The Legislation (Wales) Bill has the potential to make Welsh law more accessible according to the National Assembly’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.
According to the Welsh Government, the Bill is intended to:
“make Welsh law more accessible, clear and straightforward to use. It makes provision about the interpretation and operation of Welsh legislation, and requires the Counsel General and the Welsh Ministers to take steps to improve the accessibility of Welsh law.”
In agreeing with the general principles of the Bill the Committee is recommending that a clearer narrative is needed regarding the meaning of ‘the accessibility of Welsh law’.
The Committee has also concluded that additional measures, such as ensuring the availability of practitioner and academic commentary on Welsh law, must form a central role in improving the accessibility of Welsh law.
The Committee believes that uncertainty exists about the Counsel General’s intentions for codifying Welsh law. It concludes that clarity on this matter is needed, particularly as any potential confusion may become a barrier to implementation of the Bill.
The Committee has recommended that the Counsel General should review the legislation at the mid-way point of the first Assembly term in which the legislation takes effect.
“There has long been call to simplify, or clarify, the Welsh statute book to make it more accessible and easier to understand,” said Mick Antoniw AM, Chair of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.
“This Committee and its predecessors have previously commented on how impenetrable laws are becoming.
“We believe the Legislation (Wales) Bill has the potential to assist in tackling this problem, but first there must be further clarity on what accessible Welsh law means.
“We agree with the general principles of the Bill and look forward to debating its merits and possible amendments with fellow Assembly Members.”
The Committee makes 14 recommendations in its report, including:
The Bill should be amended so that the Welsh Ministers and Counsel General are required to implement a programme of accessibility prepared in accordance with section 2(1);
The Bill should be amended so that proposed activities that are intended to promote awareness and understanding of Welsh law should be included as a duty under section 2(3) rather than being discretionary under section 2(4); and
Section 2(7) of the Bill should be amended so that the Counsel General is required to report to the National Assembly on an annual basis on the progress made under a section 2(2) programme.
The Bill and the Committee’s report will be debated and voted on in a full meeting of the Assembly next month. If the Assembly agrees it will proceed to the next stage of the National Assembly’s law-making process.
Read the full report: