The Welsh Government has identified Wales’ historic environment law as a suitable subject for one of its first projects in an ambitious programme of legislative consolidation. If all goes to plan, the outcome in the next Assembly term will be new, fully bilingual legislation that is orderly, clear and easily accessible.
The Legislation (Wales) Act 2019 commits the Welsh Government to take action to make Welsh law more accessible, clearer and easier to use. The need for the 2019 Act is well illustrated by Wales’ historic environment law.
As it stands, our historic environment legislation is a bewildering jumble of repeatedly amended provisions that even lawyers find confusing. It is, moreover, largely based on two Westminster statutes that are now decades old, so the greater part of our historic environment legislation is only available in English.
Consolidation will be 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 are already preparing to take the first steps with a project consolidating historic environment legislation for Wales. The consolidation Bill will be a matter for the next Assembly in 2021, but the plan is that this Bill will help to crystallize a process that will give Wales law that is orderly, clear and accessible to all its citizens.