Skip to Content

October 13, 2011

Constitutional Justice: Lessons from Magna Carta

By Sir Anthony Clarke

Royal Holloway, University of London

1. It is a great honour to address you and deliver the fourth Magna Carta lecture – especially since the previous three lectures were Lord Woolf, Professor Vernon Bogdanor and Baroness (Shirley) Williams. I appreciate that, in such company, I am very much the fourth team, especially since it is only very recently that I have been called form the subs bench to replace no less a personage than, Professor Ing Vaclav Klaus CSc, the President of the Czech Republic, who was to have given the lecture. My only qualification for being here is certainly not any deep knowledge of the constitution but the happenstance that one of the very pleasant by-products of being Master of the Rolls is that I am also Chairman of the Magna Carta Trust. My theme this evening touches on some of the issues discussed by Professor Bogdanor, whose lecture I read with great interest and admiration only after I had prepared a draft of what I might say this evening.

2. Magna Carta is rarely out of the news. The burning issue of last week, which I might call the 42 days’ point, provoked much mention of Magna Carta. For example in his statement announcing his decision to stand down and cause a by-election in his constituency at which he which he will stand again David Davis noted that yesterday was the anniversary of Magna Carta, which he described as “a document that guarantees the fundamental element of British freedom, habeas corpus, the right not to be imprisoned by the state without charge or reason”. He asked too what the House of Lords is there for if not to protect Magna Carta. It would not be appropriate for me to express my views on the 42 days point (let alone on Mr Davis’ decision) but what the debate has shown yet again is that Magna Carta remains an enduring symbol of our freedom.

To read this in full, download the PDF below:
Constitutional Justice: Lessons from Magna Carta



Recently Added

By Topic