The Government of Wales Act 1998 laid down the necessary statutory framework to establish the National Assembly for Wales, which held its first elections in May 1999 and began functioning as a devolved administration two months later.
In February 2002, the National Assembly voted to make clear the difference in roles between ministers and the Assembly as a whole. The Welsh Assembly Government develops and implements policy. It is accountable to the National Assembly and is primarily located in Cathays Park, Cardiff. The National Assembly for Wales debates and approves legislation and holds the Assembly Government to account. Its debating chamber and members are located at Cardiff Bay.
Electors have two votes in Assembly elections: one for their local constituency and one for their electoral region. The Assembly comprises 60 members (AMs): 40 from local constituencies, with the same boundaries as those for Welsh seats in the House of Commons, and 20 regional members. The Assembly is elected by the Additional Member System of proportional representation.
The First Minister, who heads the Assembly Government, is supported by a Cabinet of eight Ministers in charge of economic development and transport, Assembly business, finance, local government and public services, education and lifelong learning, health and social care, social justice, housing and regeneration, environment, planning and countryside and culture, Welsh language and sport.
The Assembly is also responsible for more than 50 public bodies. These include the Welsh Development Agency, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Sports Council for Wales and the Welsh Language Board.
In June 2003, the Prime Minister announced that the role of Secretary of State for Wales, to represent Welsh interests in the UK Cabinet, would be combined with other posts within the Cabinet. The work of the Wales Office also moved to the new Department for Constitutional Affairs.