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With only a year to go until 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, Sir Peter Luff has said that the principles on which the Magna Carta was built are still just as important today. King John, whose seal gave effect to the first Magna Carta at Runnymede in June 1215, is buried in Worcester cathedral.

Speaking in a debate on the Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons on Monday (9thJune), Sir Peter said,

“Magna Carta embodies the principles that have underpinned the emergence of parliamentary democracy and the legal system in the UK and across the world: limiting arbitrary power, curbing the right to levy taxation without consent, holding the Executive to account and affirming the rule of law. De Montfort’s Parliament 50 years later flowed almost inevitably from just those principles.”

He went on to say,

“The celebration of and debate on Magna Carta and our emerging Parliament should serve to remind us of perhaps neglected fundamentals. Democracy is not just about voting once every four or five years for a local council, Parliament or the European Parliament. The first condition of democracy is the establishment of freedoms and rights in a society that can be upheld independently of the ruler or ruling elite. Voting comes next. That leads me to my three main concerns about the Queen’s Speech: the consequences for defence, liberty and the local experience of democracy.”

Sir Peter said he was surprised that the Queen’s Speech, didn’t mention much about protecting our country overseas and that in year of the vote on Scottish independence it was more important than ever for us to have a debate on Britain’s place in the world.
He welcomed the Government’s proposal for a Modern Slavery Bill to prevent human trafficking but that further changes to legal aid could be harmful.

Sir Peter said,

“We must recognise that access to justice is not just a Magna Carta right, but a fundamental part of our democracy. We cannot lecture authoritarian states on their lack of democracy if our own system is denying ancient rights to our citizens. If the state proceeds against an individual unreasonably, as has manifestly happened on several occasions recently, the individual should have the proper means to defend himself or herself against those proceedings. The legal aid bill is tiny: at £2 billion, it is just one-twelfth of the £24 billion housing benefit bill. In other words, an 8% saving in housing benefit would pay for the whole legal aid bill.”

Sir Peter concluded by commenting on the proposals in the Queen’s speech to increase housing supply and home ownership by reforming the planning system. He said that the planning system has meant people had become seriously disillusioned with local democracy and sadly it is the developers who have the power at the moment in Mid Worcestershire.

After the debate Sir Peter commented,

“I was disappointed that the Queen’s Speech didn’t make any mention either the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta nor the 750th anniversary of the de Montfort Parliament.

“It is Parliament’s sacred duty to protect democracy and the liberty of the people and these two anniversaries remind us that this duty remains as important as ever.”


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