On 7th December 2016, Lord Beith asked the Government “what steps they are taking to promote public understanding of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.” The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, will the Minister define a little further what is meant by public education, as it seems that one of the most powerful shapers of world views is what people see in the headlines of newspapers and what they see in the media, not just what is taught to them rationally, for example in schools?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I agree with the right reverend Prelate; it is very important that we listen to what is in the press. But I cannot police what is in the press. All I was saying in my original Answer* is that that is part of the educative process. What Ministers say is also important. That is why I repeated what my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor said, and what my noble and learned friend Lord Keen said.
*The original Answer:
Lord Beith: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to promote public understanding of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
Lord Henley (Con): My Lords, the Government are committed to maintaining the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. Both are vital to our future success. In particular, the Lord Chancellor is working with the judiciary and others across the justice system to encourage better public education on the role of the judiciary and how it operates. Greater understanding supports efforts to ensure a diverse and representative judiciary, helping to protect the vital role of the independent judiciary for the long term.
Lord Beith (LD): My Lords, I thank the Minister for that answer. Does he agree that supporters and critics of Brexit ought to unite in insisting that Governments are not above the law, and that judges, however inconvenient and open to contest on appeal their judgments sometimes are, are an essential arbiter of what the law is until Parliament decides to change it? Ought we not to be proclaiming these principles from the rooftops, in the Cabinet Office, in the classroom and even in newspaper offices?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I thought we were, and I thought my noble and learned friend Lord Keen did so only last week. I thought my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor did so very firmly in Questions in another place yesterday—I could repeat her answers to all the questions—and I will continue to do so myself.