January 28, 2013
A Word from Westminster: Eleanor Laing MP
It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to pen a piece for the inaugural Magna Carta 800th newsletter. As chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary, I greatly enjoy working with Sir Robert Worcester, the committee members, and the many brilliant people who give their time and effort towards celebrating this momentous landmark.
The value and importance of the Magna Carta is recognised all over the world, but is all too often overlooked here in the United Kingdom. The ramifications of that day in 1215 when King John put his seal to the “Great Charter” are fundamental. The constitutional freedoms enjoyed today in the UK, the USA, across the Commonwealth, and beyond, all derive their roots back to that moment.
These commemorations are an opportunity for us to put the Magna Carta in its rightful place in our national history, as one of our greatest gifts to the world.
As some of you may know, one of the aspirations for the celebrations is for a Magna Carta Day holiday to be held on 15th June 2015, and each year beyond, to mark and remember the significance of the Magna Carta on our lives. Sir Robert has already put forward this proposal to the American Congress, to the Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Trinidad, Indian, South African and other Commonwealth Parliaments, and to the legislatures of all countries who hold our values.
Here in the UK, I presented a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons in September 2011, which was warmly received on all sides of the House and had unanimous support. With the ending of that parliamentary session, the Bill has lapsed.
I am very encouraged, however, by the Prime Minister’s reply to my letter to him about the proposed bank holiday. Although, for very good reasons he cannot support the proposals in my Bill, he said, ‘‘I am sure the public will rise to the challenge of celebrating this historic event in a variety of novel and entertaining ways and I would be happy to consider any other suggestions you have of ways in which I can help with those efforts’’.
Meanwhile I continue to muster support for all our aspirations here in Westminster and look forward to the growing enthusiasm of my colleagues in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.