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Government of Wales Act 2006

Proceedings etc.

Section 31: Standing orders

143.This section requires Assembly proceedings (which include the proceedings of committees and sub-committees) to be regulated by standing orders.

144.Amongst matters for which standing orders must, under provisions of the Act other than this section itself, expressly make provision are the following:

Section 10(8)Determining the date on which a constituency vacancy is treated as occurring.
Section 23(2)Specifying the person before whom Assembly members are to take the oath or make the affirmation of allegiance.
Section 27(3)Appointment of the four members (other than the Presiding Officer, who is appointed automatically) of the Assembly Commission.
Section 28(3)Provision about the membership, chairing and procedure of the Assembly’s committees and their sub-committees – note that such provision must, in relation to committees, meet the requirements of section 29.
Section 36Provisions in relation to registration and declaration of members’ interests, prohibition of paid advocacy and for defining (or providing for the definition by code or protocol) the respective roles and modes of description of constituency and regional Assembly members.
Section 98Procedures for scrutinising proposed Assembly Measures.
Section 111Procedures for scrutinising Assembly Bills.

145.The Act also empowers (but does not oblige) standing orders to be made covering, amongst others, the following matters:

Section 20(6)(a)Provisions for remuneration of Assembly members (including provisions conferring functions on the Assembly Commission).
Section 21(3)(a)Provisions for limiting the salaries of Assembly members (including provisions conferring functions on the Assembly Commission).
Section 25Provisions for the exercise of the Presiding Officer’s functions by the Deputy Presiding Officer, or by any other person where both the Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officer are unable to act or their offices are vacant; and participation by the Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officer in Assembly proceedings.
Section 28(1)Provision for the appointment of committees to the Assembly, and for those committees to have the power to appoint sub-committees.
Section 28(4)Exclusion from the proceedings of Assembly committees and their sub-committees of Assembly members who are not members of those committees and sub-committees.
Section 31Exclusion of members from Assembly proceedings, and withdrawal of members’ rights and privileges.
Section 34Participation of the Counsel General (if not an Assembly member) in Assembly proceedings.
Section 37(7)(b)Power of committees or sub-committees to call for witnesses and documents.
Section 40(1)Administration of the oath or affirmation to witnesses in Assembly proceedings.
Section 40(4)Payment of allowances and expenses to witnesses in Assembly proceedings and those producing documents for Assembly proceedings.
Section 53(7)(a)Remuneration of Welsh Ministers, Deputy Welsh Ministers and the Counsel General (including provisions conferring functions on the Assembly Commission).

146.Because of the change in the structure and functions of the Assembly the standing orders relating to the Assembly constituted under GoWA will not be suitable for use in relation to the Assembly constituted under this Act. Consequently, new standing orders will need to be provided in readiness for use by the Assembly at its first meeting after the May 2007 election.

147.Paragraph 20 of Schedule 11 sets out how the new standing orders are to be made. In summary, the new standing orders must be made by the Secretary of State by no later than 31st March 2007. In making the standing orders, the Secretary of State must give effect to proposals submitted to the Secretary of State by the Assembly (as currently established) no later than 28th February 2007, provided that those proposals have been approved by a two-thirds voting majority in the Assembly. As a minimum, the standing orders have to include the mandatory provisions required by the Act . Both the standing orders made by the Secretary of State, and the Assembly’s proposals as to what provisions they should include, must be made in both English and Welsh.

148.The standing orders are to have effect as the standing orders for the reconstituted Assembly at and from its first meeting after the ordinary election in May 2007, unless and until they are remade or revised by the Assembly in accordance with section 31(7), which requires any changes to the standing orders to be approved by a two-thirds voting majority in the Assembly.

149.Standing orders must make provision for preserving order in Assembly proceedings, including provision for preventing conduct that could constitute a criminal offence or contempt of court and provision for a sub judice rule to prevent matters which are the subject of ongoing court proceedings to be raised in questions or debate.

150.Standing orders may include provision for excluding Assembly members from proceedings and for withdrawing from an Assembly member rights and privileges of membership.

151.Standing orders must make provision for Assembly proceedings normally to be held in public, but allows standing orders to specify circumstances where committee proceedings may be in private. They may set out conditions with which members of the public who are attending Assembly proceedings must comply, and can provide for the exclusion of a member of the public who does not comply with those conditions.

152.Standing orders must provide for those Assembly proceedings that are held in public to be reported, and for reports to be published as soon as practicable.

153.The Assembly may, by resolution supported by at least two-thirds of the members voting, remake or revise the standing orders. The Clerk of the Assembly must publish standing orders from time to time.

Section 32: Participation by UK Ministers etc.

154.This section entitles the Secretary of State for Wales to participate, but not to vote, in proceedings of the Assembly, and to have access to documents relevant to those proceedings. Standing orders may make provision for the participation of other Ministers of the Crown and of civil servants in proceedings, and for them to have access to documents and information relevant to their participation. Again there is to be no entitlement to vote.

Section 33: Consultation about UK Government’s legislative programme

155.This section requires the Secretary of State for Wales, as soon as is reasonably practicable after the beginning of each Parliamentary session, to consult the Assembly about the UK Government’s legislative programme, except to the extent that it appears to the Secretary of State that consultation on a particular Bill is inappropriate. As part of such consultation, the Secretary of State must participate in a plenary session of the Assembly at least once in the session. The Secretary of State can participate by actually attending the plenary session, or by video link. Where, after the beginning of the session, it is decided that a Bill should be introduced into Parliament and that Bill has not been included in the Secretary of State’s initial consultation with the Assembly, then the Secretary of State must consult the Assembly about it (unless it appears to the Secretary of State to be inappropriate to do so).

Section 34: Participation by Counsel General

156.Section 49 makes provision about the appointment of the Counsel General to the Welsh Assembly Government. It does not require the Counsel General to be an Assembly member. This section makes provision about the participation of the Counsel General, if not an Assembly member, in the proceedings of the Assembly, including committees and sub-committees.

157.The section also allows the Counsel General to decline to answer questions or produce documents about the operation of the criminal prosecution system in any particular case, if the Counsel General considers that to do so might prejudice criminal proceedings in the case or otherwise be contrary to the public interest.

Section 35: Equality of treatment

158.This section requires the Assembly, in the conduct of its proceedings, to give effect, so far as is both appropriate in the circumstances and is reasonably practicable, to the principle that the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality.

159.It also requires the Assembly to make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that Assembly proceedings are conducted with due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people.

Section 36: Integrity

160.This section requires standing orders to make various kinds of provision to safeguard standards of integrity in relation to Assembly proceedings, namely:


for Assembly members to be required to register certain interests defined by standing orders in a compulsory public register of Assembly members’ interests;


for an Assembly member who has a financial or other interest, as defined in standing orders, in a matter to which Assembly proceedings relate, to declare that interest before taking part in those proceedings;


for preventing or restricting the participation in proceedings of an Assembly member who has an interest (as defined in standing orders) in the matter to which those proceedings relate;


prohibiting Assembly members, from advocating or initiating any cause or matter, or urging another member to do so, in return for a payment or benefit in kind.

161.A failure to comply with these provisions of standing orders constitutes a criminal offence which can be punished, on summary conviction, with a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (at present up to £5,000). Consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions is required before a prosecution can be brought.

162.The provisions of standing orders under this section are to apply to the Counsel General even if not an Assembly member.

163.The Assembly will be able to pass Assembly Measures under Part 3 of the Act on matters relating to registration of members’ interests.

164.Subsection (6) requires standing orders to make provision, either directly or by a code or protocol, about the different roles and responsibilities of Assembly constituency and regional members.

165.Assembly regional members are to be prohibited from describing themselves in a way which suggests that they are Assembly constituency members, and vice versa.

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