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Legislation (Wales) Act 2019

Section 2 – Programme to improve accessibility of Welsh law

19.This section requires the Welsh Ministers and the Counsel General to develop a programme of action designed to improve the accessibility of Welsh law for each Assembly term that begins after the section comes into force. An Assembly term means the period from an Assembly being formed after a Welsh general election to dissolution prior to the following general election.

20.Although the specific content of a programme will be a matter for the Welsh Ministers and the Counsel General, section 2(3) requires each programme to make provision for measures that are intended to consolidate and codify Welsh law, maintain codified law, promote awareness and understanding of Welsh law, and to facilitate use of the Welsh language.

21.Consolidating the law generally involves bringing all legislation on a particular topic together, better incorporating amendments made to legislation after it has been enacted and modernising the language, drafting style and structure. This involves no or only minor amendments to the substance of the law consolidated. In Wales consolidation of the law will involve for the most part re-enacting laws previously made by the UK Parliament, and doing so bilingually.

22.Section 2(8) provides that the references to codifying Welsh law in section 2(3) include adopting a structure for Welsh law that improves its accessibility, and organising and publishing consolidated Welsh law according to that structure.

23.The definition makes clear that codifying the law is intended to bring order to the statute book. This involves organising and publishing the law by reference to its content (and not merely when it was made), and maintaining a system under which that law retains its structure rather than proliferating. A “Code” of Welsh law would generally be published once some or all of the primary legislation on a particular subject (taking account of the legislative competence of the National Assembly) has been consolidated, or has been created afresh following wholesale reform. This should usually be accompanied by a process of rationalisation of subordinate legislation made under the primary legislation. The existing hierarchy within, and delineation between, legislative instruments (primary and secondary legislation, and guidance or other similar documents made under the Acts or subordinate legislation) would remain. All the legislation within a Code will be made in both English and in Welsh.

24.Therefore a Code would not (generally) be one legislative instrument but rather a collection of enactments under a unifying overarching title. Those enactments which make up the Code on any particular subject would be made available together. Similarly these enactments will remain the means by which the law is formally articulated. The Code is not intended to be a legal instrument in its own right but rather a means of collating and publishing the law more effectively.

25.References in section 2(3) to “codifying” the law mean, generally speaking, the codification of statute law (legislation). Although a Bill that codifies statute law might incorporate the effect of case law on the meaning of the legislation being consolidated and codified, or rules of common law that are closely related to that legislation, the Welsh Government does not intend to undertake wholesale codification of the common law.

26.Section 2(3) provides that each programme must also include proposals to promote awareness and understanding of Welsh law. This might, for example, include raising awareness of significant changes in the law or of the existence of Welsh law more generally.

27.Section 2(3) also requires each programme to include activities intended to facilitate use of the Welsh language. This is intended to include facilitation of the language in the law, in public administration and more generally. A key aspect of this will be consolidating the law bilingually so that much more of the law for which the National Assembly and Welsh Government are responsible is made in Welsh. Similarly, improving publication arrangements and providing more commentary on the law in both languages will make it easier for the Welsh language to be used in the law and in public administration more generally in Wales. Other projects in a future programme could include making more glossaries for legislation available and further initiatives to develop agreed terminology where this is helpful.

28.Section 2(5) requires a programme to be laid before the National Assembly within six months of the appointment of the First Minister following a general election. This is intended to ensure that each government can be held accountable for what its programme achieves over an Assembly term.

29.Although a new government is not required to inherit the programme of the previous government at the beginning of an Assembly term, in practice, projects from one programme will almost certainly continue until the next programme is prepared and laid, and there is nothing to prevent projects from an earlier programme appearing in a subsequent programme where the timeframe for completing such a project requires that. Some of the individual projects to consolidate and codify the law on a subject will be long term in nature, and could take more than one Assembly term to complete.

30.Section 2(7) requires the Counsel General to make annual reports to the National Assembly on progress against the programme. Such reporting could be made through a statement to the Assembly, which would enable Assembly Members to ask questions of the Counsel General on the report.

31.A programme set out at the beginning of the Assembly term may need to be varied during that term. New projects could be added, or perhaps existing projects removed if they were found not to be suitable for consolidation in light of related legislative reform. Section 2(6) provides that the Welsh Ministers and Counsel General may revise a programme during the Assembly term, but that revised programme must be laid before the National Assembly and again reported against.

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Text created by the Welsh Government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the National Assembly for Wales.

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