Jeremy Wright – 2016 Speech at Lord Chancellor’s Swearing-In


Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General, at the Royal Courts of Justice on 21 July 2016.

It is an honour and a pleasure to be here today.

Of course, this is not the first time I have played a part in swearing in a new Lord Chancellor.

Last time I did so, it was 2015 – a year where we celebrated an anniversary of great importance to the justice system. I speak, of course, of the 700th anniversary of the first recorded use of the term “King’s Attorney” – the forerunner of the office I have the privilege of holding. The office itself is even older.

2015 was also the 500th anniversary of the first recorded use of the term Solicitor General. The present incumbent of that office is here beside me today, and I know I speak for us both in saying how proud we are to continue to serve as Law Officers – 801 years on from Magna Carta.

But there is one office of state – and the only one of which I am aware – that predates mine. That is the office of Lord Chancellor, to which I am delighted to welcome Liz Truss this afternoon.

2016 is not, as far as I know, itself an anniversary of anything particularly auspicious. But perhaps in another 800 years from now, our successors will still be marking 2016 as a remarkable year for this country.

In the last few weeks alone, we have seen the momentous decision to withdraw from the European Union. We have seen a change of government and only our second female Prime Minister. And now, courtesy of that Prime Minister, the oldest office in the land finally has its first female incumbent, at least in modern times. As someone who has sat at the Cabinet table with her, let me say something about her qualities, and how they relate to the qualities we seek in a Lord Chancellor.

As the daughter of an academic and a teacher, it is not hard to see how she developed an inquiring mind and a willingness to challenge received wisdom.

At Reform, a place designed for radical thinkers, she showed that while respectful of traditions, she is not afraid to embrace change. That is a combination of virtues which is most appropriate for a justice system that combines ancient principles of fairness with modernising ambitions in delivering the right service for the twenty first century.

In seeing through reforms, she will also benefit from a career outside politics at Shell and at Cable and Wireless. While she will be well able to debate high principle, I know she will also be capable of grappling with the practical challenges of implementing lofty ideals in the real world.

And there is one other quality that is less often talked about which is arguably just as important. Lord Chancellors do not just stand up to people, important as that is; they also stand up for people. A passion for justice, in all its forms, is at the heart of making a success of this vital role. This Lord Chancellor will be a passionate advocate, who will relish working with the passionate advocates up and down the land who populate our justice system, and from whose representatives we will shortly hear.

So I wish you well in all your endeavours. If I can support you in any way within my gift, I will. And I look forward to working with you in the interest of justice in these momentous times.