The Form and Accessibility of the Law Applicable in Wales

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

We published our final report and recommendations on 29 June 2016. The Counsel General sent the Welsh Government’s final response on 19 July 2017. We are very pleased that the Welsh Government agrees or agrees in principle with the vast majority of our recommendations (the full response is available below). Crucially the Welsh Government “agrees that a sustained, long term programme of consolidation and codification of Welsh law would deliver societal and economic benefits, and is necessary to ensure that the laws of Wales are easily accessible.” A pilot project looking “consolidation, codification and better publication” will run until early 2018.

Ffurf a Hygyrchedd y Gyfraith sy’n Gymwys yng Nghymru

The law across the UK can be difficult for professionals and the public to find and understand. In Wales, the process of devolution has made things even more complicated.

It can be very difficult to access the law in devolved areas, as a result of changes to the powers of the National Assembly for Wales and Welsh Government. There is often confusion over where responsibilities lie.

Functions under many Acts of Parliament have been transferred to the Welsh Ministers, but this is often not apparent in the original Act and it could appear that power continues to lie with the Secretary of State. The picture is made more complicated by the pace at which significant areas of the law in Wales – such as education, health and housing – are diverging from the law in England.

We recommend a new approach to law-making in Wales and ways to make the existing law applicable in Wales clearer, simpler and easier to access.

Significant areas of the law in Wales should be consolidated and codified. Legislation relating to areas such as education, housing, health and planning could be brought together into codes, creating one easily accessible piece of primary legislation to cover each subject.

An example of this codification model is being developed in our project on planning law in Wales. To keep codes intact, we recommend that amendments or future legislation should be made only by amending or adding to the code. We also recommend that secondary legislation should be re-enacted as amended.

Legislation in Wales is made in both English and Welsh. In the report, we look at existing practices for drafting and interpreting bilingual legislation, and make recommendations to help the Welsh Government and the judiciary develop and apply law made in the Welsh language.

We invite the Welsh Government to consider introducing an Interpretation Act to clarify the meaning and use of Welsh legal terminology.

We urge the Welsh Government and National Archives to bring up to date the Welsh legislation on www.legislation.gov.uk, and recommend developing the existing Law Wales/Cyfraith Cymru website into a portal for all sources of law in Wales.

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Public law

Commissioner

Nicholas Paines QC