New Members of Parliament should be given training on the constitution and the rule of law, one of the UK’s most prominent barristers has suggested.
Dinah Rose QC was speaking at an event last night (28 October) run by the think tank Politeia, on the topic, ’What’s the point of the Human Rights Act?’, in which she drew attention to the fact that the Conservative Party’s policy documents for its proposed British Bill of Rights contained serious legal errors.
She said that “in order for our uncodified constitution to work correctly, the executive must give due respect to the courts and the rule of law,” and expressed concern that the decline in the number of legally-qualified MPs has led to “relative ignorance [in the House of Commons] about the delicate balance between government, Parliament and the courts.”
There were 104 barristers and solicitors in Parliament in 1983; just 86 were elected in 2010, and the current Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is the first non-lawyer to serve as Lord Chancellor in over 400 years. Rose proposed that new MPs should be provided with a “short but authoritative course” on the constitution and the rule of law in order to remedy this.
Rose, of Blackstone Chambers, has established a reputation as one of the bar’s brightest talents. She was named Barrister of the Year in The Lawyer Awards 2009 and has recently acted for Julian Assange in his extradition case, on the BBC’s Jimmy Savile abuse investigation and for The Guardian on the Prince Charles ‘spider letters’ case.