October 2020 Welsh Justice and Policing referendum

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Welsh Justice and Policing Devolution Referendum

29 October 2020

Should powers over Justice and Policing be devolved from the Parliament of the United Kingdom to the Welsh Parliament, or should they remain reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom?
OutcomeWales votes in favour of devolving powers over Justice and Policing
Votes %
Justice and Policing should be devolved to the Welsh Parliament 894,561 54.88%
Justice and Policing should remain reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom 735,396 45.12%
Valid votes 1,629,957 99.88%
Invalid or blank votes 2,020 0.12%
Total votes 1,631,977 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 72.3%

The Welsh Justice and Policing Referendum took place on the 29th October 2020 in Wales to ask the electorate whether they would like to see powers over justice and policing devolved to the Senedd Cymru. The referendum took place under the provisions of the Wales Justice and Policing Referendum Act 2020[1], which mandated that if the referendum returned a vote in favour of justice and policing devolution being devolved, powers would immediately be transferred when the Chief Counting Officer certified the result.

The referendum resulted in the option to devolve powers over justice and policing obtaining 54.9% of the total votes cast, with 45.1% of voters choosing the option for powers to remain reserved. This represented a significant decrease on the pre-referendum polls, which suggested that 67.3% of the electorate supported devolving powers [2]. The referendum result was officially declared by Carys Roberts, the Chief Counting Officer for the referendum [3], which immediately triggered the transfer of powers from the Parliament of the United Kingdom to the Senedd Cymru under the Wales Justice and Policing Referendum Act 2020.


The initial version of the Wales Justice and Policing Referendum Bill was presented to the House of Commons on the 6th April 2020 by the Rt. Hon. Lord Houston as a Labour Party bill. [4] The bill was co-sponsored by the Democratic Reformist Front, Plaid Cymru, the Libertarian Party UK, and The People's Movement The introduction of the bill followed months of debates over the topic in the media and in Parliament, intending to settle the question by holding a legally binding referendum on the subject.

The bill was opposed by the Conservative Party, with former Prime Minister InfernoPlato describing the bill as "the result of backroom deals between Labour and the LPUK, supporting each others huge constitutional bills with no shred of democratic legitimacy" and criticising the lack of initial confirmation by the Senedd Cymru for the referendum and the perceived rushed timescale. [5] The initial choice of question also drew criticism, with both InfernoPlato and then-First Minister of Scotland Duncs11 criticising the choice of question asking voters if they agreed with the proposition as being incompatible with previous Electoral Commission rulings [6].

A significant number of amendments were tabled to the bill, largely by members of the Conservative Party seeking to postpone the referendum or introduce additional requirements beyond a simple majority that a vote to devolve must meet to be successful, with amendments tabled to introduce a turnout requirement of 75%.

Support for the bill largely came from Labour, LPUK, and Plaid Cyrmu, with proponents of the bill attempting to make the case that the bill was about enabling democracy rather than supporting or opposing the devolution of powers themselves, a case made by future Welsh National Party Leader Archism_ [7].

The bill initially passed the House of Commons, but fell into a cycle of parliamentary 'ping-pong' as the more Conservative-leaning House of Lords made a series of amendments to the bill each time it was presented, leading to it being returned to the Commons twice before receiving Royal Assent and permitting the referendum to happen.

Opinion polling