Wales Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 7th November 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench 9:30 pm, 7th November 2016

My Lords, I have added my name to the second of these amendments, but I should have added it to both. I have felt strongly that law should be accessible to the people to whom it applies. You cannot expect a population to understand the law that surrounds it and the way it lives unless it is intelligible and accessible. Ever since the Assembly came into being, divergence of the systems, particularly in education, health and social care and planning, has meant that we have an increasingly complex range of legislation. Cardiff University was where Wales Legislation Online first started as an attempt to provide some kind of solution to this. I was pleased to be part of the campaign at that time to get that instigated. That subsequently evolved into Law Wales and is now more formalised.

This requirement and request for consolidation came through quite clearly in the report of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, which made clear that we need consolidation. I cannot see that the Government in Westminster will ever feel particularly motivated to consolidate, but I can see that the Assembly would feel motivated to do so.

Lateral to that, this all fits with a quiet campaign I have had over the years. In 2004, I asked the Government to make sure that the Explanatory Notes accompanying each Bill provided a table listing all the provisions to give powers to the National Assembly. The response I had from the Lord President of the Council was that:

“It will be suggested to departments that they present this in a tabular form where appropriate”.—[Official Report, 11/10/2004; col. WA 1.]

During the passage of the Government of Wales Act 2006, I further pursued the need to be able to track legislation, particularly because of this effect of divergence. I stressed that solicitors and other professionals in Wales, such as healthcare professionals, educators and so on, need to know and understand the law which governs the way they function and live and their everyday activities such as their professional duties with regard to the rest of the population.

Can the Government therefore explain what they lose by giving such powers to the Assembly? I cannot see that they would lose anything at all. Why could they not seek to adopt this amendment, which might provide a solution to a problem which will probably get worse over the years, as further constitutional changes come through in other pieces of legislation?