In this page
And by the common counsel and agreement … they examined the old laws, and some of them they allowed to continue, others they amended, others they wholly deleted, and others they laid down anew.
Book of Iorwerth 1240
Purpose of report
1. This annual report is the second to be prepared under section 2(7) of the Legislation (Wales) Act 2019. It sets out the progress made under the Government’s programme to improve the accessibility of Welsh law: The Future of Welsh Law: a programme for 2021 to 2026, from 15 October 2022 to 30 September 2023.
2. The previous annual report covered the period from 21 September 2021 (when the programme was laid) to 14 October 2022. For consistency future annual reports are intended to cover the year from the beginning of October to the end of September.
Background to programme
3. Each programme prepared under the Legislation (Wales) Act 2019 must include projects that:
- contribute to an ongoing process of consolidating and codifying Welsh law
- maintain the form of Welsh law (once codified)
- promote awareness and understanding of Welsh law
- facilitate use of the Welsh language.
4. The first programme under the 2019 Act was laid before the Senedd on 21 September 2021 and contains a blend of legislative and non-legislative projects designed to achieve this requirement. The first annual report on the programme was published on 7 November 2022.
5. This second annual report provides a further update on these projects by reference to our overarching aims in respect of:
- classification of Welsh law
- consolidation of Welsh law
- codification of Welsh law, and
- communication of Welsh law.
6. This report also includes a review of the 2019 Act, as agreed with the (then) Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee and the Finance Committee of the Fifth Senedd, during their scrutiny of the Legislation (Wales) Bill. The government’s commitment to review the 2019 Act has also been referred to in evidence from the Counsel General to the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee of this Senedd. This review has been conducted at the mid-way point through this Senedd term, as originally agreed, and is set out in the Annex to this report.
Classification of Welsh law
During this Senedd term the government will:
- review and revise the existing draft taxonomy of subjects (originally prepared and consulted upon in 2019) so as to establish which enactments in devolved areas of law should belong to each tier of the taxonomy.
- work with The National Archives team responsible for legislation.gov.uk to provide additional functionality on that site so that users may access Welsh law by subject.
Progress during reporting period
7. It has not been possible to progress the work on settling the taxonomy beyond the initial identified Codes of Welsh law and preliminary work reported upon in the first annual report. It remains the case that the taxonomy will benefit from user testing, which will be taken forward when The National Archives are able to work with us on better organising Welsh legislation on the legislation.gov.uk website.
8. As reported in the last annual report, The National Archives has prioritised work on improving the functionality of the legislation.gov.uk website to enable amendments to Welsh law in the Welsh language to be displayed in context (see below).
Consolidation of Welsh law
During this Senedd term the government will develop:
- a consolidation Bill that brings together the law on the historic environment.
- a consolidation Bill that simplifies and modernises the law on planning.
- a consolidation Bill that repeals or disapplies legislative provisions from across the statute book that are obsolete, spent, or are no longer of practical utility in relation to Wales.
We will also:
- review the existing legislation in a number of areas with a view to identifying a further 2 consolidation projects to be prepared during this Senedd term.
- develop the package of subordinate legislation expected to be required to implement the historic environment Bill.
- undertake a phased project of consolidating key town and country planning subordinate legislation.
- remake and update the rules of the conduct of local government elections in Wales.
- prepare the ‘Representation of the People Order’ bilingually ahead of the general election to the Senedd in 2026.
Progress during reporting period
Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2023 and supporting subordinate legislation
9. The Welsh Government’s first consolidation project – the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill – was unanimously approved by Senedd members on 28 March 2023. The Business Committee appointed the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee to be the Committee responsible for scrutiny of the Bill during its 10-month passage through Senedd Cymru. Amongst other matters, the Committee considered whether:
- the scope of the consolidation was appropriate
- relevant enactments had been included,
- enactments had been correctly consolidated and their effect preserved, and
- the law had been consolidated clearly and consistently.
10. During its scrutiny of the legislation, the Committee took evidence from the Law Commission as well as relevant historic environment stakeholders. In its report on the initial consideration of the Bill, the Committee commented on the consistently positive response that stakeholders gave to the consolidation and the improved accessibility that it gave to the law. Indeed, when 3 representatives of the Law Commission appeared before the Committee on 26 September 2022, the Commission’s Chair, Sir Nicholas Green, remarked:
…as individuals we think it’s an impressive piece of work… we think it’s a very high-quality piece of work.
11. The committee recognised “the importance of the Bill as the first of its kind for the Senedd and for Welsh law” and acknowledged the benefits that consolidation would bring. The legislation received Royal Assent on 14 June 2023 and it is now possible to discuss these benefits in more concrete terms. The Act will transform the accessibility of the law for owners and occupiers of scheduled monuments and listed buildings, third sector groups, public authorities and others. For the first time, it brings the principal legislation for the historic environment together in one place, states it explicitly for Wales without confusing references to other jurisdictions, and provides the law and its supporting documentation in fully bilingual form. Furthermore, the law has been reorganised and restated in clear, everyday language so that it will be easier for everyone to use and understand. To help users navigate and understand the new legislation, an enhanced suite of supporting documents has been prepared and is available alongside the legislation and the explanatory notes on legislation.gov.uk. Also fully bilingual, these documents include origins and destinations tables, which helpfully relate provisions in the new Act to the legislation that has been consolidated, and drafters’ notes, which set out decisions taken during the consolidation.
12. The Act is also explicitly part of a Code of Welsh law, reflecting that consolidation and codification were identified in The future of Welsh law as 2 fundamental mechanisms for bringing clarity and order to the law of Wales. The Act, together with the new subordinate legislation that will be enacted to support it, will form a Code of Welsh historic environment law and will be published together. If changes to the law are needed in the future, they will be made by amending the Code rather than by making new “stand-alone” enactments, unless there is very good reason to do so. This will maintain the order that has been imposed on the historic environment law for Wales by the consolidation exercise.
13. Although the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2023 has become law, it will not be commenced until later in 2024, after the secondary legislation required to support it has been brought into force. A substantial amount of well-established secondary legislation was incorporated into the Act, but much remains to be restated in several sets of regulations covering a range of procedural and other matters affecting scheduled monuments and listed buildings. This work is now under way and progress on making these regulations will be set out in future reports. The approach taken to the subordinate legislation will mirror that taken in the consolidation, to improve the accessibility of the law by restating and reorganising it while preserving its effect. Each set of regulations will also form part of the Code of historic environment law for Wales.
Simplification and modernisation of planning law (including subordinate legislation)
14. Significant progress has been made during the reporting period on consolidating the main Acts that provide the legislative framework for the planning system in Wales:
- the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (‘the TCPA’)
- the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, Parts 3 to 6
- the Planning Act 2008, Part 11.
15. Work is also underway to consolidate provisions currently found in other Acts relevant to planning to improve accessibility and clarity. These include provisions in:
- the Public Health Act 1936
- the Local Government Act 1972
- the Planning and Compensation Act 1991
- the Environment Act 1995
- the Planning (Wales) Act 2015.
16. It is anticipated that the consolidation will provide an opportunity to incorporate relevant provisions from secondary legislation into the Act where appropriate. This course may be taken when the secondary legislation is well established and is not likely to require frequent amendment, or where it modifies the primary legislation – a similar position was taken during the consolidation of historic environment law.
17. Although the final form and content of the Bill is still be developed, it is expected to cover:
- planning authorities
- development plans
- development management
- certificates of lawfulness of existing and proposed uses of land
- enforcement of development management regime
- compensation and purchase notices
- acquisition and appropriation of land for planning purposes
- planning obligations and Community Infrastructure Levy
- planning for minerals and waste
- statutory undertakers
- highways (affected by development)
- regulation of outdoor advertising
- trees and woodlands
- maintenance of unsightly land
- blighted land.
18. These elements, together with the general provisions, and consequential, transitional and saving provisions, are expected to produce approximately 450 pages of legislation in each language.
19. Given the scale and complexity of the consolidation involved we are currently aiming to introduce the Bill into the Senedd in the summer of 2024; this is being kept under review and Members will be updated in due course.
20. Work on the subordinate legislation to implement the Bill will begin after it has been approved by the Senedd and received Royal Assent.
Bill previously referred to as the Statute Law (Repeals) (Wales) Bill
21. Following the consultation on a draft Statute Law (Repeals) (Wales) Bill that was launched on 7 October 2022 (and noted in the last annual report), the government published a summary report of the responses received.
22. Overall, only a limited number of responses were received and most only commented on one or two matters. Most responses on these areas were in favour of making the proposed amendments and repeals. Of the concerns and comments received, many related to minor technical and drafting matters. All of the comments and concerns raised have been considered further as work on the Bill has progressed during 2023.
23. Further consideration is being given to the short title of the proposed legislation, in order to express in a more modern way the intention of what the Bill will achieve. It is intended the Bill will be introduced when time permits in Year 3 of the government’s legislative programme (most likely in the first half of 2024).
Scoping of further subject areas
24. As noted in the Government’s response to the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee’s report on the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill, consideration was given to consolidating relevant parts of the Environment Act 1995 during the preparation of the Bill. However, to do so would result in a reduction in the executive competence of the Welsh Ministers due to the constraints of Senedd legislative competence.
25. As set out in the first report, work on scoping future projects will be undertaken later in this programme.
The National Assembly for Wales (Representation of the People) Order 2007
26. Work has begun on consolidating and remaking the National Assembly for Wales Representation of the People) Order 2007, ahead of the Senedd elections in May 2026. The 2007 Order currently contains over 270 pages and is available in English only (apart from the forms contained in the Schedules), but the new Order will be fully bilingual and will incorporate all the necessary changes from both the Senedd Reform and Electoral Reform projects currently being pursued. A consultation will be held on a draft of the proposed Order, to inform further work.
Codification of Welsh law
There were no immediate proposals to codify Welsh law in the programme, but this is being kept under review.
Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2023
27. The consolidation of historic environment law has resulted in the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2023 forming part of a Code of law on the historic environment in Wales. This Code will also include subordinate legislation made under the 2023 Act (see paragraphs 9 to 13 of this report).
Codification of planning law
28. As well as the creation of a Code of historic environment law our intention is that a Code of law will also be created relating to planning in Wales through the consolidation of planning law. Although the final content of that Code is yet to be determined, a declaration of this status is intended to help persons interested in the law on a particular topic — town and country planning in this instance — find and classify it more easily. This Code of planning law will also contain subordinate legislation.
Changes to Standing Orders
29. During the Counsel General’s evidence to the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee on the (then) Historic Environment (Wales) Bill, he reiterated previous commitments to engage with the Llywydd on possible changes to Standing Orders in respect of Codes of Welsh law. The intention is that future changes to the law that forms part of a Code are made by amending or replacing the enactments rather than making different, “stand-alone”, provisions that would again lead to a complex proliferation of laws.
30. The next annual report will set out progress on this.
Communication of Welsh law
During this Senedd term the government will:
- work with the team behind the legislation.gov.uk site to ensure that bilingual Acts and Statutory Instruments are available in an up-to-date form in both languages.
- significantly expand and improve the content of the Cyfraith Cymru/Law Wales website to achieve a ‘one stop shop’ for accessing and understanding Welsh law.
- explore ways to move from a model of promulgating legislation based on 20th century printed versions to a modern, digital-based system.
- develop our approach to preparing bilingual legislation, using linguistic technology to its full potential.
- explore the potential for using machine learning and artificial intelligence to make Welsh law more accessible.
Progress during reporting period
Ensuring Welsh law is available in up-to-date form on legislation.gov.uk
31. As set out in the first report, the editorial team in The National Archives’ Legislation Services division has developed the functionality of legislation.gov.uk so as to enable amendments to Welsh language texts of legislation to be made.
32. Since the new system went live in October 2022 a small team within the Legislative Codes Office of the Welsh Government has been applying the annotated amendments to both English and Welsh language texts of Welsh law on the site. This means that not only are the bilingual texts of Acts, Measures and Statutory Instruments being updated, the annotation explaining each effect is also available bilingually for readers of Welsh legislation, for the first time.
33. In total, over 104,000 “effects” (changes that need to be implemented in order to present amended legislation in up-to-date form, and to explain what has happened) have been made to Welsh legislation since 1999. By the end of September 2023 nearly 60% of these had been applied. Amendments to the English language text were previously dealt with by The National Archives own editorial team, but now all of the Welsh language texts have been dealt with by the Legislative Codes Office together with a number of amendments to the English language texts. In the first 12 months of the project, approximately 40,000 effects have been applied.
34. The emphasis has been on bringing primary legislation up to date, but as we have begun to conclude that part of the work we have also started to focus efforts on updating specific groups of statutory instruments. We have been prioritising those relating to the Renting Homes Acts and some local government legislation. We are now targeting the legislation that is most viewed on legislation.gov.uk, for example in relation to student support and food safety.
35. The current position is that:
- 96% of Welsh Acts and Measures are up to date in both languages. Our priority is now to keep these up to date as and when they are amended by legislation made either by the Senedd or the UK Parliament.
- 43% of Welsh Statutory Instruments (of which there are over 6,100) are up to date in both languages, and there are just over 40,000 effects to be applied (about 29,000 to Welsh language texts and 11,000 to English language texts).
36. Although significant progress has been made in the first year, the scale of the work yet to be done – particularly in relation to Welsh language texts – means this is a long-term project and one in which the end point is always moving: although 40,000 effects have been dealt with in the first 12 months, this only reduces the overall backlog by 10,000 because during the same period an additional 30,000 effects were added to the system to be applied. In addition, the number of effects does not realistically reflect the work involved: for example, in recent work on the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018 one task required 436 different annotations and amendments to be made.
37. The Legislative Codes Office continues to work closely with The National Archives to identify and resolve any unexpected issues that have arisen with the editorial process. This close working relationship has been instrumental in achieving the significant progress made to date.
38. The Counsel General has issued Written Statements on progress to Members during the first year of the annotation programme; future updates are expected to be set out in subsequent annual reports.
Expanding and improving Cyfraith Cymru/Law Wales
39. During the year work has begun on developing a substantial new section of the Cyfraith Cymru/Law Wales website referred to as “Legislation in Wales”. This lists each piece of primary legislation made in Wales since devolution by year, and when the section is fully developed, each Act or Measure will have its own dedicated page. So far, the pages for all Acts from January 2019 to May 2023 have been published, and the remaining pages should be available by the end of 2023.
40. Each dedicated Act page contains:
- a summary of what the Act does
- a link to the Act itself on legislation.gov.uk
- a link to the Explanatory Notes and Explanatory Memorandum
- key dates including Royal Assent and coming into force
- key information on the introduction of the Bill
- consideration of the Bill by the Senedd with links to the Senedd’s website for further details
- a list of all subordinate legislation made under the Act, which includes links to the legislation on legislation.gov.uk and the Explanatory Memorandum (if available) or links to the relevant subordinate legislation made other than by statutory instrument on the gov.wales website
- supporting articles, guidance, or information.
41. Undertaking this work has shown that the Bill pages on the Senedd’s website do not always contain the final version of the Explanatory Memorandum to a Bill (usually updated after the Bill has been passed and published on the gov.wales website). To ensure the Senedd website holds the full suite of information, the Senedd will be provided with the last revised versions of Explanatory Memorandums to Bills in future, and the Act pages on Cyfraith Cymru/Law Wales will link to those latest versions.
42. These new pages are expected to strengthen the accessibility of the law in Wales as they will be the only resource available in which all the subordinate legislation made under an Act is available in one place – something which we know that stakeholders have asked for in the past. Including the subordinate legislation made other than by statutory instrument (such as directions, schemes, guidance, declarations) will also improve the availability of information for users.
43. Additional content has also been included on the site from external contributors (predominantly legal firms working in Wales), in the form of articles.
44. The Law Council of Wales, established by the Welsh Government following the report of the Commission on Justice in Wales, has recently commissioned research on public legal education in Wales. Although that report is awaited, in an evidence-gathering session with advice providers and networks, academics and others (held in the summer of 2023), the use and relevance of the Cyfraith Cymru/Law Wales website was acknowledged. There were also calls to strengthen and develop the information available on it.
Identifying opportunities to improve digital accessibility of legislation
45. Some of the commitments in the programme relating to digital accessibility require engagement with the King’s Printer and officials at The National Archives. As noted in the previous report and earlier, they have continued to prioritise the annotation of Welsh language texts of Welsh law over the past year. They remain committed to working with us to continue to develop and improve the digital accessibility of legislation, but we had hoped to make further progress.
46. See also paragraphs 61 and 62 on the form and structure of Welsh legislation.
Strengthening arrangements for registering, publish and retaining subordinate legislation
47. Work has begun on developing options to strengthen the arrangements for registering, publishing and retaining subordinate legislation made by the Welsh Ministers (including both statutory instruments and non-statutory instruments). It is anticipated that this will be progressed during the next 12 months, subject to the availability of staffing resources, and reported upon in the next annual report.
Reviewing the government’s approach to preparing bilingual legislation
48. The Welsh Government’s Translation Service has completed the process of procuring new translation memory and terminology management software. Testing was undertaken over the summer the system became fully operational on 18 September 2023. It is anticipated that the new system will make the translation process more efficient and accurate, as well as enabling more efficient ways of researching terminology, standardising terms and consulting upon them to be adopted.
49. The normal terminology standardisation processes associated with Bill projects have continued during the year. For example, the standardisation process has been applied to democracy legislation, covering the Elections and Elected Bodies (Wales) Bill and the Welsh Parliament (Members and Elections) (Wales) Bill. These terms will also be valuable for future legislative work in this area. The work on the democracy legislation resulted in 95 new, revised or confirmed terms in the BydTermCymru database.
50. During the reporting period a review of the legislative reference materials available on BydTermCymru has been undertaken. As a result of the review, and ongoing discussions between Translation Services, the Office of the Legislative Counsel and the Legal Services Department, a total of 38 records were added or updated between October 2022 and September 2023.
51. The Translation Service has also held induction sessions for new members of the Office of the Legislative Counsel, which focussed on how the translation process can help to improve the text in both languages. In addition, an information session for all Legal Services Department staff included a contribution focussing on cooperation between the Legislative Translation Unit and the Legal Services Department of the Welsh Government.
52. As part of a procurement process to establish a new Framework Agreement to provide written and simultaneous translation services for the Welsh Government, a dedicated sub-lot was established for the legislation subject area. The hope is that this will provide an opportunity to build further expertise in the field among external suppliers.
53. The Welsh Linguistic Infrastructure Policy was published at the end of June 2023. One of the aims of the Policy was to establish a new Unit within the Welsh Government to be responsible for the linguistic infrastructure of the Welsh language. That unit is now in place. Another of its aims was to create a new website to market and promote the available resources, such as dictionaries and terminology, to make it easier for people to use them and find solutions in the Welsh language. This service will ultimately help to ensure that standardised legislative terminology is widely available and will increase the profile of the work already being undertaken in this area.
54. The Welsh Government has provided funding (£350,000 was allocated to develop this suite of resources in 2022-2023) to the Language Technologies Unit at Bangor University to develop a suite of language technology resources. This included developing domain-specific machine translation for the law. Those working in the fields of justice and the law can now use a new machine-translation tool that has been specifically designed using legislative data. The aim of the tool is to provide more accurate translations than that provided by general machine-translation, and initial testing conducted in March 2023 (by measuring the difference between an automatic translation and human-created reference translations of the same source sentences) indicated an unusually high degree of accuracy. This is very promising in terms of the practical use of the tool in future.
55. Of course, the resulting text must then be edited by a competent translator or editor before it is published. As machine-translation technology is becoming ever more sophisticated and dependable, the role of the translator is therefore beginning to evolve into more of a specialist editorial function, allowing translators to focus on making greater use of their linguistic skills. Consideration is also being to how these developments could enable more of the text to be produced simultaneously by legislative counsel subject to an editorial review of both languages.
56. The tool can be accessed by going to Machine Translation in specific domains. (techiaith.cymru) and selecting the Legislation tab.
Updating guidance and preparing additional guidance
57. Work on revising the Office of the Legislative Counsel drafting guidance, Writing Laws for Wales, has started and it is anticipated that an updated version will be published during the next reporting period. This work occurs alongside the regular internal meetings held by Legislative Counsel to discuss general drafting issues and agree common approaches on points of detail. A user group has also been established to share best practice and optimise the use of the drafting software, Legislative Workbench 360.
During this Senedd term the government will continue to work with the Law Commission.
Progress during reporting period
Working with the Law Commission
58. The Law Commission of England and Wales has yet to publish its proposals for its 14th Programme of Law Reform, but it remains the case that the Commission is committed to working with the Welsh Government and stakeholders in Wales to identify suitable projects relating to the law in Wales.
59. The Welsh Ministers will continue to use their powers to refer matters to the Law Commission for the Commission’s advice and information. Such references have previously led to completed projects that are now being taken forward within the Welsh Government – the Welsh Ministers laid their eighth annual report on the Implementation of Law Commission Proposals before the Senedd on 15 February 2023.
60. The Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office have asked the Law Commission to review the law on both criminal and civil contempt. The Law Commission aims to publish a consultation paper in early 2024, inviting views on their provisional proposals for reform. In September 2023 the First Minister asked the Law Commission to include the devolved tribunals within the scope of this project.
Form and structure of Welsh legislation
61. In 2021 the Counsel General wrote to the Llywydd setting out some proposed changes to the form and structure of Welsh Acts and Statutory Instruments. It was anticipated that the Senedd would consider these matters, but as the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee does not currently have the capacity to take this forward, the Government intends to consult upon the proposals itself, with a view to any final changes being agreed with the Llywydd (where these changes affect the form of Senedd Bills), the King’s Printer, The Stationery Office, The National Archives (where the changes would affect the printing and publication of Welsh legislation), and others as relevant.
62. At present it is anticipated the consultation will cover:
- whether both a ‘long’ and ‘short’ title to a Bill/Act of the Senedd is required
- overview provisions in Bills/Acts of the Senedd
- simplifying or omitting the words of enactment in Acts of the Senedd
- the use of dates in Acts of the Senedd (for example, in relation to the date of Royal Assent)
- adopting navigation aids within Acts of the Senedd, and possibly also Welsh Statutory Instruments, such as adding headers in the document to indicate the relevant Part or Schedule
- the typeface used in both Acts of the Senedd and Welsh Statutory Instruments
- adopting solutions that support improving both digital and print accessibility.
Corrections to Welsh Statutory Instruments
63. The Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee have written to the Counsel General on two occasions in the period covered by this report, regarding correcting Welsh Statutory Instruments. The Counsel General has also responded on this matter as part of follow-up correspondence to oral evidence sessions with the Committee.
64. The Government is putting a new process in place to ensure that Members of the Senedd are made aware of any corrections of a minor or technical nature that are made prior to the making of a draft affirmative instrument.
Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel: Europe conference 2023
65. In May 2023, officials from the Office of the Legislative Counsel were involved in arranging the 2023 Europe Conference of the Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel (CALC). The objective of the Association is to promote cooperation in matters of professional interest among people engaged in legislative drafting or in training people in legislative drafting.
66. This year’s Europe conference was held in the Principality Stadium in Cardiff and attended by 140 delegates from across the globe. Accessibility of the law and clarity in drafting legislation was a constant thread running through the 2 day event, which included:
- a keynote speech on the first day by The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who shared his reflections on law and sovereignty and questions of definition, gleaned from his role as co-chair of the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales
- a keynote speech on the second day by Eleanor Sharpston KC, former Advocate General at the European Court of Justice, who shared her thoughts on legislative drafting in the multilingual, multicultural EU environment, and the compromises that must be made in settling legislative texts in those circumstances
- an address by Dylan Hughes, the Government’s First Legislative Counsel, entitled Canon to confusion: what has happened to the law? Reflections on the statute book, the legal response to the pandemic and the rule of law, where he reflected on the experience of legislating bilingually in Wales during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the considerable efforts made to ensure the public understood the restrictions in force at any given time
- various breakout sessions led by other Welsh Government officials, with a particular focus on bilingual drafting and updating and annotating legislation in Welsh and English on legislation.gov.uk.
Inter-office meetings to discuss approaches to legislation on an UK basis
67. In February 2023 a time-limited group was established to consider legislative drafting issues that arise on an UK basis. The group consists of representatives from the 4 UK drafting offices (Wales, England/UK, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland) and from The National Archives. Its remit is to consider:
- whether there are things the 4 drafting offices might agree to do consistently or principles they might all apply when operating in the same areas (e.g. should they be aiming to create separate texts, should parallel texts be avoided, etc.)
- whether there are things the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel do in UK Acts that make life more complex for the other drafting offices (and vice versa).
68. The group meets monthly and intends to submit its recommendations for consideration at the next Heads of Drafting Offices meeting in early 2024.
Revisions to the programme
69. Section 2(6) of the Legislation (Wales) Act 2019 permits the Welsh Ministers and Counsel General to revise the programme.
70. It is intended that the programme will be revised to include:
- a commitment to create a Code of law in relation to planning, and to show that a Code of law for the historic environment has been created
- information about the project to strengthen the publication of subordinate legislation, and
- a commitment to consult on proposals to improve the form and structure of legislation.
71. The revised programme will be laid before the Senedd later this year.
72. Notable achievements over the last 12 months include the passing of the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2023 in March 2023 (forming the first Code of Welsh law), and the good progress made by Welsh Government staff in applying annotated amendments to English and Welsh language texts of Welsh law on the legislation.gov.uk site. Both are major steps forward in treating both languages equally and developing Welsh as a language of the law.
73. The National Archives remains a vital partner in aiding the delivery of improved accessibility of the law – both in terms of how legislation is printed and published, and how it is made available in a free to access and use digital form. However, unless and until they are able to progress the priorities in the programme to develop the functionality on the site to enable Welsh legislation being accessed by subject, there is limited scope for the Welsh Government to take this project forward.
74. Overall, we conclude that the programme remains on track and are pleased to report both the good progress made and the proposals to expand the programme to reflect further work being undertaken.