A SENIOR Welsh Assembly cabinet member has called for Wales to be given its own distinct legal system.

Counsel general Mick Antoniw has argued the single England and Wales legal system should be scrapped in favour of two separate systems.

Speaking at the Legal Wales conference in Bangor last week Mr Antoniw said “it goes without saying” the current system should be split in two.

“It concerns me greatly that, somehow, the concept of the England and Wales jurisdiction has taken on a sort of mythical and philosophical aura,” he said.

“I take the view that the creation of distinct jurisdiction is a modest and sensible transitional way forward until there is such a body of Welsh or English law that the move to separate jurisdictions becomes inevitable.”

Despite widespread calls to do so, the latest draft of the Wales Bill, which is currently passing through the House of Lords, does not include a separate Welsh jurisdiction.

Last week a report by the Assembly’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee has said the failure of the draft legislation, developed by the Wales Office, to create a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction, “compounds the complexity and durability” of the bill and would lead to calls for another version to replace it.

Pontypridd AM Mr Antoniw said creating a distinct Welsh jurisdiction would allow the Welsh Government to address issues such as court closures and cuts in legal aid enforced by the Department of Justice.

“I want the legal sector to engage with the Welsh Government as we work to deliver meaningful change for the better in Wales, the kind of change that grows a thriving business sector, a world-class education and research sector and a globally envied justice system, a country in which every single individual stands a decent chance of making it if they work hard,” he said.

But, speaking after the Assembly committee’s report into the bill was released last week, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said he believed the draft legislation would provide “a strong and balanced settlement” for Wales.

“Labour had 13 years in power to address concerns over where power resides and made no meaningful attempt to establish a lasting settlement, whereas Conservatives have delivered a significant breakthrough, demonstrating our party’s commitment to devolution and the place of Wales as a full partner in the UK,” he said.

“We now have an opportunity to move on from constitutional affairs and the Welsh Government must now make best use of the tools at its disposal and deliver for Welsh communities, creating jobs, developing the Welsh economy and improving our public services.”