David's article for the Bucks Free Press

"Two events last week reminded me of the work that we still need to do to break down barriers between people of different ethnic backgrounds and religious faiths - and also why we have cause for hope.

"The Muslim News is this country's biggest Muslim newspaper. I was asked to speak at its annual awards ceremony in London.

"I know from talking to Muslim constituents here in Bucks that they feel hurt and offended that most reporting about Islam in Britain focuses on extremism and terrorism. No reasonable person denies the importance of those issues but the picture needs to be a balanced one.

"There is no contradiction between being a loyal and active citizen of the United Kingdom and being a devout Muslim. Both locally and nationally we are seeing more and more British Muslims placing a leading role in the mainstream of civic, political, professional and business life.

"Look at the role models: from Sir Mo Farah setting yet another British record in the London Marathon to Mishal Hussein subjecting political leaders to a grilling on the  Radio 4 Today programme.

"But for me the role model of the last twelve months was Mohammed Mahmoud, Imam of the Finsbury Park mosque. When a man set on mass murder drove his van into a crowd of worshippers, Mohammed stretched out his arms to protect and shelter the attacker. His action stopped anger from generating more violence and ensured that the man responsible was judged by law, tried and sentenced to life. That Imam represented the best of Islam and the best of British.

"The second event was the memorial service to mark 25 years since the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence. It is a cause of shame that his family had to fight for so long o get justice for their son. And we cannot be content with a situation in which so many people in Britain's black communities feel that the criminal justice system is unfair to them.

"But what shone through at the service was how the Lawrence family have built something positive out of brutal tragedy. We heard from three young black people how the Stephen Lawrence Foundation had given them new opportunities for education and rewarding careers.And the words from Stephen’s mother and brother were of the need to keep working and fighting for justice and reconciliation.

"A good lesson for us all."

Bucks Free Press Article

David thought you might be interested in seeing an article he recently wrote for the Bucks Free Press.

"This week, as part of my duties as Lord Chancellor, I took part in a ceremony to mark the beginning of the new legal year. The senior judges, in their scarlet or black and gold robes, joined me in Westminster Abbey, after which we all processed to Westminster Hall, the most ancient part of the Houses of Parliament.

The ritual affirmed the authority and the formality of our legal system but was also an opportunity to reflect on the central importance of the rule of law in our constitutional system.

That principle, together with the independence of the judiciary, forms the very bedrock of a free and democratic society.

It safeguards us against tyranny and dictatorship. It allows us to live in a society where no individual and no government is above the law, a society where everyone can expect equality before the law and the right to a fair trial.

Here, governments of all political colours expect to have their decisions challenged and sometimes overturned in court.  But that respect for the rule of law is not universal.

As a Foreign Office Minister, I talked to colleagues from Eastern and Central Europe who remembered living under communist rule, when the judges and the courts were just a tool of the ruling regime.

I also spent many hours discussing with British business leaders their plans for foreign investment. They explained that a country with an entrenched commitment to the rule of law and judicial independence had a head start over the competition to attract jobs and inward investment. By contrast, businesses were nervous about committing money to a country where a dispute over their tax bill or their license to operate would be decided by a legal system that was in the pocket of ministers or oligarchs.

It is striking that in today’s global economy, English law remains the first choice when companies decide how to settle commercial disputes. Companies from around the world go to the London courts to obtain justice because they know that our judiciary is both expert and relentlessly impartial, doing justice according to the evidence without fear or favour.

I'm not starry eyed. There are many things about our legal system that could be improved. But let us also value those principles of the rule of law and judicial independence which underpin both our prosperity and our freedom."

Digital technology article

David thought you might be interested in seeing an article he wrote for the Bucks Free Press on digital technology.

We all know that digital technology is shaking up many familiar assumptions about our way of life. Two bills now in the House of Commons illustrate how this is happening.

The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill includes a legal framework for the insurance of driverless vehicles. Even a few years ago, the notion of driverless cars or lorries seemed the stuff of science fiction. Now, driverless vehicles are being tested and may be on our roads within the next decade.

The benefits would be significant. Elderly and disabled people who cannot drive would still be able to use a car. Smart programming would bring greater capacity to our roads.

But there are a lot of questions too. Who is liable if something goes wrong: the owner, the manufacturer or the software designer? How do you programme a car to respond to an infinite number of potential emergencies? How secure would the computers controlling driverless cars be against cyber-attack? And of course the obvious question of alternative work for taxi drivers and chauffeurs.

The second piece of legislation is the Prisons and Courts Bill which includes measures to allow more court business to be done online. Aylesbury Crown Court is already a pioneer in this work, with a lot of court business other than actual trials already being carried out digitally. A remand prisoner can appear for a preparatory hearing in Aylesbury without leaving the gaol – a huge saving in transport, escort, and court security costs.

For governments, technology can cut the cost of providing public services but may also erode the tax base. Online firms are much harder to tax than those that use bricks and mortar. And how do you levy VAT easily on online sales where the transaction crosses international borders?

Challenges and opportunities lie ahead.