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‘An impressive piece of work… a very high-quality piece of work’

That is how the Rt Hon. Lord Justice Green, Chair of the Law Commission, summed up the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill to the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee on 26 September. He was there with two other colleagues from the Law Commission — Nicholas Paines KC and Dr Charles Mynors — to give evidence to the Committee to inform its initial consideration of the Bill. The wide-ranging session covered general matters relating to consolidation and codification and detailed questions about Law Commission recommendations and decisions taken to exclude some legislation from the Bill. In their evidence, the Law Commission members remarked on the excellent drafting of the Bill, its close adherence to Law Commission recommendations and the Bill’s ‘admirable’ supporting documentation. You can watch the full session on Senedd TV or read the transcript.

The Law Commission is a statutory independent body that keeps the law of England and Wales under review and recommends reform where it is needed. The Committee was undoubtedly eager to obtain the Law Commission’s views on the Bill not only because of its general responsibilities, but also because of its specific involvement in the genesis of Bill.

The Commission’s 2016 report, The Form and Accessibility of the Law Applicable in Wales, influenced the Legislation (Wales) Act 2019 and the Welsh Government’s current programme to improve the accessibility of Welsh law, of which the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill is the first product. The members of the Law Commission welcomed the Bill as a sound initial step in the Welsh Government’s programme of consolidation and codification.

In November 2018, the Law Commission released its report, Planning Law in Wales. The report included some specific recommendations relating to the historic environment, but had many recommendations for planning law that also needed to be considered during the historic environment consolidation exercise. There are close interconnections between the legislative regimes for the historic environment and planning and they often run in parallel when works are undetaken to listed buildings or in conservation areas. With a project to consolidate planning law currently underway, Dr Charles Mynors predicted that the result will be complementary consolidations of ‘very high quality’.

Finally, at the Welsh Government’s request, the Law Commission made recommendations on four matters that it deemed suitable for a consolidation under the Senedd’s new Standing Orders on consolidation Bills.