Following the outcome of the Welsh Labour Party leadership election in March 2024, the incumbent Mark Drakeford, who became leader in December 2018, will submit his resignation as First Minister to the King.

This follows the practice at Westminster and ensures that a First Minister is always in place.

This Insight looks at how a First Minister of Wales is appointed.

Nomination of First Minister

A candidate to become First Minister of Wales must be nominated by Members of the Senedd (MSs) through a vote in the Senedd (the Welsh Parliament). This takes place when a First Minister resigns or following an election. The Monarch then officially appoints the Senedd’s preferred nominee.

Once a First Minister has tendered their resignation to the King, which Mr Drakeford will do following the internal Welsh Labour leadership election, the Senedd has a period of 28 days in which to nominate one of its members for appointment as his successor. This is under section 47(3) of the Government of Wales 2006,

Under Senedd Standing Order 8, the Llywydd (Presiding Officer) must notify the Senedd of the First Minister’s resignation. The Llywydd will then invite nominations for a successor.

Theoretically, under section 46 of the Government of Wales Act 2006, any MS could become First Minister. In practice, they will be the leader of the party with the most MSs, which is currently Welsh Labour.

If the new Welsh Labour leader is the only candidate, then they will be declared the Senedd’s “nominee”. If there are other candidates (for example other party leaders), then they will address MSs, who will then vote in a single round. The results will then be verified and announced by the Llywydd. The successful candidate – who becomes the Senedd’s nominee – is elected by a simple majority.

Once the Senedd has selected one of its members for appointment as First Minister, section 47(4) of the 2006 Act provides that the Llywydd must send a letter to the King recommending that person for appointment.

The vote to select Mr Drakeford’s successor is likely to take place shortly after the new Welsh Labour leader is announced on 16 March 2024.

This differs to the process in Westminster, where a Prime Minister is appointed by the Monarch under the royal prerogative, usually following a general election.

Swearing in ceremony

A First Minister of Wales is appointed via Royal Warrant, a legal document authorised by the King.

Once the Llywydd has informed the Welsh Government of the King’s approval, the new First Minister will take the statutory Official Oath before Mr Justice Griffiths, a Presiding Judge of the Wales circuit.

During a short ceremony at the Welsh Government’s headquarters in Cardiff, the First Minister will “swear [to] well and truly serve His Majesty King Charles the Third in the office of First Minister of Wales”.

By custom, a new First Minister of Wales becomes a member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, a body which advises the Monarch on their statutory and prerogative powers. It is also likely that the First Minister will be invited to a private audience with the King.

About the author: Dr David Torrance is the devolution specialist at the House of Commons Library

Photo by: Brynteg on

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