid Cymru in Caerphilly to discuss issues around new psychoactive substances with staff and service users. Later, Members visited a group of young people who have been involved in a filming project – called Choices – through the Fixers and Forsythia Youth Project in Merthyr Tydfil. This film explores the effects of using new psychoactive substances on young people and their families; you can watch it here:

As was the case in Wrexham, the day in Merthyr ended with focus group discussions. You can see pictures from the Merthyr focus groups here:


You can watch video clips from Assembly Members and event attendees here:


The Committee has extended the deadline for the submission of written evidence until Friday 17 October 2014. For more information about how to submit evidence please visit our website:

The Committee will now take oral evidence from various organisations and individuals as well as the Minister for Health and Social Care in the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. These sessions are due to take place on 6, 12 and 26 November. You can watch the sessions on or you can reserve a space in the public gallery by contacting the Assembly’s booking line. The Committee will then consider its findings and write a report, which will include recommendations to the Welsh Government.

Once the report is published you will be able to view it here:

You can keep up to date with the Committee’s inquiry by following @seneddhealth on twitter or visiting the inquiry’s Storify page. Both will provide regular updates on progress.

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Making the planning system fit for the 21st Century?


The National Assembly for Wales’s Environment and Sustainability Committee is asking for the views of the public on the Planning (Wales) Bill.

Alun Ffred Jones AM, Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee, explains:

Planning really is one of those issues that touch every aspect of our life, from things as close to home as house prices and the length of our daily commute to national issues such tackling climate change.

It’s easy to see why the issues that the planning process deals with are often hotly debated. Just think about the debates we’ve had about the location of wind farms or new housing developments. Of course, when we start to talk about the technical process of planning, and a law on planning, some people start to lose interest. However, getting this right is really important as it is these processes (and the laws that establish them) that provide us with the tools to democratically balance the competing demands that are being placed on our communities, towns, cities and countryside.

The Welsh Government has been working on how it believes these processes can be improved in Wales, and it has presented the changes it would like to make in a proposed draft law – the Planning (Wales) Bill.
As a National Assembly, we must now look at this Bill to see if it should become law, and to make sure that if it is to become law it is made to the highest standards.

For the full explanation of our work on this Bill, you’ll need to take a look at the Assembly’s website, but to summarise; this Bill proposes changes to the law in order to:

  • move some of the bigger planning decisions (such as larger scale energy projects) away from your county councillors; to be considered instead by Welsh Ministers in Cardiff.
  • allow councils to work together to tackle larger, cross boundary issues (such as economic development along the A55 Corridor or housing supply in the Cardiff commuter) by producing Strategic Development Plans;
  • improve the efficiency of the planning system including the appeal process;
  • make it easier for citizens to influence the future of their communities, through the introduction of statutory pre-application consultation for significant planning applications; and
  • make changes in relation to applications to register town and village greens.

How do we go about considering this Bill?

We will do this by asking experts and interested people and organisations to send us their views on the Bill. We will then call some of these people and organisations in to give evidence to the Committee I Chair, the Environment and Sustainability Committee. We’ll weigh-up this evidence and report to the Assembly as a whole on whether or not we think this proposed law is worth making and we’ll also make some recommendations on areas of the Bill that need to be improved. This stage of our work will begin in October2014 and will end in early February 2015.

Assuming this Bill continues on its journey, we now turn our attention to the fine detail of the Bill. Both the Committee and then the Assembly as a whole will look at every line of the Bill and, where an Assembly Member thinks the Bill needs to be improved, they can propose changes. These proposed changes are called amendments. Amendments are discussed and then voted on. If they are supported, then the Bill will be updated to reflect these changes. These stages of our consideration will begin in February 2015 and run to early May 2015.

Finally, the Bill with any changes that have been made to it by our consideration is voted on. If the Assembly agrees that it should be made into a law – known as an Act – it is sent to Her Majesty the Queen for her approval. Once Her Majesty approves the Bill it becomes an Act – a law – and the changes it has sought to make will be made. This will happen during the summer of 2015.

If you’d like more information on the process, please go to our webpages which explains it in more detail.

How you can get involved

If you’re interested in following the Bill’s progress through the Assembly…

…you’ll find the Bill and all of its supporting documents are available on our website. You can also find links to all the meetings at which the Bill is considered.
We will be providing regular updates through Twitter. Follow @SeneddEnv for the latest news.

If you want to get more involved…

…you can respond to the Committee’s consultation that will be running from 10 October to 7 November 2014. Details of the consultation will be available from our consultations webpage from 10 October.
Alternatively, get in touch with one, or more, of your local Assembly Members to discuss the Bill and any changes you might want see. Do this at an early stage. For this Bill, I’d recommend speaking to them before Christmas. The amending stages I mentioned above begin in the New Year and will run until early May.

A note on the information we’re looking for

Remember that this is a Bill about the processes by which planning decisions will be made, so we are looking for views on the proposed changes to the process – not the issues they are designed to tackle e.g. we’d like to know what you think about decisions being taken by Welsh Ministers instead of Councillors in certain circumstances, rather than individual planning cases or your views on Welsh Government policies e.g. on the location of wind farms.

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Assembly Summer events: my first Royal Welsh Show


By Julian Price, Social Media Manager

Now that the annual summer events at the National Assembly for Wales have come to an end, what better time to reflect on my experience at this year’s Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells.

It was the first time I’ve been to the Royal Welsh, and the weather was beautiful. It was very warm with temperatures rising into the mid-twenties the entire time we were there, so drinking plenty of water was a must. It was HOT!

Being part of the communications team, I remember discussing the event in early spring to arrange who would be travelling to the show and how we could promote our attendance on social media.

I volunteered to travel with my colleagues to Builth Wells. I was still in primary school when I lasted visited the showground when Adam Ant and the Human League were riding high in the charts! Yep, that’s how long ago it was.

We arrived on the Sunday to prepare the stand for the following day. The building looked amazing. I was really proud of the work the Communications team had done in promoting our presence on social media. (See photo)

We ensured all literature, chairs, tables and refreshments were to hand for the opening day. We were anticipating taking photographs of visiting Assembly Members and Ministers during the event; however, nothing could have prepared us for the first photo.

Monday morning and we had just opened the doors of the stand to the public. My colleague Rhian called over to me to urgently grab the camera and run outside.

“Quick” she said, “I think the Prime Minister is coming!”

I duly ran outside and sure enough Prime Minister David Cameron, with the newly appointed Secretary of State for Wales Stephen Crabbe, was passing our doorway. I briskly walked ahead to gain a ‘head-on’ image.

I was rather nervous as the Prime Minister’s security had clearly taking an interest in me. Thankfully I was wearing a fully branded National Assembly for Wales t-shirt with an official pass.

I managed to capture a photo of the Prime Minister and it was only after reviewing the images that I realised he had looked straight into the camera. We tweeted the image on our @AssemblyWales Twitter account, and I believe we were the first organisation or individual to do so. As you may know he is the first serving Prime Minister to visit the Royal Show. History in the making!

My only regret was not inviting him onto the Assembly stand and this is something I really wish I had done.

After returning to the Assembly stand, I spoke with the former Mayor of Neath Port Talbot, Marian Lewis, at some length about the proposed closure of Junction 41 of the M4, the new Swansea University campus on Fabian Way and the film studios that are located at the old Ford/Visteon factory.

It was an insightful conversation and I learned a lot in such a small space of time about some of the ongoing issues in that region.

Throughout Monday and Tuesday several Assembly Members visited the Assembly stand and it was a great opportunity to discuss promoting the work of the Assembly on social media. I took the opportunity to capture a photo of all visiting AMs holding their constituency map cards and we later posted these images on social media.

On my last day at the Royal Welsh Show, the Assembly, in partnership with Nominet, held an event to raise the profile of the upcoming (.Wales and .Cymru) web domain names. The Assembly will be a founder user of (.Wales) and is very proud to be using this new profile.

The event was held at the S4C building at the Main Ring and I used this opportunity to take some photos of our Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler speak about the upcoming launch. It was a great event with people from all around Wales attending the function. Ieuan Evans was the host and he spoke passionately about being Welsh and what it meant to him.

For more information about the .Wales and .Cymru launch, please click here.


The Royal Welsh Show upheld its reputation as the biggest and best-attended event of its kind in Britain. I am already looking forward to attending next year’s event and will ensure our social media coverage will be bigger and more varied than ever before.

Thank you Llanelwedd.

Julian Price is the Social Media Manager at the National Assembly for Wales. He has managed the increase in our online activity over the last twelve months, using social media to promote the work of the Assembly. The Royal Welsh Show is a great example of online and offline collaboration between teams to promote our presence at an event.

For more information about the Assembly on social media, please see our webpage:

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Enterprise and Business Committee – Inquiry into Tourism

Last month representatives from tourism attractions across north Wales meet Members of the National Assembly for Wales’ Enterprise and Business Committee, to discuss the clarity and strength of Wales’s tourism “brand”, the effectiveness of Welsh Government attempts to maximise the value of the domestic and international tourism markets and the performance of Visit Wales compared with tourism development agencies in the rest of the UK.

This was the third event of its type with the first two being held in Cardiff and Pembrokeshire.

Representatives from the Welsh Mountain Zoo, Antur Stiniog, Portmeirion, Zipworld, the Marram Grass Café, Attractions of Snowdonia, Llechwedd, the Countryside Alliance, Cadw and Glasfryn Park met with Assembly Members representing the Committee at a focus group event held at Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog.

The participants and members split into three separate discussion groups which were facilitated by William Graham AM, Joyce Watson AM, Rhun Ap Iorwerth AM, Keith Davies AM, Mick Antoniw AM and Suzy Davies AM.Discussions lasted for 45 minutes, with a short feedback session at the end to re-cap.

William Graham AM who is the Chair of the Committee and Rhun Ap Iorwerth AM shared some of the points raised during their group discussions with us and also the next steps the Committee will be taking in this inquiry.

Michael Bewick, from J W Greaves Slate also took the opportunity to share with us the points that were raised during the discussion with his group and what he would like to see the Committee recommending to the Welsh Government in the Committee’s report.

Following the group discussions, Assembly Members and participants took a tour of Llechwedd Slate Caverns where they saw Zip World Titan, Bounce Below and the traditional Slate Caverns.


More information about the inquiry can be found here:

Once the Committee have published their report you will be able to see it here: 


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Enterprise and Business Committee – work for the Autumn term 2014

The Enterprise and Business Committee held its first Autumn term meeting far from Cardiff Bay last week.


The Committee’s visit to Llechwedd Slate Caverns was part of the inquiry into Tourism. Following similar events in Oriel y Parc, Pembrokeshire and the National Museum in Cardiff, this event brought together businesses from the tourism sector in the region including representatives from Zipworld and Portmeirion to discuss their ideas regarding Welsh Government policy and progress on tourism growth in Wales.

Enterprise and Business Committee visit to Lechwedd Slate Caverns 18/9/2014

Enterprise and Business Committee visit to Lechwedd Slate Caverns 18/9/2014

Enterprise and Business Committee visit to Lechwedd Slate Caverns 18/9/2014

Enterprise and Business Committee visit to Lechwedd Slate Caverns 18/9/2014

More information on the inquiry into Tourism

This was a positive and proactive start to the new term for the Committee, which has many projects underway or soon to begin. The Committee is currently planning an inquiry looking at assisting young people and older people into work, which will soon become open to public consultation. Committee members are looking forward to hearing the ideas and experiences of young and older people in Wales so remember to keep an eye out for this consultation.

An important meeting for this Committee will be a scrutiny session on the funding and delivery of rail electrification in South Wales with the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart AM. This session is scheduled to take place on the morning of 2 October. Another important scrutiny session is scheduled for the 8 October looking into the Welsh Government’s Economic Priority Sectors although this is subject to change so please be sure to check the agenda closer to the date. The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart AM, and the Sector Panel Chairs will be present at this meeting to answer questions from the Committee.

More information on the Welsh Government’s Economic Priority Sectors.

The term continues to look busy for the Enterprise and Business Committee with a meeting on the progress of the Welsh Government’s Superfast Cymru rollout tabled for 10 December 2014.

If you’d like to book a seat to view any Committee meeting, contact the Booking Team on 0845 010 5500 / 01492 523 200 or You can also view the Committee through the Assembly’s broadcasting channel

If you’d like to keep up to date with this Committee’s work, why not follow its progress on its new Twitter feed? Follow @SeneddEcon for all the latest information.


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Celebrating Bi Visibility day, 23 September 2014

It’s a little known fact that bisexual people make up the largest part of the LGBT community. Sadly when it comes to talking about LGBT issues, their experiences are rarely represented or considered at all. That’s why Bi Visibility Day is so important.

The day was started in 1999 when a small group of committed campaigners got together to get people thinking about bi issues. They were and still are working hard to bring down the barriers that bi people face, including prejudice from within LGBT communities, the challenges of having to repeatedly come out to friends and partners, and simply being ignored and overlooked. But they also wanted to celebrate and be proud to love who they love.


(photo by Stonewall Cymru)

“What being Bi means to me” – the thoughts of a member of our LGBT staff network

Bi means questions. If you tell people you’re gay, nine out of 10 times people are like ‘Oh, OK, thanks for letting me know’ end of conversation. But if you tell people you’re Bi you are met with many ill-formed statements such as ‘You’re just gay but don’t know it yet’ or get intrusive personal questions about your sex life: ‘Have you slept with more men or women?’

Bisexuals are seen as a joke to both the gay and straight community which is hurtful and therefore when people assume I’m straight or gay I very rarely feel comfortable correcting them.

 I recently broke up with my girlfriend and the first comment someone made was ‘Are you going to go back to men now?’ – What was I meant to say to that?!

 I think people view Bisexuality as a transition or experimental stage and for many it is but not all and it is important that is recognised.

Further information on how we can support our bi staff is available in Stonewall’s workplace guide – Bisexual People in the workplace: Practical advice for employers

Further information and support available to bisexual people is available from Bi Cymru.

The National Assembly for Wales is very proud to be listed in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index as the Top Public Sector Employer in Wales for LGB people. To find out more about our LGBT staff network, please contact Craig Stephenson.


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