Speech by The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Lord Chancellor, at the annual Lord Mayor Elect Ceremony.
My Lord Mayor Elect,
I am commanded by Her Majesty The Queen to convey Her Majesty’s approval of the choice of the citizens of London in electing you to be the Lord Mayor for the coming year.
It is a great pleasure for me to be able to welcome you, your Lady Mayoress and your other guests to the Palace of Westminster in order to convey to you this message, and to be the first to congratulate you on receiving Her Majesty’s approval.
May I also welcome you, Mr Recorder, and pay tribute to the enormous contribution you have made to our justice system first as a barrister and now as a judge. As it happens, we have both made English legal history.
Mr Recorder, you were on the bench when the Old Bailey broke with more than 400 years of tradition and allowed a camera in to film a judge’s sentencing remarks – the first time this had happened in a criminal courtroom.
You joked at the time that you feared the Strictly Come Dancing judges had set the bar high. Fortunately for the bench, this pilot film was not about eliminating less polished performers in a ‘judge-off’, but rather making the process of law itself more open to the public!
My Lord Mayor Elect, at the climax of the impressive career described for us by Mr Recorder, you will be the 689th holder of this ancient and historic post.
As a former Education Minister, and fellow northerner – albeit from the other side of the Pennines - I am particularly delighted to welcome an educator from Lancashire to a role more often held by a lawyer, banker or accountant.
An excellent education system is the corner-stone of every flourishing economy – one that unleashes the talents and instils knowledge into all children.
In our global economy, productivity, growth, job creation – and not least the competitive edge that makes the City stand apart from its rivals - will stem from future generations of well-educated children.
I salute you for devoting your career to teaching and inspiring young people – some as young as primary age. The earlier a child learns to love school, the more likely he or she is to prosper in later life.
It is never too late to use education to turn a life around – which is why we are putting learning and training at the heart of our prisons, teaching offenders English and Maths and work skills so that they are more likely to find a job on their release and lead a life free from crime.
My Lord Mayor Elect, you say that your mission as Lord Mayor is to promote education, training and qualifications across a broad range of disciplines.
I can think of no work more vital to the continuing strength of Britain’s financial and legal sectors, driven by the engine of the City.
We will be looking to the Lord Mayor, the Corporation of London and City UK to help develop the proposition of Global Britain – the latest chapter in our history as an outward-looking, forward-thinking, trading nation.
My Lord Mayor Elect, your experience of doing business in Australia and China, and of founding an educational charity in the United States and India, will be invaluable as we pursue international trading opportunities.
The Old Bailey – where I was proud to serve as a juror – has long been a symbol of justice in action. It has now been joined by the modern Rolls Building, our high-tech commercial court and centrepiece of Global Britain.
We can celebrate the history and status of our great courts while pushing ahead with our modernising programme that will bring them up to date with the demands of a 21st century justice system.
As the first female Lord Chancellor, I am proud to be part of our constantly evolving justice system – which I want to be more transparent.
My particular duties are to respect and defend the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
These enduring qualities, the legal framework upon which our world-renowned companies and services do business, must be protected at all costs.
I see the rule of law as the cornerstone of the British way of life and the basis of our prosperity, which is sustained by secure contracts and free trade.
When I was in commerce, negotiating anything from shipping charters to telecoms agreements, every transaction was underpinned by contract law.
And wherever I did business around the world, English law was preferred.
It means we are often the first choice of legal forum for international litigators looking for a fair hearing, and a judgement that will withstand any challenge.
The City attracts some of the most highly-skilled and talented people from around the world. The diversity and quality of its workforce are at least on a par with New York, and unrivalled in any other territory.
I know that you, My Lord Mayor Elect, are keen to promote even greater diversity – an aspiration that I share. Among our excellent body of lawyers, both men and women, the most impressive are promoted to become judges.
Impartial and incorruptible, they are the very lifeblood of the justice system. Without them, the rule of law would be nothing but an empty slogan. It is crucial that they are drawn from the deepest possible pool of available talent.
My Lord Mayor Elect, I want to see more young people – from all backgrounds, schools and regions – aspire to a career in the law, confident that they have as good a chance as anyone to prosper and succeed.
Among judges, only 38 per cent are women even though they make up half the general population.
When only 13 per cent of QCs are women, and only 6 per cent of QCs declare themselves as coming from a BAME background, we have more to do.
I consider myself fortunate to work alongside a formidable generation of reforming senior judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas.
Thanks to his efforts, and those of his fellow judges, the legal profession is already changing. Among judges aged under 40, more than half are women.
It is now 100 years since women began joining the professions, including the law – an anniversary being celebrated next month at a conference hosted by the Sparks 21 charity, which promotes equality and diversity.
I am looking forward to announcing the winner of the charity’s Inspirational Women in Law Award at the conference, which will be hearing from leading role models such as Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC, the Chairman of the Bar.
Today, My Lord Mayor Elect, it remains only for me to offer you and Wendy my congratulations and best wishes for a happy and fulfilling year in office. I have every confidence that you will guide the City’s institutions and people with the wisdom and care you have shown throughout your career.