‘Political trick’: UK Gov slammed by counsel general for refusing to give Wales justice powers
The Westminster Government is playing a “political trick” by refusing to give Wales power over justice, the Counsel General has claimed.
Welsh Labour included the devolution of justice in its manifesto for the Senedd elections and it was recommended by the Thomas commission into justice in Wales.
Counsel General Mick Antoniw said that it was therefore “hugely disappointing” that the UK Government was now refusing to recognise what he said was the clear wishes of the people of Wales.
“‘The failure to devolve justice is a political trick which has little to do with the best administration of the justice system and the wellbeing of the Welsh people,” he said.
In comments reported by the Law Society Gazette, he said that under UK Government control it was becoming an increasingly two-tier justice system.
A devolved system could help to address some of the issues that have arisen in recent years, he said.
“[The current system is] one where those with the necessary resources have access to the justice system and those without – usually the poorest and most vulnerable in our society – do not and are effectively excluded from it, often just becoming disempowered, angry and frustrated victims of the justice system and whatever it delivers to them,” he said.
He said that the argument for devolution was “‘unanswerable and already made” in many areas of law where Wales had already diverged from England, such as housing.
He added: “No-one is talking about creating barriers that would prevent cross-border ongoing work that is so important to the commercial viability of so many firms,’ he added. ‘There is every advantage to the law firms to engage and support this process. I don’t think it will impact on the broader commercial interests.”
Yesterday the UK Government confirmed that it did not agree with the Welsh Government that justice should be devolved to Wales.
Lord Wolfson, who is a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Justice, said that being part of England’s justice system made Wales a more attractive place to do business.
He said that “UK Government’s position differs from the Welsh Government’s on the Thomas Commission’s overarching recommendation that justice should be devolved”.
Lord Wolfson added that “we are aligned in our desire to continue to improve the way justice is delivered in Wales.”.
“Just as the Welsh Government has restarted its work in implementing the Commission’s recommendations, the Ministry of Justice has also been examining the Commission’s Report to see what can be taken forward to improve justice in Wales – and indeed is already undertaking work in relation to some of the Commission’s recommendations,” he said.
He added that the “reputation” of England’s justice system “has undeniably benefitted Wales and – as part of the England and Wales jurisdiction – has made it a popular place to do business internationally”.
“The English and Welsh common law is a critical asset to the UK. English and Welsh common law forms the basis of the legal systems for 27% of the world’s 320 legal jurisdictions,” he said.
“English and Welsh law is now, and will remain, an indispensable basis of global business long into the future.”