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National Assembly Committee recommends important changes to the existing England and Wales jurisdiction

13 December 2012

A National Assembly Committee has concluded that the current system, in which Wales is included in the same jurisdiction as England, will require amendments to reflect an emerging Welsh legal identity.

The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee believes that this Welsh legal identity will continue to grow as new laws are passed by the National Assembly following the outcome of the March 2011 referendum.

While not examining the question of whether Wales should have its own separate legal system, the Committee did state that any discussion or debate leading up to such a decision must include and engage with the views of the people of Wales.

It also concluded that while a separate Welsh jurisdiction was constitutionally viable, the issue of whether one should be established or not is ultimately a political decision and that the precise details of how it should be established will be for future political debate and negotiation.

“The Committee believes that a separate legal jurisdiction system in Wales is constitutionally viable, but the issue of whether one should be established or not is ultimately a political decision” said David Melding AM, Chair of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.

“It became clear during the course of our inquiry however that an emerging Welsh legal identity will, in the short term, require practical changes to the current system.

“Such changes would also have the added benefit of making a move to a separate jurisdiction easier in the future, if such a decision is made.

“But the debate surrounding that decision needs to actively involve the people of Wales and be of clear benefit to them.

“We hope our findings will help to both kickstart the debate across Wales and to help inform the Welsh Government’s own considerations of this issue.”

The Committee makes 5 recommendations in its report, which seek to ensure that practical steps are taken within current structures to make the administration of justice more responsive to the needs of Wales:

  • As a body of Welsh law evolves over time, we recommend that additional legal training is put in place to allow specialisms to develop, reflecting the legal traditions and emerging legal identity of Wales. This should include raising awareness in England of the growing divergence between the laws applicable in England and Wales

  • We recommend that the Civil Procedure Rules are amended to ensure that public law cases which deal primarily with Welsh issues should generally be commenced or transferred to the administrative court in Cardiff

  • We recommend that a body should be entrusted with reviewing and assisting with the consolidation of Welsh law. Such a body could form part of the existing Law Commission for England and Wales or be a newly established body

  • We recommend that a presumption should be established in favour of commencing and hearing in Welsh courts all cases relating to laws made bilingually in the English and Welsh languages

We recommend that a senior judge with experience of Welsh devolution and Welsh law should be appointed to the Supreme Court

Link to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee

Link to the inquiry into the establishment of a separate Welsh jurisdiction

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