Lord Mayor's Banquet 2018: David Gauke’s speech
Lord Chancellor David Gauke spoke on the government’s support for legal services and the importance of the Rule of Law. This is the speech as written
My Lord Mayor, My Late Lord Mayor, Your Grace, My Prime Minister, Your Excellencies, My Lords, Aldermen, Sheriffs, Chief Commoner, ladies and gentlemen.
It’s a privilege and an honour to address you as Lord Chancellor this evening, and to follow such thoughtful speeches from the Prime Minister, Lord Mayor and Archbishop of Canterbury about the United Kingdom’s place in the world.
My Lord Mayor, your generous hospitality this evening is a fitting conclusion to a weekend of pageantry to welcome you as the new Lord Mayor.
The pageantry is even greater than that for the appointment of a new Lord Chancellor. I was fortunate enough to go through that process earlier this year as the Lord Chief Justice swore me in at the Royal Courts of Justice in the presence of much of the senior judiciary. It is an event in which the Lord Chancellor’s family is invited and I excitedly explained to them what would happen. As I set out that, in addition to the Lord Chief Justice, there would be present the President of the Supreme Court, the Master of the Rolls, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division, the Chancellor of the High Court and judges from the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court.
I Confess, my thirteen-year-old son was not that impressed. But then his face lit up as he asked, will Judge Judy be there?
My Lord Mayor, I can tell you 2 things about Judge Judy. First, she is an American reality television star. Second, she does not attend the swearing in of the Lord Chancellor at the Royal Courts of Justice.
My Lord Mayor, one of the most pleasurable tasks I have had as Lord Chancellor was to confer formally Her Majesty’s approval of your election last month and I’m relieved that today’s ceremonial duties have gone smoothly. Prime Minister, I believe you had a near-miss with a Mace last year. Tonight is certainly not the time or place for bruising encounters. There may be other opportunities for that.
I’d also like to thank My Late Lord Mayor for his work over the past year – by the way, I’m told this is your formal title and not a reflection of your time-keeping, or indeed, your untimely demise. I’d also like to congratulate and welcome the new Lord Mayor, whose speech focused on the future.
The UK – a global beacon for legal services
I believe as a country, we not only shape the future, but lead the change, and the charge. That’s true too for our legal services sector – so important for our economy.
The United Kingdom is home to some of the best law firms, our courts are widely recognised and renowned, and we have a wealth of world-class talent both in our independent judiciary and across our legal services.
But, My Lord Mayor, as you rightly highlight – the world is changing and we must ensure we are encouraging the innovation, technology and digital skills we need to remain competitive in a digital age.
My Lord Mayor, I am grateful for the vision and focus you will bring to harnessing the technological revolution and promoting the UK’s financial and professional services and as a global destination for foreign investment.
We in government are also doing our part.
Our legal services strategy is helping the UK to become a world-leading LawTech centre and ensure that English law underpins future technology innovation.
The LawTech Delivery Panel I announced earlier this year is helping to promote technology in the UK’s legal sector and act as an international champion for the UK’s LawTech industry. I encourage you to get involved with the Panel’s 6 taskforces.
And as part of our industrial strategy, we have invested £20 million into a Next Generation Services Fund to support innovation across the legal, accountancy and insurance sectors. We will be announcing the successful bidders shortly. That’s on top of £700,000 recently awarded to the Solicitor Regulation Authority to support AI in the legal services sector.
Leadership and funding is part of it, but we also need to look at education and skills.
The lawyers of today – and tomorrow – must have the skills they need not just to survive, but thrive, in this new world of AI, Big Data and Smart Contracts.
I was struck by an experiment where 20 experienced lawyers in the US were pitted against an artificial intelligence system.
The task: to spot legal risks in contracts. I’m afraid to say to the lawyers in the room that AI had a definite edge over the human lawyers in terms of speed and accuracy….
….perhaps it was a different story when it came to the speed and accuracy of checking billable hours.
We must make sure we harness new technology in the right way, in a way that empowers and assists – and education and skills will be an important part of that.
The Rule of Law – the cornerstone of our prosperity as a country
After 7 years at the Treasury, it won’t surprise you that I see things through a certain economic lens.
Underpinning the LawTech revolution, and maintaining our competitiveness on the world stage, will be the Rule of Law.
Together with our expert, independent judiciary, it has been – and will continue to be – the solid foundation for our status as a financial and legal global centre.
The trust and confidence the Rule of Law provides means that businesses feel they can invest, entrepreneurs are willing to take risks and traders can engage in contracts with others.
That is the cornerstone of our prosperity that comes not just from a framework of rules, but in the way the Rule of Law is engrained into our culture and our collective consciousness.
The shocking events earlier this year in Salisbury – home to one of the surviving manuscripts of Magna Carta – which itself was the subject of a suspected theft recently – serves as a reminder that we must never take the Rule of Law for granted. It needs protecting and supporting here, and abroad.
My Lord Mayor, in building on the excellent work your predecessor has done to improve trust – I know your focus on preparing for the opportunities that lie ahead will help the City – and the country – realise those many opportunities, as we lead the way towards an exciting technological future.
It is my great honour to ask the assembled ladies and gentlemen to raise your glasses once again to – The Lord Mayor and The Sheriffs – the hosts.