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Events, Judicial review, Research, Tribunals, UKAJI, Wales

Administrative Justice in Wales: Challenges and Opportunities

By Sarah Nason, Ysgol y Gyfraith/ School of Law, Prifysgol Bangor UniversityCymru

On 13th February 2015, UKAJI held its first workshop designed to bring together members from the policy, practice and research communities. The seminar, hosted by Bangor University Law School and supported by the Welsh Government, was also the first stage in research aiming to examine the administrative justice landscape in Wales.

The workshop was well attended including: Mr Justice Hickinbottom (Queen’s Bench Liaison Judge for Wales), the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, the Welsh Language Commissioner, the Welsh Government, and a number of devolved and non-devolved tribunal judges, alongside court officials, practitioners, third sector advice providers, and a range of distinguished academics.

Although the question of Wales as a separate legal jurisdiction is still subject to debate, there are now many instances where administrative justice mechanisms have been developed in Wales to support the fields of competence and Welsh Government policies – for example, in the areas of healthcare and education.

In its evidence to the Silk Commission on Devolution in Wales, the Welsh Government noted that:

The Assembly should have legislative competence in respect of Administrative Justice issues within areas of devolved competence, and the Assembly and the Welsh Ministers together should have powers enabling coherence to be created in relation to devolved Administrative Justice in Wales’.

The Government further stated:

The Assembly should continue to have legislative competence for most Public Administration in Wales, and this should extend to (i.e. no new Reservation imposed in respect of) Administrative Justice in relation to matters within the Assembly’s devolved competence (for example, creation of complaints and redress systems, and administrative tribunals dealing with matters within that devolved competence).’

An overall theme of the workshop was that Wales has a number of options for the future development of its administrative justice system. In short, it can adopt, adapt and innovate. By adoption, certain tried and tested principles and redress mechanisms are transplanted from other legal jurisdictions. These blueprints can then be adapted to the specific circumstances of Wales (including most obviously its comparatively small population, and geographical and language characteristics). Or Wales can innovate, both with respect to foundational principles and to developing specific institutions and their unique powers. Each of these avenues has already been pursued in Wales and should continue to be pursued whilst always keeping sight of core constitutional principles (separation of powers and judicial independence especially) and administrative justice principles such as procedural fairness and respect.

On the topic of adaption, delegates discussed the existing devolved Welsh Tribunals (such as the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales and the Agricultural Land Tribunal for Wales) considering the case for further rationalisation of tribunals in Wales and whether the Leggatt two-tier framework provides an appropriate umbrella. Matters of ‘cross-ticketing’ and assignment were also raised as methods for making best use of the comparatively small Welsh judiciary. In general it was noted that the Welsh judiciary should be seen as a coherent body, of parity with judges in England, and with proper avenues for training, development and appraisal. It was noted that a Senior President of Tribunals in Wales, or indeed a senior administrative justice judge for Wales, would help ensure a consistent and fair approach to these matters and also aid in the judicial appointments process.

In terms of both adaption and innovation the role of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales was noted in light of a current Assembly Finance Committee consultation examining, among other things, adding ‘own initiative’ powers to the Ombudsman’s remit (similar powers proposed for the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman are in the process of being enacted). The role of the Welsh Language Commissioner and her existing power to conduct investigations in the absence of specific complaints was also discussed. In general it was noted that whilst the Ombudsman is accountable to the Assembly (legislature), the Commissioner is currently accountable to the Welsh Government (executive) and this is something that requires reconsideration given that with the introduction of Welsh Language Standards the Commissioner’s role is moving from monitoring to a more specifically regulatory function. In this context it should be noted that the new Welsh Language Tribunal will begin operating in April 2015 and part of its remit is to determine appeals against decisions of the Commissioner.

As with other parts of the UK, perhaps more so given the comparative size of the public sector in Wales, it was suggested (following the Williams Commission on the Future of Public Services Delivery in Wales), that Wales faces a ‘perfect storm’ of an ageing population, austerity and citizens’ evolving expectations about their relationship with the state. It was noted in this context that Wales does not favour a marketised conception of administrative justice, public service culture in Wales is said to be based on citizen voice rather than choice, with a focus on accountability through scrutiny, audit and inspection. It was suggested that administrative justice redress mechanisms should be seen as crucial vehicles for expression of the citizen voice, especially in the context of ongoing public service reform in Wales and the devolution agenda more broadly.

Nevertheless, delegates expressed concern over the lack of awareness of administrative justice procedures, rights and remedies among the broader Welsh population, and a perceived lack of ‘public legal education’ especially. The Williams Commission view that public service performance is ‘poor and patchy’ in Wales does not seem to fit well with the comparatively low take up of some administrative justice redress mechanisms. It was noted that this is at least partly due to the under-developed market for specialist public law legal services in Wales, and advice sector cuts (though the establishment of a National Advice Network for Wales was noted as an important step to improving the availability and quality of advice services). In general it was noted that private advice providers face particular difficulties given that in many cases their activities largely need to remain cross-border (at least for the time being) to be financially viable. In this context delegates also expressed continuing concern about the difficulty of accessing Welsh law, especially in the form of academic and practitioner texts.

Though Wales faces a number of challenges, there are reasons to be positive about the potential development of innovative institutions and processes, including in the longer term perhaps the pursuit of a user-friendly ‘one stop shop’ portal for administrative redress (where allocation to an appropriate mechanism takes place ‘behind the scenes’). Similarly, it was suggested that the relative size of the legislature, executive, and judiciary in Wales, could provide for a more collaborative and holistic relationship between the institutions of state, especially in the context of making sure administrative decisions are ‘right first time’ in Wales and that feedback from redress procedures is expeditiously implemented.

The success of the workshop in terms of drawing together policy-makers, practitioners and academics to formulate a research agenda for Wales, is a testament to the crucial facilitative role of UKAJI, especially in the context of continued work to develop proposals for policy and legislative change that could be of great benefit to the people of Wales.

Cyfiawnder Gweinyddol yng Nghymru: Heriau a Chyfleoedd

Ar 13eg Chwefror 2015, cynhaliodd UKAJI ei weithdy cyntaf er mwyn dwyn ynghyd aelodau o’r cymunedau polisi, ymarfer ac ymchwil. Y seminar, a gynhaliwyd gan Ysgol y Gyfraith Prifysgol Bangor gyda chefnogaeth gan Lywodraeth Cymru, oedd y cam cyntaf ar gyfer ymchwil sy’n bwriadu archwilio i dirlun cyfiawnder gweinyddol yng Nghymru.

Cafwyd presenoldeb da yn y gweithdy, gan gynnwys: Mr Ustus Hickinbottom (Barnwr Cyswllt Mainc y Frenhines ar gyfer Cymru), Ombwdsmon Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus Cymru, Comisiynydd y Gymraeg, cynrychiolwyr o Lywodraeth Cymru, a nifer o farnwyr tribiwnlysoedd datganoledig a tribiwnlysoedd Cymru a Lloegr, ochr yn ochr â swyddogion y llys, ymarferwyr, darparwyr cyngor y 3ydd sector, ac ystod o academyddion nodedig. Er bod y cwestiwn ynglŷn â Chymru fel awdurdodaeth gyfreithiol ar wahân yn dal yn destun dadl, erbyn hyn mae llawer o achosion lle mae mecanweithiau cyfiawnder gweinyddol wedi cael eu datblygu yng Nghymru i gefnogi meysydd cymhwysedd a pholisïau Llywodraeth Cymru, er enghraifft, ym meysydd gofal iechyd ac addysg.

Yn ei dystiolaeth i’r Comisiwn Silk ar Ddatganoli yng Nghymru, nododd Llywodraeth Cymru y ‘dylai fod gan y Cynulliad gymhwysedd deddfwriaethol ar gyfer materion sy’n ymwneud â Chyfiawnder Gweinyddol o fewn meysydd cymhwysedd datganoledig, a dylai’r Cynulliad a Gweinidogion Cymru gyda’i gilydd gael pwerau sy’n galluogi creu cydlyniant mewn perthynas â Chyfiawnder Gweinyddol datganoledig yng Nghymru’, ac ymhellach: ‘Dylai’r Cynulliad barhau i gael cymhwysedd deddfwriaethol dros y rhan fwyaf o Weinyddiaeth Gyhoeddus yng Nghymru, a dylai hyn gynnwys Cyfiawnder Gweinyddol (hynny yw, ni ddylai dim byd newydd gael ei gadw mewn perthynas â hyn) o ran materion sydd o fewn cymhwysedd datganoledig y Cynulliad (er enghraifft, creu systemau cwynion a threfniadau unioni cam, a thribiwnlysoedd gweinyddol yn delio â materion o fewn y cymhwysedd datganoledig hwnnw)’.

Thema gyffredinol y gweithdy oedd bod gan Gymru nifer o opsiynau ar gyfer datblygu ei system cyfiawnder gweinyddol yn y dyfodol. Yn fyr, gallwn fabwysiadu, addasu ac arloesi. Drwy fabwysiadu rydym yn trawsblannu egwyddorion penodol sydd wedi eu profi a mecanweithiau gwneud iawn o awdurdodaethau cyfreithiol eraill. Gallwn gymryd y glasbrintiau hyn a’u haddasu at ein hamgylchiadau arbennig (gan gynnwys yn fwyaf amlwg ein poblogaeth gymharol fychan, a nodweddion daearyddol ac iaith). Neu gallwn arloesi, o ran egwyddorion sylfaenol ac i ddatblygu sefydliadau penodol a’u pwerau unigryw. Mae pob un o’r llwybrau hyn eisoes wedi cael eu dilyn yng Nghymru a dylent barhau i gael eu dilyn wrth gadw golwg pob amser ar egwyddorion cyfansoddiadol craidd (gwahaniad pwerau ac annibyniaeth farnwrol yn arbennig) ac egwyddorion cyfiawnder gweinyddol megis tegwch gweithdrefnol a pharch.

Ar y pwnc o addasu, trafododd y cynrychiolwyr y Tribiwnlysoedd datganoledig presennol yng Nghymru (megis y Tribiwnlys Anghenion Addysgol Arbennig Cymru a Thribiwnlys Tir Amaethyddol Cymru) gan ystyried yr achos dros ad-drefnu tribiwnlysoedd ymhellach yng Nghymru ac os yw fframwaith ddwy haen Leggatt yn darparu strwythur priodol. Trafodwyd hefyd faterion ‘traws-docynnu’ a dyrannu fel dulliau ar gyfer gwneud y defnydd gorau o’r farnwriaeth gymharol fach yng Nghymru. Yn gyffredinol, nodwyd y dylai’r farnwriaeth yng Nghymru gael ei gweld fel corff cydlynol, gyda chydraddoldeb â barnwyr yn Lloegr, a gyda llwybrau priodol ar gyfer hyfforddiant, datblygu ac asesu. Nodwyd y byddai Uwch Lywydd y Tribiwnlysoedd yng Nghymru, neu yn wir uwch farnwr cyfiawnder gweinyddol ar gyfer Cymru, yn help i sicrhau dull cyson a theg i’r materion hyn a hefyd yn cynorthwyo yn y broses o benodi barnwyr.

O ran addasu ac arloesi trafodwyd rôl yr Ombwdsmon Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus Cymru yng nghyd-destun ymgynghoriad presennol Pwyllgor Cyllid y Cynulliad sy’n archwilio, ymhlith pethau eraill, i ychwanegu grym i’r Ombwdsmon i gychwyn ymchwiliadau ar ei liwt ei hun (mae pwerau arfaethedig tebyg ar gyfer Ombwdsmon Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus Gogledd Iwerddon yn y broses o gael eu deddfu). Trafodwyd hefyd rôl Comisiynydd y Gymraeg a’i phŵer presennol i gynnal ymchwiliadau yn absenoldeb cwyn benodol. Yn gyffredinol, nodwyd er bod yr Ombwdsmon yn atebol i’r Cynulliad (y ddeddfwrfa), mae’r Comisiynydd ar hyn o bryd yn atebol i Lywodraeth Cymru (y weithredgorff) ac mae hyn yn rhywbeth y mae angen ei ailystyried o gofio gyda chyflwyniad y Safonau Iaith Gymraeg bod rôl y Comisiynydd yn symud o fonitro i swyddogaeth rheoleiddio fwy penodol. Yn y cyd-destun hwn, dylid nodi y bydd y Tribiwnlys y Gymraeg newydd yn dechrau gweithredu ym mis Ebrill 2015 a rhan o’i gylch gwaith yw dyfarnu ar apeliadau yn erbyn penderfyniadau’r Comisiynydd.

Fel gyda rhannau eraill o’r DU, efallai yn fwy felly o ystyried maint cymharol y sector cyhoeddus yng Nghymru, nodwyd (yn dilyn Comisiwn Williams ar Ddyfodol Cyflenwi Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus yng Nghymru), bod Cymru yn wynebu ‘storm berffaith’ o boblogaeth sy’n heneiddio, llymder a disgwyliadau cynyddol dinasyddion am eu perthynas â’r wladwriaeth. Nodwyd yn y cyd-destun hwn nad yw Cymru yn ffafrio cysyniad farchnadeiddio o gyfiawnder gweinyddol, mae diwylliant gwasanaeth cyhoeddus yng Nghymru yn seiliedig ar lais y dinesydd yn hytrach na dewis, sy’n canolbwyntio ar atebolrwydd trwy graffu, archwilio ac arolygu. Pwysleisiwyd y dylai dulliau gwneud iawn cyfiawnder gweinyddol gael eu gweld fel cerbydau hanfodol ar gyfer mynegi llais y dinesydd, yn enwedig yng nghyd-destun diwygio parhaus gwasanaethau cyhoeddus yng Nghymru a’r agenda datganoli yn ehangach.

Serch hynny, mynegodd cynrychiolwyr bryder ynghylch y diffyg ymwybyddiaeth o weithdrefnau cyfiawnder gweinyddol, hawliau a rhwymedïau ymysg poblogaeth Cymru yn gyffredinol, a diffyg ‘addysg gyfreithiol gyhoeddus’ yn arbennig. Nid yw casgliad Comisiwn Williams bod perfformiad gwasanaeth cyhoeddus yng Nghymru yn ‘wael ac anghyson’ yn ymddangos i gyd-fynd yn dda â’r defnydd o fecanweithiau gwneud iawn cyfiawnder gweinyddol. Nodwyd bod hyn, o leiaf yn rhannol, oherwydd bod y farchnad ar gyfer gwasanaethau arbenigol cyfraith gyhoeddus yng Nghymru wedi ei tan-ddatblygu, a thoriadau yn y sector cynghori (er nodwyd bod sefydlu Rhwydwaith Cynghori Cenedlaethol Cymru yn gam pwysig tuag at wella argaeledd ac ansawdd gwasanaethau cynghori). Yn gyffredinol nodwyd bod darparwyr cyngor preifat yn wynebu anawsterau arbennig o gofio bod angen i’w gwasanaethau, i raddau helaeth, aros yn draws-ffiniol (o leiaf am y tro) i fod yn ymarferol yn ariannol. Yn y cyd-destun hwn, mynegodd y cynrychiolwyr hefyd y pryder parhaus am yr anhawster o gael gafael ar gyfraith Cymru, yn arbennig ar ffurf testunau academaidd ac ar gyfer ymarferwyr.

Er bod Cymru yn wynebu nifer o heriau, mae rhesymau i fod yn gadarnhaol ynghylch y posibilrwydd o ddatblygu sefydliadau a phrosesau arloesol, gan gynnwys yn y tymor hir efallai porth ‘siop un stop’ fyddai’n gyfeillgar i ddefnyddiwr ar gyfer cael mynediad at ddulliau gwneud iawn gweinyddol (lle gellir dyrannu pryderon i fecanweithiau priodol ‘tu ôl i’r llenni’). Yn yr un modd, awgrymwyd bod maint cymharol y ddeddfwrfa, gweithredgorff, a’r farnwriaeth yng Nghymru, yn gallu darparu perthynas fwy cydweithredol a chyfannol rhwng sefydliadau’r wladwriaeth, yn enwedig yng nghyd-destun sicrhau bod penderfyniadau gweinyddol yn ‘gywir y tro cyntaf’ yng Nghymru a bod adborth gan weithdrefnau gwneud iawn yn cael eu rhoi ar waith yn gyflym.

Mae llwyddiant y gweithdy o ran tynnu ynghyd lunwyr polisi, ymarferwyr ac academyddion i lunio agenda ymchwil i Gymru, yn dyst i rôl hwyluso hanfodol UKAJI, yn enwedig yng nghyd-destun gwaith parhaus i ddatblygu cynigion ar gyfer polisi a deddfwriaeth a all fod o fudd mawr i bobl Cymru.

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