The UK government is looking seriously at the Thomas report on devolving justice in Wales, a senior justice minister said last week - while appearing to remain implacably opposed to a separate jurisdiction. Lord Wolfson of Tredegar was speaking at the Legal Wales Conference hours after Wales’ counsel general accused Westminster of playing a ‘political trick’.
Lord Wolfson said Westminster has begun looking at the 2019 Thomas Commission on Justice in Wales to see what recommendations can be taken forward. The commission's 556-page blueprint recommended that Cardiff wrest full control of both policy and funding from Westminster.
Addressing comments made by Mick Antoniw MS to the conference, Lord Wolfson said: ‘The counsel general’s opening address this morning looked at building a consensus for change for justice in Wales. I recognise the UK government’s position differs from the Welsh government and Thomas Commission’s overarching recommendations that justice should be devolved.
‘We’re nonetheless aligned in a desire to improve the way justice is delivered in Wales. Just as the Welsh government has already restarted working on implementing the commission’s recommendations, we have been looking at the commission’s valuable report to see what can be taken forward to improve justice in Wales.
‘We are working on some of the recommendations from the commission. I look forward to working with the Counsel General and Welsh government in that regard.’
Moments earlier, Lord Wolfson told the conference that the England and Wales jurisdiction retained its position as a leading global dispute resolution hub.
The UK government was committed to ‘protecting and promoting the combined strengths of the union, building on hundreds of years of partnership and shared history. Part of that, of course, we want to strengthen the union to ensure the institutions of the UK are used to benefit people in every part of the country, from Aberdeen to Aylesbury to Belfast to Brecon.
‘The union strategy we have in my department is to prioritise promotion of the UK-wide legal sector and services in the three jurisdictions that make up the UK – Wales and England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.’
However, not everyone watching the conference agreed with Lord Wolfson’s comments. One attendee said in the chatbox: ‘We can all support London as the global hub. But Wales can build its own jurisdiction too. England = London won’t notice the difference. Lord Bingham welcomed the “re-emergence of Welsh law”. He didn’t say “emergence”.’