England and Wales is a legal unit within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom. Unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales follows the legal system known as English law, and the two form the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England. England and Wales are therefore treated as a single unit (see state) in private international law.
The devolved National Assembly for Wales (Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru) was created in 1999 by the Parliament of the United Kingdom under the Government of Wales Act 1998 and provides a degree of self-government in Wales, including powers to amend English law from Parliament. These powers were expanded by the Government of Wales Act 2006, and the Welsh Assembly Government can now propose and pass its own laws.
The Roman occupation of Britain was the first period in which the area of present-day England and Wales was administered as a single unit (with the exception of the land to the north of Hadrian's Wall). At the time, Wales and England were not separate countries: all the native inhabitants of Roman Britain spoke Brythonic languages and were all regarded as Britons divided into numerous tribes. After the conquest, the Romans administered this region as a single unit, the province of Britannia.
Welsh law developed from this base. It was first codified by Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good; reigned 942–950) when he was king of most of Wales. The Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 replaced Welsh criminal law with English law. Welsh law continued to be used for civil cases until the annexation of Wales to England in the 16th century.
Wales was brought under a common monarch with England through conquest with the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 and annexed to England for legal purposes by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542. However, references in legislation for 'England' were still taken as excluding Wales. The Wales and Berwick Act 1746 meant that in all future laws, 'England' would by default include Wales (and Berwick-upon-Tweed). This was later repealed in 1967 (for Wales, but not for Berwick) and current laws use "England and Wales" to refer to the legal entity. The term "principality" has sometimes been informally applied to the whole of modern Wales, although the Principality of Wales correctly refers only to the northern and western parts of Wales during the period between the 13th and 16th centuries.
Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Crown dependencies (the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey, each with its own legal system), are separate units for the conflict of laws (although they are not separate states under public international law) (see the more complete explanation in English law).
In sports, cricket has a combined international team administered by the England and Wales Cricket Board, while football, rugby union and other sports have separate national representative teams for either country.
Some religious denominations organise on the basis of England and Wales, most notably the Roman Catholic Church, but also small denominations, eg. the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Prior to the splitting-off of the Church in Wales in 1920 the Church of England operated throughout England and Wales.
The Electoral Commission maintains a register of political parties, organised according to where the party operates. As of August 2008 the Commission listed 9 parties registered as operating in England & Wales (as opposed to 170 operating in England only, and 10 operating in Wales only), the largest of which is the Green Party of England and Wales.
Some professional bodies represent England and Wales, for example the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, the National Farmers Union and the Police Federation of England and Wales.
Other examples include the Charity Commission, the Environment Agency, the General Register Office, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, HM Land Registry, Her Majesty's Prison Service, Mountain Rescue England and Wales, St John Ambulance, the Worshipful Company of Chartered Accountants Livery Company, and the Youth Hostels Association.
The national parks of England and Wales have a distinctive legislative framework and history.
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