Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system)

Ed Jacobs reports on the Welsh government’s plans for an independent legal system.

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The Welsh government has launched a consultation (pdf) on the establishment of an independent, Welsh legal jurisdiction. Under the current legal system, England and Wales are joined together as one unit, as compared to Northern Ireland and Scotland which enjoy legal and judicial independence.

Following last year’s referendum, which saw Wales clearly and decisively voting for the Assembly to gain full law making powers however, ministers at Cardiff Bay now believe the time is ripe to consider a separate legal system to match.

Welsh-legal-systemOutlining the rationale for the proposal, first minister Carwyn Jones, himself a lawyer by training and a former Counsel General, argued:

“The constitutional landscape in the United Kingdom has changed significantly since devolution of powers to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in 1999.

“Wales is an old country, but a young democracy. As first minister, my overriding priority is to make devolution work so that we deliver our commitments to the people of Wales.

“The development of a legal system fit for a healthy and prosperous Wales is vital.

“The devolution of further powers to the Welsh government and National Assembly will inevitably mean more distinct Welsh law applying in Wales in the future, which means the law that applies in Wales and the law that applies in England will become increasingly divergent.

“We now feel it essential that we have a public debate on whether or not Wales should be a separate legal jurisdiction, and the implications this could have for Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Echoing this view, current Counsel General Theodore Huckle, who earlier this week presented the proposals to AMs, observed:

“We are clear that separate jurisdictions can exist within a United Kingdom – Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own jurisdictions separate from that of England and Wales.

“In this context, the time is now right to consider whether or not there should be a separate legal jurisdiction for Wales.”


See also:

Preview 2012 – Wales 29 Dec 2011

Will Wales get tax varying powers? 11 Oct 2011

Tory Welsh secretary’s speech a demonstration of selective amnesia 3 Oct 2011

Welsh government outlines vision for “fairer and more prosperous country” 8 Sep 2011

Plaid Cymru claim independent Wales could be 39% richer 2 Aug 2011


The plans, however have received a somewhat cool response from the UK government, with Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan saying:

“This is a surprising priority from the Welsh government and I am not clear on the problem that needs to be addressed. How would such a change benefit people or business in Wales?

“The current system for England and Wales has served Wales well for centuries. There is no reason to make changes simply for change’s sake.”

The publication of the Welsh government’s consultation document comes amidst a growing debate about how the legal and judicial system should respond to the changed constitutional landscape in Wales following last year’s referendum.

Speaking to the Guardian, Theodore Huckle has argued that in order for it to reflect the devolution settlement, the Supreme Court now needs a dedicated Welsh judge sat on it. Likewsie, calls have been made for the establishment of a Welsh Ministry of Justice, free from London control.

Addressing the annual lecture of the Association of London Welsh Lawyers just last week, Lord Justice Pill argued:

“We do not have judicial or administrative structures in Wales appropriate to the developments which have occurred and are occurring though this is not to doubt the capabilities of those in the Welsh government who carry responsibilities at present.

“There are now powerful legislative and executive institutions in Wales. Arrangements should be in place to ensure that they respect, and promote, the judicial arm of the constitution.

“While the administration of justice is not itself a devolved function, the functions that are devolved have an impact on the administration of justice such that its requirements must percolate into their exercise so as to be integral with them.

“Equally, in my view, and in the view of the Welsh Committee of the Judges Council, judicial structures should be in place to provide the necessary liaison and interaction.

“In pursuit of that, I do express the view, albeit tentatively, that even under present arrangements, a surrogate Ministry of Justice for Wales should exist. There is a need, as I see it, for a department to take responsibility for matters relating to the administration of justice and relations with the judiciary and with tribunals.

“The present and prospective exercise of powers in Wales has significant impact on the administration of justice and the function needs to be performed. I doubt whether other options, a branch of the Ministry of Justice in London operating in Wales, or remote control from London, would now be acceptable on either side.”


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29 Responses to “Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system)”

  1. Ken Walter

    Wales is doing a Scotland and should declare Independence.They are now starting to moan like the Scots and I think it now high-time they stood on their own two feet and then there would be no criticism of England.I really am fed up with this continual sniping by Scotland and now Wales and the sooner the UK splits up,the better.
    I am a 78 year old Anglo-Welshman so cannot be seen as a Little Englander.

  2. Open Unionism

    RT @leftfootfwd: Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system) http://t.co/5UFgFAjN

  3. Scots Law Blog

    Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system) – Left Foot Forward http://t.co/l9ybDqHN

  4. Daisy

    Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system) – Left Foot Forward http://t.co/l9ybDqHN

  5. Anonymous

    Little-Englander is an attitude, not a race.

    Your Tory One True Nation would destroy the lives of several tens of millions.

  6. MorganGD

    Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system), writes @EdJacobs1985: http://t.co/ngsGTq74 #Wales

  7. Kevin McNamara

    Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system), writes @EdJacobs1985: http://t.co/ngsGTq74 #Wales

  8. Ed Jacobs

    RT @leftfootfwd: Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system) http://t.co/5QzVUMZ2

  9. Ken Walter

    I merely stated Little Englander to show that I was not a nationalistic Englishman.I do not belong to any party.I do not know what you mean by ‘destroying the lives of several tens of millions’.If the Nationalists in the other UK countries keep blackmailing the UK Government by their threats then it is time for them to go their own way.

  10. Anonymous

    I don’t believe you. It’s the Tory wet-dream for Scotland and Wales to leave (and who cares when NI explodes into violence again, from their perspective).

  11. Jimmy Parker

    Not the old ‘England as an independent state would have a permanent Tory governement’ myth again. Let’s bury that hoary old chestnut, please. In post-WWII elections, Labour have usually had the largest number of votes in England of any party, if not always a majority of English seats. If there were an English parliament with the same voting system as Holyrood, Labour would be laughing.

  12. Anonymous

    It’s called a “truism”, not a Chestnut. The Tories gerrymandering and other changes mean that Labour probably can’t win even without Scotland alone let alone Wales as well.

  13. Ken Walter

    It is the Nationalist Politicians of Scotland and Wales who are driving the vote for Independence and are now hoodwinking many ordinary people in those Countries into thinking that this would be the best thing.Because of the Nationalists’ continual moaning and sabre rattling, the people living in England (not necessarily English) are getting fed up with the situation and are slowly coming to the conclusion that they also have a voice in all this and it would be better for a break-up now,if majorities feel this way.
    There should be referenda now in Scotland and Wales to sort out the position once and for all.If Independence is such a good thing,why is Alec Salmond waiting until 2014?

  14. Ken Walter

    England do not really want to split up but to retain the UK;unfortunately they are being forced into the row driven by Alec Salmond etc. The Tories get very little support from Scotland and Wales,their support coming from Middle England.Times are changing rapidly especially for the Lib Dems and Labour (Bradford to-day re George Galloway’s Party) so it could be that the Conservatives will rule the roost.However.I can forsee UKIP and any English Nationalist Parties gaining ground against the main Parties in the near future.
    As stated previously,I am not a Member of any Party.

  15. Charles Addison

    Ken, it isn’t the nationalist politicians who are driving this at all. Even as an SNP supporter, I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to believe we have that much power. The argument has always been about Scotlands position within the Union and the world. There are many positions on what that should be ranging from independence to homogenisation via federalism, confederalism, greater devolution and status quo. Opinion polls show that the status quo and homogenisation are minority opinions in the public at large. So it is the hunger for greater political autonomy and anger over what is perceived as a democratic defecit that drives Scottish politics and in turn selects the politicians we vote for. I don’t believe you are a little Englander but I do think you are ill informed. The first SNP MP was returned to Westminster during the second world war. In 1914, Westminster was on the verge of giving Scotland Dominion status equal to Canada. This is an old battle and modern parties merely players in it.

  16. Ken Walter

    Charles-you are a SNP Supporter so you are biased.Having said that you are ruling the roost in Scotland.If you feel so strongly about Independence than why not have a Referendum now so that we can all put this business to bed .If the answer is ‘Yes’,then you know what to do;if the answer is ‘No’,then your Party keeps quiet for a few years so as to give everyone else a bit of peace.
    Having said that,no matter what Alec’s propoganda machine spews out then to my mind the UK and an independent Scotland would be much weaker in the world.
    Listening to a prominent person from the Islands recently ,it is obvious that they are not very happy in the Orkneys and Shetlands about going down this route.
    PS;I have had many Scottish friends over the years and I cannot see them supporting you.

  17. David Hughes

    Interesting: Welsh government wants independence for legal system: http://t.co/jouoio4Z

  18. Charles Addison

    And what does voting “No” mean? Whose vision of the UK are we being offered?
    Is it status quo? Is it more powers? Is it “you’ll have had your tea”. Sorry Ken, but we’re driving this bus and it’s going all the way to the depo as advertised. Get used to it and fight for the stop you think we should all disembarque at.
    By the way, of course I’m biased. Everyone who visits and contributes to these pages is biased, and that Ken includes you!

  19. Ken Walter

    Charles-if I am biased by contributing to these pages it is that up to now I have been a UK Supporter which was something to fight for.By your actions,you are deliberately dismantling what was up until recently a United Kingdom (or so it seemed).If you get Independence then be it on your shoulders.The problems that ensue will be massive and far-reaching and I think we will all be the poorer for it.I shudder to think how we go about dismantling this former Union.Anyrate,we all know how extreme ‘bloody-minded’ Politicians and their ‘Profeesional Supporters’ can be,hell bent on the road to disaster.Welcome to the new Europe.
    I think your bus will ultimately crash before it gets to the Depot.

  20. Anonymous

    …Because he’s a canny politician and knows that his changes get better the more the Tories bungle and offend Scots.

    And the RIGHT are getting offended again, sure. I’m a left winger and would push to USE those sentiments for a federal UK. With PR for the English parliament too.

  21. Anonymous

    …no matter who else you run off the road.

  22. Chickaddison

    Ken, I already live in the new Europe: The UK government took care of that for me (though I’m more than happy to be a European). You may or may not be right about reaching the end destination, lacking a crystal ball only time will tell, but I’m confident that the bus will get far enough down the road to make the current political settlement unrecognisable from that which replaces it, which by the way is a position supported by the STUC and many in Scottish Labour. I won’t argue about who is right or wrong about the mood of the Scottish people, but I would point out that the YouGov poll for the Sunday Times this week suggested 63% of Scots thought Ed Milliband was doing a bad job and their survey yesterday for today’s Sun put support for Labour 5% behind the SNP, despite them being 10% ahead of the Tories in the UK. Clearly, the Scottish electorate no longer simply track oppinion south of the border. I’m more than happy to await the results of the May council elections to see who is driving the bus to its next destination and where that is likely to be. But people on the left would be better discussing the destination rather than whether we should be going at all as it is too late for that.
    I can’t say I understood the bit about “‘bloody-minded’ Politicians and their ‘Profeesional Supporters'”. As far as I can see, you get them everywhere.
    As for your “until recently” United Kingdom, that was an illusion. I joined the SNP in the 70s and home rule has been an issue since the 19th century when it was espoused by Keir Hardie.

  23. Kilsally

    Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system) | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/KMGscgkN

  24. David Forniès

    Welsh government wants independence (for its legal system) | Left Foot Forward http://t.co/KMGscgkN

  25. Welsh not British

    It doesn’t matter what “ministers at Cardiff Bay” want, whilst the people of Wales keep voting for the wolves in sheep’s clothing that are Welsh Labour then Wales will always be run by UK Labour.

    And UK Labour NEEDS Wales to continue in it’s subservient role of feeding the parasites of London and the south east. What Wales really needs is independence. As does every other “region” of the UK because this sham of a union simply does not work.

  26. Welsh not British

    Ken you clearly have no clue about UK devolved politics. Welsh Labour are in charge of Wales, and they in turn are run by UK Labour. In N Ireland it is the DUP that are in charge (the U stands for unionists!). Only Scotland has a nationalist party in charge. And that is why only Scotland is getting ready for independence and a life unshackled of the unionist chains.

  27. Ken Walter

    Of course I know about UK devolved politics.Whatever you say the urge for Independence in Scotland and now Wales is really being driven by Nationalists.I think the ‘man in the street’ is being conned by propoganda to think it would be better.They haven’t thought it out.There’s going to be an awful lot of unemployment in Wales especially eg Swansea when DVLA closes.
    For my part,and for lots of others,whilst being a UK Supporter,if referenda shows that’s is what the majority wants,then I’m happy with that but dissolution is going to be no picnic.

  28. Cymro Mawr

    I agree 100% with your comment “the sooner the UK splits up, the better” Being saddled with a Tory government at Westminster, for which the vast majority of Scots & Welsh people did not vote, is just one good reason, amongst many, to break away & make ALL of our own decisions in Cardiff & Edinburgh.

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