Wales politics

Welsh legal system: Consider cost of change, says Lord Morris

Lawyer's wig
Image caption Wales has shared a legal system with England since the 16th Century

Members of the Welsh assembly should make it a priority to think about the cost of creating a separate legal system, says a former attorney general.

Lord Morris of Aberavon, a former UK chief legal officer, says it is unclear what a jurisdiction would entail and the cost is impossible to estimate.

An assembly committee is examining the idea of breaking from the legal system shared with England since 1536.

A separate consultation by the Welsh government closed on 19 June.

Lord Morris, a former Welsh secretary, made his comments in evidence to the assembly's cross-party constitutional and legislative affairs committee, who are looking into the issue.

The committee and the Welsh government have appealed for views about what a Welsh legal jurisdiction would look like and how it would work.

The Welsh government says it has an open mind about the proposal, which could mean creating a separate court system.

In his submission , Lord Morris said it was impossible to estimate the cost and he was "unclear as to what a separate legal jurisdiction entails".

He added: "It is not at this stage possible to surmise the cost of creating an 'independent jurisdiction'.

"I surmise they would be considerable. The committee might want to consider this as a priority."

Wales and England are currently part of the same legal jurisdiction, while Northern Ireland and Scotland have jurisdictions of their own.

The Welsh government says there has been an increasing divergence between the law in England and Wales since devolution in 1999, with more laws that only apply to Wales.

But Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan poured scorn on the Welsh government's consultation when it was launched in March. The current set-up had served Wales well for centuries, she said at the time.

Responses will be considered before ministers make an announcement on what they intend to do next.

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