It is a privilege and a great pleasure to be in the other capital city of the jurisdiction of England and Wales to open the Business and Property Courts for Wales at Cardiff.
This opening represents the pragmatic and dynamic approach of our joint jurisdiction. As the Chancellor of the High Court of England and Wales will explain in a little more detail, the bringing together of the specialist civil courts for Wales at Cardiff follows the launch of the Business and Property Courts in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, to be followed in due course by a similar opening in Bristol.
We want to ensure that for each of these cities, and for Wales, the specialist courts will provide a comprehensive and expert method of court-based dispute resolution, where each of the Business and Property Courts, whether in London or outside London, will deal with any type of business case, whatever its value or complexity. It is essential that businesses in the Principality of Wales and in the regions of England can litigate in those great cities on exactly the same basis as they can litigate in London.
This change, of course, must be seen in its historic context. After the abolition in 1830 of Wales’s own system of courts (the Courts of Great Session, which applied the common law and equity in the same court), the assize system of England was extended to Wales. During much of the 19th century and, in particular, during the heyday of Cardiff as one of the greatest ports in the world, there was substantial commercial litigation at the Assizes in Cardiff and Swansea. A glance at the record of the Assizes shows cases on general average, bills of exchange, disputes over ship brokers’ commissions, breaches of charter party, disputes over share ownership and the like were regularly heard at the Assizes. However, as I have explained elsewhere, all this gradually came to an end after 1895. Until the restoration in Cardiff of Chancery work in 1989 through the creation of a Chancery court, very little specialist business work was done in the courts of Wales.