Leighton Andrews, Minister for Public Services
I am pleased to announce that I am establishing a Justice Stakeholder Group. The Group will bring together expert practitioners and academics with extensive knowledge and experience of the justice sector and legal profession in Wales who also have a keen understanding of the constitutional position of Wales. The high level remit of the Group is to explore issues relating to the increasing volume of diverging law of England and Wales and to provide advice to Welsh Ministers as to the implications of this and future priorities for Wales.
I am delighted that Mick Antoniw AM has agreed to Chair the Group. He is well placed to undertake this role given his extensive experience as a legal practitioner working in private practice in Wales, his background as an Assembly Member since 2011 and in his capacity as a visiting fellow of the University of South Wales.
Other members of the Group will include representatives from a balanced cross section of organisations, including:
- Legal Practitioners
- Law Schools
- Law Society Wales
- Association of Personal Injury Lawyers
- The Bar Council and
- Alternative Providers of Advice
Secretariat support for the Group will be provided by officials from the Welsh Government.
Primarily the Group has been established to explore issues and implications relating to the distinct body of Welsh law which is emerging as a consequence of the provisions of the Government of Wales Act 2006. Whilst the existing volume of Welsh law is small compared to England and Wales law, the position is constantly evolving and the balance will change over time. The Group will advise me about the implications of this situation and outline future priorities for Wales. Key issues that the Group will consider include:
- The nature and scale of divergence in laws between England and Wales
- Awareness of divergence amongst the legal profession
- Implications for training of lawyers
- Emergence of a Welsh jurisdiction and time-scales for the gradual evolution from the joint England and Wales jurisdiction
- Basic principles underlying Welsh law
- The case for devolving responsibility for all or part of the justice system.
It is anticipated that the Group, which has been set up on a task and finish basis, will have a series of four meetings commencing July 2015 and will compile its programme of work by March 2016. Membership of the Group is non-remunerated, although reasonable travel and subsistence expenses incurred by members attending meetings will be reimbursed by the Welsh Government at the rate currently applying to members of Government Committees.
The Group will provide valued insight from legal experts and academics on issues that are important to the justice system in Wales. I would like to take this opportunity to convey my appreciation to the members who have agreed to participate in its work.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.