8 The debate on a separate Welsh jurisdiction
Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, made a speech to the Legal Wales Conference in 2011 in which he announced the need for a public debate on the issue of a separate Legal Jurisdiction for Wales. On 7 October he stated:
In March of this year the people of Wales voted for the Assembly to have the power to pass Acts of the Assembly across the whole range of subjects within the twenty devolved fields.
As a government we have previously made it clear that the question about whether Wales should be a separate legal jurisdiction would become more prominent in the event of a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum.
The Counsel General and I are agreed that this is not simply a matter for politicians and civil servants to discuss. The debate must be much wider than that and we need to obtain the broadest range of views possible, and not just from the legal community.
We must be clear about what we mean by a separate jurisdiction. What are the prerequisites for its existence? What flows from it? What might be the benefits for the people of Wales?
Early next year the Welsh government will initiate a public debate on this issue. We will start by inviting the widest possible views from within and outside Wales. The responses we receive will help to inform the Welsh government’s thinking in preparation for the work of the Commission on the Welsh devolution settlement, which the Secretary of State for Wales has indicated she will shortly appoint. Assembly Members’ views on the issues will be particularly welcome as the debate goes forward.
On 27 March 2012 a consultation (An Inquiry into the Establishment of a Separate Welsh Jurisdiction) began, with a deadline for responses of 19 June 2012. The consultation document sates that the purpose of the consultation is to seek views on the specific aspects of a potential Welsh jurisdiction and the underlying issues beneath the broader questions of:
- what is meant by the term ‘separate legal jurisdiction’
- whether there are any essential features for the existence of a separate legal jurisdiction and, if so, what they might be
- what the consequences of having a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction might be
- what the potential advantages and disadvantages of a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction would be.
At the time of writing the responses have just been published. If you wish to read the responses they can be accessed on the Welsh government website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .
Activity 4: Taking the next step?
Having studied this course and considered the legal impact of devolution, do you think that Wales should take the next step and establish a separate legal jurisdiction?
This is a question that you may choose to answer in any way you wish. As a result of devolution, there are already some legal differences emerging between England and Wales, and these are likely to increase. However, establishing a separate jurisdiction could increase these differences. This would have implications for the legal profession and legal education, if qualification in one part of the UK would not be regarded as automatically sufficient to practise law in another. Some of these issues are considered in the consultation paper, and the responses to it, and you are likely to have your own views on the advantages and disadvantages of and re-establishing Wales as a separate legal jurisdiction.