Counsel General for Wales

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The Counsel General for Wales is the Welsh Government’s Law Officer, which means the Government’s chief legal adviser and representative in the courts. In addition to these “lawyer” roles the Counsel General also works to uphold the rule of law and integrity of the legal community in Wales, and has a number of important specific statutory functions, some of which are to be exercised independently of government and in the public interest.

The Counsel General is appointed by the sovereign on the recommendation of the First Minister of Wales. The recommendation of the First Minister to appoint or remove the Counsel General can only be made if approved by the National Assembly for Wales. The Counsel General is a member of the Welsh Government and attends Cabinet meetings at the invitation of the First Minister. Although not a Minister, the Counsel General is bound by the Ministerial Code which makes some specific provision in relation to the role.

The Counsel General’s statutory responsibilities[edit]

The Counsel General’s statutory responsibilities are found in the Government of Wales Act 2006

  • Like the Welsh Ministers and the First Minister, the Counsel General may make representations about any matter affecting Wales.
  • The Counsel General may bring, defend or appear in legal proceedings, in the name of the Counsel General, if he considers it appropriate to do so to promote or protect the public interest. This is a function the Counsel General exercises independently of Government.
  • The Counsel General may refer a provision of an Assembly Bill (including a Welsh Government Bill) to the Supreme Court for a ruling on whether it is within the Assembly’s legislative competence, and may respond where any such reference is made by another Law Officer. This is another function the Counsel General exercises independently of Government.
  • The Counsel General can also require devolution issues to be referred to the Supreme Court for a decision.
  • Like the Welsh Ministers, the First Minister and Assembly Members, the Counsel General can introduce a Bill into the Assembly.

Although he is not an Assembly Member, the Counsel General is accountable to the Assembly for the exercise of his independent statutory functions. He answers questions in the Assembly once every four weeks.

Other responsibilities[edit]

  • Providing legal advice to the Welsh Government in and representing it in legal proceedings;
  • Holding meetings and discussions with other Law Officers;
  • Holding meetings and discussions with the judiciary, members of the legal profession and others involved in the administration of justice;
  • Responding to proposals or consultations that affect legal matters in Wales, including those of the Law Commission and UK Government;
  • Working to improve the accessibility of devolved legislation in Wales for the legal profession and the public, including considering the future consolidation of existing legislation;
  • Approving proposed retrospective legislation and early commencement of Assembly Acts.

The Counsel General may also play a role in the development of Welsh Government policy on legal matters. For example, he led with the First Minister in consulting for the public on a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction and preparing the Welsh Government’s submissions to the Silk Commission on this issue.

History of the office[edit]

From 1998 to October 2003, Winston Roddick CB QC fulfilled the role of chief legal adviser to the National Assembly for Wales. This was, however, a civil service post and therefore non-statutory and non-governmental role. Mr Roddick is, however, to be credited with suggesting the title “Counsel General”, and as "Counsel General" in that form he had responsibility for advising the National Assembly on all legal matters.

From the coming into force of the 2006 Act a Welsh Assembly Government (now Welsh Government) was created to provide a conventional parliamentary division between legislature and executive, and the statutory and governmental position of Counsel General was created.

List of office holders[edit]

Name Picture Entered office Left office Political party Government
Carwyn Jones AM Carwyn Jones 2011.jpg 19 July 2007 9 December 2009 Labour Labour/Plaid Cymru Coalition
John Griffiths AM John Griffiths.jpg December 2009 27 May 2011 Labour Labour/Plaid Cymru Coalition
Theodore Huckle QC[1] Theodore Huckle QC.jpeg 27 May 2011 Labour party appointment Labour

References[edit]