This 2013 paper investigated the experiences of Members of the Welsh Assembly elected for the first time in 2011. The research was conducted as part of the Hansard Society's comparative 'A Year in the Life' study of new legislators. According to the paper, new AMs felt that the Assembly was not as effective as it could be, nor as distinct as it should be.
In 2011 the National Assembly for Wales commissioned the Hansard Society to extend to Cardiff our 'A Year in the Life' study of new Westminster MPs, in order to provide the Assembly with independent research about the experiences of new Assembly Members in their first year, especially regarding their attitudes to the orientation and induction provided.
The research in turn informed the provision of professional development support during the 2011-2016 Assembly term, and the curation of the induction programme for new AMs after the 2016 election.
Research into the 2011 intake was especially pertinent because that year saw the turnover of over 30% of Assembly Members, the largest since the Assembly came into existence in 1999.
And the 2011-2016 term also opened with the Assembly having already undergone considerable change in its powers and structures, even in its relatively short life, but with a live debate underway both inside and outside the institution about the need for further reform, in which the views of AMs would be crucial in shaping any future changes.
To conduct the 'A Year in the Life' research in Cardiff, from summer 2011 the Hansard Society monitored the role and work of the new AMs, through surveys, interviews and personal observation, supplemented by discussions with Assembly staff.
The research found that, overall, new AMs were more satisfied with the aspects of their role to do with constituency work than with their role as legislators in the Assembly. Perhaps reflecting the lack of time and space to step back and think strategically about their role and work, AMs had few concrete suggestions for reform. However, they did have a sense that the Assembly was not as effective as it could be, and not as distinct as it should be, given the aspirations at the time of devolution that Cardiff should be different from Westminster. The report suggested that the problems facing AMs were as much cultural as procedural, and that political space was needed for an inclusive discussion transcending party lines and focusing on the challenges AMs share in common.
The new AMs: their backgrounds and the road to Cardiff Bay
Arriving at the Senedd
The role and work of a new Assembly Member
The workings of the Assembly
One year on