Rule of Law (Magna Carta)

Attorney General – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 2nd July 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke 9:30 am, 2nd July 2015

What steps he is taking to ensure that the rule of law continues to be upheld in line with the principles of Magna Carta.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins Conservative, Louth and Horncastle

What steps he is taking to ensure the rule of law continues to be upheld in line with Magna Carta.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

Last month, along with guests from many other countries, I attended the commemoration of the sealing of Magna Carta 800 years ago at Runnymede. In the centuries since, the rule of law has played a fundamental part in our national identity. The Lord Chancellor and the Law Officers share a particular responsibility to promote it in Government—one that we all take extremely seriously.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure me and the House that any future Bill of Rights will contain the principles of Magna Carta? Will he also join me in paying tribute to William Marshal, who later became the Earl of Pembroke? He was one of the original signatories of Magna Carta, served five English kings loyally, saved us from the French, and then reissued Magna Carta under his own seal in 1216.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

I am happy to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to those who brought about the original Magna Carta; we all owe them a great debt. He will know that William Marshal and others would probably not recognise the human rights landscape now; a lot has changed. We want to promote a new and modern version of a Bill of Rights that I hope maintains all the important principles of Magna Carta but recognises what has changed in the past 800 years.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins Conservative, Louth and Horncastle

I declare that I am a barrister. The county of Lincolnshire holds one of only four copies of Magna Carta. What steps is my right hon. and learned Friend taking to ensure that the principles that have been developed in this country since 1215 are promoted abroad?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

I welcome my hon. Friend to her place—another lawyer; this is good news, we are heading in the right direction. She is right to point out that the rule of law is important not just in this country but across the globe, and this country has a proud record of doing what it can to promote it. We are a leading member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. She will be aware of the efforts of our former right hon. Friend, William Hague, in relation to sexual violence in conflict. We are the first state in the world to implement the UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights, and there are other examples.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Richard Arkless Richard Arkless Scottish National Party, Dumfries and Galloway

The Prime Minister celebrated the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta by announcing his intention to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. The Attorney General will no doubt be aware that the European convention on human rights is enshrined in UK law through the Human Rights Act and, in Scotland, through the Scotland Act 1998. What assessment has he made of the implications of the repeal, particularly for the relationship and interactions between Scots law and the legal system of England and Wales?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

It is important to draw the distinction between the Human Rights Act and human rights. We are not in favour of the first; we are very much in favour of the second. As for the devolution consequences of any action we may take, the hon. Gentleman will have to be patient and see what proposals my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor brings forward. I can assure him, however, that whatever they are, we will engage in proper consultation with the devolved Administrations.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

Are there any fundamental principles, as opposed to details and modernity, which conflict between Magna Carta and the Human Rights Act?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

The hon. Lady will recognise that Magna Carta was far from a perfect expression of human rights. That is why I say that things have moved on in the past 800 years, and we should welcome that. On the European convention on human rights, the Government have been very clear. We have no quarrel with the wording of the convention; our quarrel is with the way in which it has been interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. That is the problem we seek to address.