The Legislation (Wales) Act 2019 commits the Welsh Government to take action to make Welsh law more accessible, clearer and easier to use. In The future of Welsh law: A programme for 2021 to 2026, the Welsh Government identified Wales’ historic environment law as a suitable subject for its first project in an ambitious programme of legislative consolidation. The result is the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2023.
Our historic environment legislation provided an ideal subject for a consolidation project because it had become a bewildering jumble of repeatedly amended provisions that even lawyers found confusing. It was, moreover, largely based on two Westminster statutes now decades old, so the greater part of our historic environment legislation was only available in English.
Consolidation is one of the key methods used to bring order and clarity to the law of Wales. It involves bringing together all, or most, of the primary legislation on a specific subject, and modernising the form and drafting of the law. There may be some scope for making minor changes to the law to harmonise statutes or remove obsolete provisions. The result will be a new fully bilingual Act restating the law for Wales so that everyone will find it easier to understand and apply.
It is important to stress that although the structure and expression of the law may be very different after consolidation, its legal effect will remain unchanged. Consolidation is fundamentally a technical legal process, not an opportunity for legislative reform.
While the consolidation of the whole law book for Wales will be a time-consuming process that will take decades to complete, we we have taken the first steps with the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2023.