In May 1999, following a referendum held in 1997 and the passing of the Government of Wales Act in 1998, The National Assembly for Wales held its first plenary meeting in what was then known as Crickhowell House in Cardiff Bay.
A lot has happened over the past 17 years but some things have remained the same. At the Official Opening of the Fifth Assembly in 2016, nine Assembly Members who were returned to represent their constituencies for the fifth time were photographed together. They have served as Assembly Members since the first Assembly in 1999.
As well as the Assembly Members, The National Assembly Commission employs staff to support its work. The photograph inspired us to we gather a few thoughts and memories from staff who worked during the historic first year of the Assembly and remain working here to this day.
Adrian Crompton, now the Director of Assembly Business, was proud of how the National Assembly had grown and matured into “a powerful, well-resourced parliament that sets standards which other legislatures from around the world aspire to”. He added, “Working at the Assembly is an absolute privilege, something that is brought home to me by the work I do in the Middle East and North Africa with parliaments eager to develop the democratic freedoms and culture that we often take for granted”.
Ioan Bellin works for Simon Thomas AM, “The biggest change at the National Assembly in my time here has been the separation between the legislature and the executive”. Separation occurred in 2007 when the National Assembly for Wales was separated from what was then the Welsh Assembly Government. Ioan also remarked that walking through the Senedd gives him great pride as he remembers the construction process and the building’s official opening on St. David’s Day 2006.
Nia Percy has been recording and filming Committee and Plenary meetings from the beginning for broadcasting contractors Barcud Derwen and Bow Tie. “Technology has advanced a great deal in seventeen years. We couldn’t imagine back then how web-streaming on Senedd TV would develop to largely take over from traditional broadcast on terrestrial television channels.” Through her broadcasting work she feels proud that she “plays a part in the democratic process, making the Assembly accessible and available to the people of Wales”.
Ray Jones who works as both a freelance broadcaster and for the Commission’s Front of House team also credits the Assembly with “the way in which technology has been embraced, helping it to reach out to the electorate” as one of the most important developments.
Many of the original staff from 1999 commented on the friendly and open nature of the Assembly. Joanne Thomas who now works for Rhiannon Passmore AM said she “enjoys the friendliness of the people within the National Assembly and the way in which the various departments within the Assembly Commission are so helpful.”
The current Director of Commission Services, Craig Stephenson, says that his most memorable time was the first few days after the 1999 election where Assembly Members arrived far too early.
“We’d asked, rather naively in hindsight, for elected Members to come to the Bay on Monday 10 May. However, they started turning up on 7 and 8 May – catching us all on the hop. While I remember it being a historic and fantastically exciting day, it was definitely a day that demanded all hands on deck. When I compare that day with how we welcomed our returning Members in 2016 it is evident that we as an organisation have become much more sophisticated in the way in which our services have evolved. I am as proud to work for the National Assembly now as I was back in May 1999”.
We’d like to thank all Members and Staff for their continued contributions to the work of the Assembly over the years and extend a welcome to those who are new and will shape the next five Assemblies.
You can find out more about the work of the Assembly and keep up to date with the latest news by visiting our website.