Local MP Leads Debate in Parliament on Educating the Public About the Rule of Law

Member of Parliament for North East Hampshire, Ranil Jayawardena MP, yesterday led a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament on the topic of Public Legal Education.

The Solicitor General, Robert Buckland QC MP, responded to issues raised in the 90 minute debate on behalf of the Attorney General’s Office and HM Government. The Solicitor General is spearheading important work to co-ordinate and focus PLE so that it reaches as many communities as possible also.

Another speaker in the debate was the Member of Parliament for Basingstoke, The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP.

Public Legal Education (PLE) provides people of all ages with awareness, knowledge and understanding of legal issues and helps build the confidence and skills they need to deal with disputes and gain access to justice. Equally important, it helps people recognise when they may need support, what sort of advice is available, and how to go about getting it. 

Too many people end up in court with legal problems that could have been avoided if only they knew a little more.  This isn’t about the creation of an army of barrack room lawyers, but instead is part of what should be a concerted effort to spread understanding of the importance of the Rule of Law as widely as possible within our country. 

In our schools, dedicated Barristers and Solicitors are already volunteering and delivering short courses on issues, such as social media, in ways that are innovative and exciting.  Organisations like the Citizenship Foundation are working in hundreds of schools and colleges to help deliver what I believe is a useful part of citizenship education. PLE isn’t only about schools—it can be and is being delivered in all sorts of community settings to interested groups by members of the legal profession. 

Ranil Jayawardena MP commented:

“I was very pleased to have been granted the opportunity to discuss the excellent public legal education (PLE) already going on in our country.

“But I believe that it is more important than ever to equip as many people as possible with knowledge about their legal responsibilities—as well as their rights—under our great British legal system.

He continued:

“As a Conservative, I believe in people—the duty and the desire and the ability of people to look after themselves, their families and one another.

“PLE helps people build their confidence to do that—and gain the skills that they need in order to deal with disputes and gain access to justice; in consequence, improving the accuracy, efficacy and fairness of our justice system.”

The Solicitor General, Robert Buckland QC MP, said:

“The law is not some mystical holy of holies and lawyers are not the high priests. We should demystify it, and that is where public legal education is so important.”

“I thank [Mr Jayawardena] for reminding us clearly and comprehensively about the unwritten contract, the Burkean principle that is so important to many of us, and for reaching into the present day by illustrating ​some of the excellent initiatives going on around the country.”

You can watch the debate here or read the transcript of the debate here.