Welsh law must be clearer and more accessible

The Law Commission, independent law reform body created by Parliament, is to propose ways to improve the accessibility of the law in Wales.

The particular history of devolution in Wales has meant that, in many areas, it can be difficult for professionals, let alone citizens, to be sure what the law is in Wales. England and Wales are a single legal jurisdiction, but legislation for Wales is made in both Cardiff and Westminster. Westminster Acts can have sections that apply to Wales only, to England and Wales, and to England only. Some Welsh Acts of the Assembly are self-contained, while others make amendments to existing Acts that apply to both England and Wales. Welsh Acts are bilingual, but not when they amend Acts applicable to England and Wales. A pre-1998 Act may say that powers are to be exercised by “the Secretary of State”, whereas in fact they are exercised by Welsh Ministers – but it can take considerable legal research, using facilities not available to members of the public, to establish that.

The position in Wales is different from that in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have always been separate legal jurisdictions.

Sir David Lloyd Jones, Chairman of the Law Commission, who is responsible for this project, said:

“Users trying to access and understand the law in Wales currently face significant difficulties both in finding the current law and understanding how it applies. We will consider how existing legislation could be simplified and made more accessible, and look at the ways in which future legislation could reduce, rather than multiply, the problems.”

The Law Commission is conducting the project as part of its new 12th Programme of Law Reform. It is the first time that a Law Commission programme has included projects devoted entirely to the law in Wales.

Notes for editors
1. The Law Commission is a non-political independent body, set up by Parliament in 1965 to keep all the law of England and Wales under review, and to recommend reform where it is needed.
2. For more details on this project and other projects in the new 12th Programme, visit www.lawcom.gov.uk
3. For all press queries please contact:
Phil Hodgson, Head of External Relations:  020 3334 3305
Jackie Samuel: 020 3334 3648
Email:  communications@lawcommission.gsi.gov.uk