‘Distinct arrangements’ needed for Welsh law – minister

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The growing body of Welsh law has created the need for 'distinct arrangements to recognise Wales' needs', the government said today, announcing the establishment of a working group to examine the issue.

However there is 'not a case at present' for creating a separate jurisdiction from that of England. 

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Stephen Crabb, secretary of state for Wales, made the announcements as part of changes to the Wales Bill designed to 'remove constitutional red tape and deliver a stronger devolution settlement'.

The changes follow four months of pre-legislative scrutiny of the bill, which will introduce a Scottish-style 'reserved powers' model of devolution. One major change following the scrutiny is to remove a so-called 'necessity test' for new Welsh legislation.

Crabb said that the government has rejected calls for a separate jurisdiction, as Welsh law currently makes up 'a tiny fraction of the overall body of law for England and Wales'.

However, he announced that he would establish a working group with the Ministry of Justice, the lord chief justice’s office, and the Welsh Government, 'to consider what distinct arrangements are required to recognise Wales’s needs within the England and Wales jurisdiction' when the reserved powers model is implemented. 

Today's announcement was welcomed by solicitors in Wales close to the debate. Geldards partner and vice-chairman Huw Williams, who gave evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee on the draft Wales Bill, said: 'The delay in introducing the Bill is sensible, as it will now allow time to conduct a more searching analysis of the justification for the powers to be reserved to Westminster (a point which I made in my evidence) and a proper examination of the exact  nature and extent of the pre-devolution powers still retained by UK ministers and their justification. This work can only help to contribute to the aim of achieving a lasting settlement.

'The working party on the delivery of justice in Wales is also to be welcomed, as is the commitment to continuing a single jurisdiction. In this respect the secretary of state seems to have listened to the concerns felt by many firms in Wales at the business risks of a move to a separate Welsh jurisdiction.'

Law Society Council member David Dixon, senior lecturer in the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Cardiff Law School, commented: 'The secretary of state has clearly taken account of the responses he received concerning the draft Wales Bill.  It is excellent news that the so-called necessity test will be removed and that officials will be seeking to remove some items on the list of reservations to simplify and clarify the settlement.' 

He added: 'The establishment of a working group to consider what arrangements are needed to recognise the needs of Wales within the jurisdiction of England and Wales when the new reserved powers model of devolution is operating is sensible.  This looks like the basis of a much better and more stable devolution settlement.'

Meanwhile, Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: 'We have been part of the process of scrutiny of the draft bill  and look forward to contributing to the working group which will consider what  arrangements are required to recognise Wales’ distinct needs in the single  jurisdiction of England and Wales.'

 

Readers' comments (19)

  • Welsh law is older than English law. It is the latter which needs changing, not the former.

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  • Sorry, I cannot see that Wales (or indeed Scotland or Northern Ireland) have any different 'needs' from England when it comes to law (the extent to which powers are reserved is of course different).

    This sort of drivel undermines the credibility of the HMG and panders to the lowest form of nationalism.

    We should be seeking to have a unified legal system rather than seeking to fragment it further.

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  • I entirely agree, Anon 1.41, this whole debate is completely unnecessary, costly and a sop to Welsh and Scottish nationalism. The next thing they'll be asking for is a Wexit, or, dare I say it, a Sexit? There is nothing wrong with the present system. We had better hang together now, especially if we leave EU, for as sure as hell if we don't we shall hang separately.

    And if you don't like my principles, I do have others...

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  • I agree with posts #2 and #3. UK law should be unified whenever possible; the Companies Act 2006 was an excellent model on this. If Scottish law is better than that of E&W in any specific areas, why not bring E&W into line with it?

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  • i think the only 'needs' in play here is the inexplicable need of a very small percentage of the welsh population to be treated differently from the right thinking vast majority and the equally inexplicable need of the government appear 'inclusive' by pandering to their requirements . The idea that it may be a good thing to consciously develop a separate legal system is laughable

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  • As a pup I used to say 'I have my principles but unfortunately I also have my principals'.

    What the proposals are about is a further expansion of the quangocracy and the special interest groups that hang around the advocates for special status.

    What society needs is the rule of law, good law and the effective administration of justice. These 'needs' are as needed in Wales as in the rest of the United Kingdom of Greta Britain and Northern Ireland.

    Having facilities for those who can only communicate effectively in Welsh does not mean that Wales has different needs.

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  • I agree with all of the above, even with what I wrote. The only good that I can see in this is that people who might be wasting their time on other matters which interfere with our lives will be so bogged down with this one to do anything else.

    Just imagine the millions of man hours which will be taken up if we come out of Europe and which will, therefore, be unavailable to screw up our lives in other ways.

    We were hammered by Edward I, twice, and we don't need another bashing should another Tony Blair, God forbid, get into No.10. (NB I recommend today's Daily Mail extracts from Tom Bower's latest expose on Blair and the second Iraq War. It reads like a sort of pre-Chilcot Report. In fact Chilcot need not bother completing his, Tom's will do nicely)

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  • Jobs for the boyos.

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  • Yet another step closer to the Governments covert plans to break up the United Kingdom(s)

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  • ...started by Tony Blair and his gang.

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