A consultation has opened today to shape reforms that will unify and modernise devolved tribunals in Wales.
Mick Antoniw, the Welsh Government’s Counsel General, said the changes will improve access to justice and lay the foundation for a devolved Welsh justice system.
Legislation will be brought forward to create a modern, structurally independent unified system. It will be designed to absorb the jurisdictions of existing devolved tribunals as well as to take on further functions over time.
The main proposals include:
- the creation of a First-tier Tribunal for Wales with a chamber structure;
- the creation of an Appeal Tribunal for Wales, the first Welsh appellate body in legal history;
- statutory duties to uphold the independence of the new tribunal system;
- greater independence for the way in which the system is administered by a new arms-length body;
- simplified and coherent approaches to the appointment of tribunal members and complaints across the new tribunal system; and
- clear and efficient ways to make tribunal rules and to keep them up to date.
The consultation takes forward and builds on the recommendations of the Commission on Justice in Wales, as well as the Law Commission’s project on devolved tribunals in Wales. The deadline and link to the white paper can be found at the foot of this article.
Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, said:
“We have two main objectives in reforming tribunals in Wales. Firstly, we want to create a modern tribunal system focused on access to justice, with people confident their disputes will be handled justly, efficiently and quickly. The legislative framework underpinning tribunals is now outdated so these reforms will lead to a clearer, simpler and more coherent system for everyone involved.
“Secondly, the reforms continue to lay the foundation for a future where justice is devolved, with Wales administering its own wider system of courts and tribunals. We retain the belief that this is the best way to deliver better outcomes for the people of Wales.
“I encourage everyone with an interest to respond to the consultation and help shape this important work.”
Sir Gary Hickinbottom, the President of Welsh Tribunals, added:
“I am delighted that the Welsh Government are bringing forward proposals for the reform of Welsh Tribunals. This provides a tremendous opportunity to put in place a structure for our current tribunals that will enable us to provide a better service for tribunal users, and lay the foundation for future development in a flexible and coherent way.”
Response deadline & links
The white paper: A new tribunal system for Wales, can be found here.
The consultation is open until 2 October 2023 and responses will inform legislation that will bring in the reforms.