Queen opens third Welsh assembly

The Queen officially opened the Welsh assembly today, as AMs gathered for the third session at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

The presence of the monarch marks a new period for the assembly, which has gained extended powers and an enhanced status.

For the first time she will officially appoint Rhodri Morgan as first minister, and the Labour leader could hold regular talks with the Queen, similar to the weekly meetings she holds with the prime minister.

AMs will be able to draw up their own laws in Wales, although these will still need to be voted through in Westminster. MPs have called on AMs to use the measure sparingly because of the pressures on the parliamentary timetable.

New laws also mean the Welsh assembly could claim extended powers to bring it inline with the Scottish parliament, but this is dependent on a referendum.

Speaking yesterday, presiding officer Lord Elis-Thomas said the assembly should make such a referendum a priority during its third term.

Mr Morgan was elected as first minister last week after three weeks of discussions which saw a variety of coalition arrangements considered and fail.

Lord Elis-Thomas defended the drawn out process and eventual minority Labour government, telling AMs Wales should not attempt to ape the two-party system of Westminster.

The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall also attended today’s opening.

Opening the assembly, the Queen congratulated Welsh AMs on their election and spoke of the historic extension of new devolved powers.

She told AMs they had a duty to represent the interests of the constituents and realise the democratic potential of the devolved assembly.

The Queen said: “It is now for you to ensure policies and legislation meet the needs and aspiration of the people of Wales more closely than ever before.”

Two Plaid AMs boycotted the Queen’s appearance and visit a homelessness project in Swansea instead.

Leanne Wood, AM for south Wales central, said: I’ve held my republican views all my life. I don’t see the relevance of the royal family to the people of Wales.

“There is no need to have a royal opening of the third assembly. My allegiance is to my constituents and the people of Wales, not to the monarchy.”