Helping you understand Welsh law

Statutory powers

The main Acts governing art and culture which give powers to the Welsh Ministers are:

The Welsh Ministers also have a power under the Government of Wales Act 2006 to do anything which they consider appropriate to support certain aspects of culture.

Section 1

Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964

The 1964 Act places duties on the Welsh Ministers to oversee, and promote the improvement of, the public library services provided by local authorities in Wales, and to ensure that local authorities carry out their library functions properly. Under section 7 of the Act, local authorities in Wales have a duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons who wish to use it.

Where the Welsh Ministers consider that an authority may be failing in its duties under the Act they may hold a local inquiry. If the Welsh Ministers then decide that the local authority is failing in its duties, they may issue directions to the authority requiring it to carry out its duties in a particular way or by a particular time.


Section 2

National Heritage Act 1980

Section 9 of the National Heritage Act 1980 enables the Welsh Ministers to allocate to institutions in Wales items which they consider “pre-eminent” for their national, scientific, historic or artistic interest and which are accepted as an alternative to inheritance tax under the Inheritance Tax Act 1984

Section 16 of the Act also enables the Welsh Ministers to indemnify organisations and persons for the loss of, or damage to, any objects  which the organisation or person has loaned to certain other organisations, including:

  • a publicly funded museum or art gallery whose purpose is the preservation for the public benefit of historic, artistic or scientific collections, 
  • a publicly funded library
  • a library whose main function is to serve the needs of teaching and research at a UK university
  • the National Trust
Section 3

Museums and Galleries Act 1992

This Act makes provision about transfers to and between the collections of certain museums, galleries and libraries. Section 6 of the Act provides that any specified body may, by sale, gift or exchange, transfer an object in its collection to another specified body. 

The bodies listed in Part I of Schedule 5 to the Act are those who may give and receive objects from one another.  The bodies listed in Part II are those who may only receive an object from a Part I body. The Welsh Ministers have the power to add the National Library of Wales and the National Museum of Wales to Part I of Schedule 5. 

Currently both bodies appear in Part II only.  

Section 4

National Lottery etc Act 1993

The National Lottery etc Act 1993, as amended by the National Lottery Act 1998 and the National Lottery Act 2006, established the Big Lottery Fund. The lottery is not generally devolved. However, the Welsh Ministers have some powers in respect of devolved expenditure.  

The Act provides that a certain percentage of funds allocated for expenditure on arts and sports are to be distributed by the Arts Council for Wales and the Sports Council for Wales.  The Welsh Ministers may require those bodies to prepare and review a strategic plan for the distribution of money. They may also issue directions about the matters to be taken into account when decisions about the distribution of money are taken.

Amendments by the National Lottery Act 2006 also established a committee to distribute lottery money devolved to Wales. Directions as to the management and accounts of the devolved funds may be given by the Welsh Ministers. 

Section 5

Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008

The Act set up a scheme under which money in dormant bank or building society accounts can be distributed for the benefit of the community, whilst protecting the right of owners to reclaim their money. In basic terms, an account is treated as dormant if it has not been used for fifteen years.  

Part 1 of the Act deals with the closure of dormant bank or building society accounts, and the transfer of the money to a special fund called a “reclaim fund”. Part 2 deals with the distribution of the money by the Big Lottery Fund.  

Section 16 of the Act provides that money from dormant accounts may be distributed for social and environmental purposes. However, section 19 gives the Welsh Ministers the power to restrict the particular purposes for which, and the kind of person to whom, dormant account money apportioned to Wales  can be distributed. The Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008 (Prescribed Restrictions)(Wales) Order 2010 provides that money must be distributed only  for environmental purposes or for services,  facilities or opportunities for those under 26.


Section 6

Government of Wales Act 2006

Section 61 of the 2006 Act gives the Welsh Ministers power to do anything which they consider appropriate to support:

  • archaeological remains in Wales,
  • ancient monuments in Wales,
  • buildings and places of historical or architectural interest in Wales,
  • historic wrecks in Wales,
  • arts and crafts relating to Wales,
  • museums and galleries in Wales,
  • libraries in Wales,
  • archives and historical records relating to Wales,
  • cultural activities and projects relating to Wales,
  • sport and recreational activities relating to Wales, and
  • the Welsh language.


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