Wales Bill - Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 14th December 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Finn Baroness Finn Conservative 5:15 pm, 14th December 2016

My Lords, at Second Reading, I spoke in support of the maintenance of the single legal jurisdiction in England and Wales. I argued that the body of Assembly legislation can be accommodated for now within that single jurisdiction and that a separate jurisdiction would impose significant upheaval and unnecessary costs on the people of Wales, and that remains my view.

There has been a lot of change in administrative terms. There is already an administrative court to deal with judicial review and similar applications involving the interpretation of the legislation of the Assembly. However, this is a far way off from a wide separate jurisdiction. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, who argued that there was no need for procedural change and that the principles of statutory interpretation will remain the same. I would just continue to urge that more cases be heard in Wales.

However, although this is the position for now, I appreciate that the body of Welsh law will grow, with diverging Welsh laws over the years. My noble friend the Minister has listened to concerns that it is sensible to keep under review the functioning and operation of the justice system in Wales. I welcome his announcement that there should be a non-statutory committee— I have to disagree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris—within the justice system that will undertake periodic reviews as the law continues to diverge. I believe that this is a proportionate and considered response that allows for a sensible evolution of the system.

A non-statutory review with a clear remit is the right way forward. The proposed statutory commission would have a broad remit and be unnecessarily expensive and complex to administer. Therefore the proposal from my noble friend the Minister is a sensible way through the issue. It recognises that the vast majority of laws will continue to apply across England and Wales and that there is no great appetite at the moment for a separate jurisdiction, with all the attendant cost and disruption. At the same time, it addresses the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and of other noble Lords that it is important to keep the situation under review as the body of Welsh law grows and the system evolves.