Swearing-in of The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, The Right Honourable David Roy Lidington MP

Court 4 Royal Courts of Justice on Monday 19th June 2017 at 4.30pm

 REMARKS BY THE CHAIR OF THE BAR, Andrew Langdon QC 

My Lord,

  • It is an honour and a privilege for me, on behalf of the Bar of England and Wales, to join your Lordship in welcoming the new Lord Chancellor today.
  • It is of the utmost importance that our legal system should remain independent of Government and that the independence of the Judiciary should be robustly defended.
  • The Bar therefore welcomes wholeheartedly the Lord Chancellor’s unambiguous recognition that democracy and freedom are built on the rule of law and that they should be protected by a strong and independent judiciary.
  • The rule of law maintains social and economic order; it provides due process for the citizen.
  • It upholds the rights of minorities,  under  our unwritten constitution, a constitution based on the doctrine of the supremacy of Parliament, under which there is otherwise little formal protection against the ‘tyranny ‘of the majority, as John Stuart Mill called it.
  • One of the Lord Chancellor’s distinguished predecessors (Lord Hailsham) observed that the rule of law is the ultimate protection for citizens against an ‘elective dictatorship’,
  • The relationship between the Executive and the Judiciary is a particularly delicate one in which our new Lord Chancellor has a pivotal role to play. Lord Chancellors over many centuries and since the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 have been required to act as a hinge between the two.
  • This arrangement has helped to maintain the integrity of our Judiciary, the legal profession, and our system of justice, which is rightly respected around the world.
  • Responsibility for the legal system differs fundamentally from that of Government Departments, such as Health, or Education or Transport, which exist to fulfil the policy aims of Government.
  • Justice is not a ‘service’ that governments can choose to provide or not; it is a separate branch of a democratic government.
  • In the Oath he has sworn this afternoon, the Lord Chancellor has not only committed to respect the rule of law but also recognised the need to defend the judiciary and to ensure that they have the support that is necessary to enable them to exercise their functions.
  • In particular, the Lord Chancellor has undertaken to ensure, in the public interest, the provision of sufficient resources for the efficient and effective support of the courts for which he is now responsible.
  • Providing access for the public to an independent legal profession on whose ethical duties the courts rely, is a key feature of our system of justice which the Bar will work with the Lord Chancellor to secure and maintain.
  • That the weaker or more vulnerable members of society should be afforded the same excellent representation and advocacy available to others, is a necessary tenet of a fair system of justice.  The new Lord Chancellor, with his sense of history, will know that fairness lies at the heart of our tradition.
  • These are heavy responsibilities but they provide the essential underpinning for our democratic way of our life and for the future prosperity of this country in the very challenging times that lie ahead.
  • We wish the Lord Chancellor well on his appointment to this Great Office of State. The Lord Chancellor can count on the support of the Bar to help him fulfil the terms of his Oath.

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