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Wales’ Counsel General welcomes Law Commission recommendations for tribunal reform

12 Dec 2021 3 minutes Read
Mick Antoniw MS. Counsel General & Minister for the Constitution

The Counsel General for Wales has said that the Welsh Government “strongly endorses” Law Commission recommendations for an overhaul of the tribunal system in Wales.

Mick Antoniw, MS for Pontypridd and Minister for the Constitution, welcomed the “fundamental principles of the recommendations” submitted by the Law Commission to the Senedd for the introduction of a new first-tier tribunal in Wales to replace a ‘complex and outdated’ system.

The commission had found that the tribunal system in England and Wales evolved haphazardly, with individual government departments setting up tribunals when they thought it was necessary.

This has led to gaps and inconsistencies in legislation and variations in processes and procedures, such as the rules around judicial appointments.

After a consultation which ended in March this year, the Law Commission has presented a final report to the Senedd this week, outlining its recommendations for devolved tribunals in Wales.

According to the Law Gazette, Mr Antoniw said: “Not only do the commission’s proposals address the shortcomings in the current ad hoc structures in place in Wales, but they future-proof the system of tribunals, enabling new functions to be conferred by future legislation without having to create wholly new bodies and administrative arrangements

“In short, the Law Commission’s proposals go a long way to creating the capability for Welsh legislation to be enforced through Welsh institutions.

“In doing so, they chime with the findings of the Commission on Justice in Wales on the importance of building capacity in the justice system in Wales.”

Overhaul

Plans to reform the tribunal system in Wales were unveiled in December 2020 in a bid to tackle the ‘fragmented and complicated’ existing system after problems were identified by the Commission on Justice in Wales in 2019.

The new proposed first-tier tribunal would be divided into chambers, including property, education, mental health and Welsh language.

An appeal tribunal will hear appeals and there will be a new appeal route from school admission appeal panels to the education chamber.

The commission says this would increase the independence of school exclusion appeal panels which would no longer be organised by the local authority whose decisions are being challenged.

The new system will operate independently from the Welsh Government by establishing a tribunals administration service for Wales.

This changed is welcomed by the governing body of the Valuation Tribunal of Wales which commented: “The proposal would appear to strengthen the independence of the Welsh Tribunals Unit and distance it from Welsh Government.

“This organisational separation is a necessary component in establishing a truly independent tribunal system for Wales in the eyes of its users.”

Nicholas Paines QC, commissioner for public and Welsh law, said: “The tribunal system in Wales is complex and outdated and isn’t effectively meeting the needs of the Welsh public. It’s clear that an overhaul is needed.”


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