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Simplifying and improving access to Welsh law vital – Counsel General

The Welsh Government is to work with a leading legal publisher to develop an online encyclopaedia of Welsh law as part of efforts to improve access to legislation, the Counsel General, Theodore Huckle QC, announced.
Tuesday 26 June 2012

Speaking in the National Assembly, the Counsel General said law that applies in Wales needs to be understandable and be freely accessible to the public in both Welsh and in English.

Mr Huckle also announced work is currently underway with the National Archives to improve access to Welsh law on legislation.gov.uk.  This will involve signposting the territorial application of existing legislation.  He said concerns have been expressed by the judiciary, academics and legal practitioners that legislation can be inaccessible.

Theodore Huckle QC said:

"For the rule of law to prevail, legislation must be effective and accessible.  I am concerned that Welsh legislation is not sufficiently clear and accessible - not only because of its complexity and volume, but also because it is not effectively published.

"The existing body of law is an interconnected patchwork of legislation - some of which is decades, or in some cases even centuries old.  Devolution has added to the complexity of statute law.

"To address this, I am pleased to be able to announce that the Welsh Government has begun the process of collaborating with one of the UK’s main legal publishers to develop an online explanatory narrative of Welsh legislation, in effect an encyclopaedia of Welsh law.  We are also working with the National Archive to improve legislation.gov.uk as to Welsh law content.  I expect that within the near future the major part of Welsh legislation will be available there in its updated form."

The new encyclopaedia, which will be available during 2013, will provide legal practitioners, academics and others with an explanatory narrative of Welsh law, which will be a bilingual online service freely available to the public.

The Counsel General also confirmed he is investigating the feasibility of developing a separate programme of simplifying and consolidating legislation which already applies in Wales.

Mr Huckle added:

"The people of Wales have a right to easy access to the laws which govern their lives in a readily understandable form.  While good progress has been made already, much more needs to be done to promote, clarify and improve access to law.

"This could be improved significantly by gradually moving towards free-standing Welsh legislation - or a Welsh statute book.  This would involve revising, codifying and consolidating the law that applies only to Wales.  This has indeed been the feature of a number of Bills that the Welsh Government has introduced or is consulting upon.  Wherever possible, the Welsh Government now prefers to make stand alone provision for Wales.

"Such initiatives would accelerate the development of a substantial body of stand-alone Welsh law.  This work will also be essential as we consider whether or not we should seek to develop a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales."

 

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