Speech: CILEx Commencement Speech 2017

I am absolutely delighted to be here today to welcome you all to the legal profession, and to congratulate you on this wonderful achievement.

I have no doubt that every single one of you in this room today has worked incredibly hard to get to this point, and it is my great privilege to share this moment with you.

In fact, I know this only too well through my own experience as a lecturer for CILEx. When I was lecturing my class was entirely of students who were juggling working and childcare responsibilities.

While you have all achieved something notable just by being here today, I want to encourage you to think of this as just the beginning. As CILEx lawyers, you now have more opportunities open to you than ever before.

Many of you will go on to have successful careers in private legal practice – indeed hundreds of CILEx members who have sat where you are now have worked their wayon to become partners at solicitor firms.

Many of you will seek independent practice rights, and set up your own firms.Others will take the public sector route, working as government legal advisors, for local authorities, or as CPS prosecutors.

But there is another potential goal that I would like you to hold in your minds, and that is to enter the ranks of the judiciary.

While this may seem like a distant prospect right now (indeed you must be at least 5 years post qualified), it is an ambition that I hope at least some of you will choose to eventually pursue.

We are fortunate in this country to be served by one of the world’s finest judiciaries, but we have still yet to truly unlock the full pool of talent available to perform this most critical public function.

The great personal drive, and diversity of membership and perspective of CILEx members makes you ideally suited to serve in our courts and tribunals. And we must ensure that you are given the opportunity to do so.

As an organisation, I know CILEx is committed to supporting members who wish to pursue careers in the judiciary, and I would urge all of you to at least consider the prospect.

Of course, a career in the judiciary is just one of the many positive ways in which you, as graduates and lawyers, can give back and contribute to the community.

The Attorney General and I are passionate advocates for pro bono legal support, and for the provision of public legal education.

Chartered Legal Executives like you possess skills and experience which you can use to make a great deal of difference in people’s lives. You will do this every day in your paid employment, but I want to encourage you to consider the options available to also donate some of your time to those most in need.

This can take many forms – it can be on ad hoc basis, or come through more structured volunteering, such as at your local Citizens Advice Bureau. The CILEx Pro Bono Trust also offers opportunities for you to get involved in. We have seen recently – in the wake of the terrible tragedies this country has faced – just how powerful a force pro bono can be.

The legal community has rallied admirably to support the victims and families of the London and Manchester terrorist attacks, and the Grenfell fire. Through a great collective pro bono effort, these people have had access to advice, support and advocacy in their hour of greatest need.

Some of you may be thinking ‘but I work in conveyancing, or debt recovery, that’s not my area of specialism’ – but you are legally trained: legal research, client care, document analysis, processes, procedures, policies – these are skills that you are qualified in – and no matter your area of law there are those who you can help.

But emergency pro bono support is not the only contribution you can make. Through the provision of Public Legal Education, lawyers like you play an invaluable role in providing people with awareness, knowledge and understanding of their rights and the rights of other citizens. This builds the confidence and skills they need to deal with disputes and helps ensure access to justice.

Public Legal Education helps people recognise when they may need support, what sort of advice is available, and how to go about getting it.

It is a field I have been involved in since entering private practise in the 1990s. At the bar I worked for the Speakers In Schools scheme and in organising the Welsh heats of the Bar Mock Trials competition.

There are many ways to teach people about the law, from interactive presentations, mock trials and role play exercises to awareness raising campaigns or information in leaflets and online. Different organisations tailor this to different groups, from educating primary and secondary school pupils to prison inmates, community groups and homeless people.

I am very pleased to have the strong support of CILEx in the Public Legal Education Panel that I recently established. This Panel seeks to coordinate and enhance the provision of Public Legal Education in England and Wales, and complements the good work already undertaken by the Attorney General’s pro bono committee.

CILEx Graduates and Chartered Legal Executives like you already make a fantastic contribution to public legal education, but I know collectively we can do even more to education and empower our community.

I want to conclude by wishing all of you the very best in your career ahead.

Law is a hugely challenging profession, but also an immensely rewarding one.

As you celebrate your wonderful achievement with your friends and family today, I encourage you to look forward to the future with optimism, to take risks, and to push yourself to achieve even more than you ever imagined you could.




News story: Life-saving drink drive law turns 50

Thousands of lives have been saved since the Department for Transport (DfT) introduced the maximum legal drink drive limit 50 years ago this weekend (7 October 2017).

The landmark Road Safety Act 1967 made it an offence to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of over 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – a limit which remains in place to this day.

This law made an important impact and since 1979, when official statistics first began, the number of drink drive deaths per year has plummeted from 1,640 right down to 200 in 2015 – a fall of 88%. We strive to further reduce this number by launching a new THINK! drink-drive campaign at the end of November 2017. THINK!, which reached its own 50th birthday in 2014, has successfully challenged a number of behaviours and attitudes to improve road safety, including drink driving. The iconic campaigns have helped reduce the number of deaths on British roads from 22 per day in the 1960s to the current level of 5.

Roads Minister Jesse Norman said:

This is a remarkable milestone, and I am proud of the work this department has done to reduce the number of deaths from drink driving over the last 50 years.

The change in attitudes to drink driving during this time has been profound, and there is little doubt that the introduction of the drink-drive limit helped to give us what remains one of the safest road networks in the world.

There is still much further to go, but we are making good progress. Our THINK! campaigns should help to reduce the number of drink drive incidents even further.

50 years of THINK! drink drive campaigns

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said:

The introduction of a legal maximum limit for the amount of alcohol permissible in driver’s blood has without doubt saved hundreds of lives on the UK’s roads since 1967. The breathalyser is central to this as it gave police the ability to assess accurately at the roadside whether a driver was over the limit.

High-profile police drink-drive campaigns send strong messages to motorists about the tragic consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol and let offenders know they will be caught and punished.

In 1967 DfT’s predecessor, the Ministry of Transport, launched a major publicity campaign around the new act. The campaign comprised TV, film and newspaper advertising and saw millions of leaflets distributed with vehicle licences.

DfT previously marked 50 years of drink drive campaigning in 2014.




Speech: “We very much hope that the UN will be better equipped to build and sustain peace, to respond to crises, and to deliver support for development”

Thank you Madam President and thank you to Madam Deputy Secretary-General as well. I want to begin by aligning myself with the European Union statement and by offering full British support to everything that you, Deputy Secretary-General and the Secretary-General, are doing to drive meaningful change through the United Nations.

As a result of that change and reform, we very much hope that the UN will be better equipped to build and sustain peace, to respond to crises, and to deliver support for development and for human rights. And we look forward to the SG’s report in December, full, we hope, of bold and ambitious recommendations to set out a clear path towards that end; a more effective and accountable United Nations.

We’ve been doing a lot of thinking on each of the six work streams that you identified in your guidance notes. In the interest of brevity, I’ll just mention one point under each of the six headings, if I may, and send around more detailed notes in writing.

On the first, the question about a reinvigorated Resident Coordinator system, we want the Resident Coordinator in each place to be independent, empowered, taking final decisions for the whole UN country presence, with a final say on strategic objectives as set out in UN Development Agreement Frameworks; accountable for all agencies and their budgets, underpinned by a joint and single work plan; overseeing a coherent and coordinated approach to development and humanitarian activity by double-hatting as Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, where appropriate.

Secondly, on a responsive and tailored UN Country Team, we hope that each team will take responsibility for addressing the long term causes of conflict through development interventions, continually assessing the risks and the needs of countries, and being able to adapt to crises rapidly.

Third, we look forward to hearing more from ongoing consultations on a system wide strategic document. Coherent reporting and planning system-wide will be vital to demonstrating impact and results, but that will only happen when the agencies themselves are undertaking the whole program cycle as a single process – planning, operating, monitoring and reporting.

Fourthly, on system-wide accountability and oversight, we are open to changing the structures of the Executive Boards. We have some concerns about establishing a ‘mega board’ – not because we disagree with the intent, which is to improve transparency and to streamline, but just in terms of practicality and whether it’s actually able to do the job, or whether actually it would be better to keep the different executive boards in their existing roles and making sure that they function as well as possible. But just to underline, we absolutely support every proposed recommendation to improve transparency.

Fifthly, on regional functions, policy and data management, we believe the review must clarify the value-added of the Regional Economic Commissions because reports of the Joint Inspection Unit do suggest that there is a fair amount of duplication, too many documents that are not read at all, or even if they’re read, they never get used. So that does seem to be not the ideal use of limited funding.

And then sixthly and finally, you ask how the Funding Compact could instil the confidence of donors investing in the system and encourage more investment in core and pooled funding, and we do have some principles which I will send around in writing. The thrust of the principles is that we can do everything that we can to improve transparency and oversight.

I did have a final page, but in the interest of time I’ll boil it down to four words: get on with it.

Thank you.




Press release: Minister for Africa statement on Kenya

Minister Stewart said:

The UK is concerned by the increasingly unstable political situation in Kenya in advance of the new presidential election on 26 October.  An open, peaceful and credible poll is the only constitutional way Kenyans can choose their next President.        Along with international partners, the UK is continuing to provide support to Kenya’s institutions, including the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). We welcome steps the IEBC is taking to rectify flaws in the August election, as well as recent efforts by the IEBC and political parties to engage in dialogue.

Neither threats to boycott the election nor changes to the electoral legislation at this stage are helpful.  Both sides need to work with the IEBC cooperatively and in a spirit of dialogue as it sets out arrangements for the new elections.

We encourage a peaceful and non-violent election period. Security services should use the utmost restraint in handling demonstrations, and any response must be proportionate and measured.  We urge independent investigations into all allegations of abuse of force.

This election is an important moment for Kenyan and African democracy.  We stand together with all Kenyans at this critical time.

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News story: Programme for fifth round of UK-EU Article 50 negotiations

Monday 9 October 2017

Technical working groups

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Coordinators’ Session

Thursday 12 October 2017

Principals’ meeting

Press briefing (to be confirmed)

Note: There are three technical working groups covering citizens’ rights, financial settlement and other separation issues. Horizontal issues, including governance, will be addressed by the Coordinators. Additional technical working groups may be scheduled during the week.