UCL Faculty of Laws


Lord Falconer delivers 2015 Bentham Association Presidential Address

16 March 2015

Former Lord Chancellor and current President of the Bentham Association, Lord Falconer delivered the annual Bentham Association Presidential Address at UCL last week

Lord Falconer

Taking the role of the Lord Chancellor as his subject, Lord Falconer explored the evolution of the Office and the consequences of the 2005 Constitutional Reform Act in his address to UCL Laws alumni and friends.

Describing the great list of powers and responsibilities held by the Lord Chancellor across all three branches of the state prior to the 2005 reforms as “becoming increasingly absurd”, Lord Falconer said that the reforms to limit the role and support the independence of the judiciary were both necessary and right.

Highlighting the importance of the Lord Chancellor’s role as protector of the rule of law, Lord Falconer said that he believed that the Office holder should be a robust defender of the judges, whilst remaining sensitive to pressures on the state.

In a speech which at times directly criticised the current Lord Chancellor, Chris Grayling, Lord Falconer said that the holder of the role should work constructively with the judiciary to bring about reform and uphold the rule of law.

Opposing Grayling’s assertion during the House of Lords Constitution Committee last October that “it is a positive benefit for the Lord Chancellor not to be a lawyer”, Lord Falconer said that he saw significant benefits if the Office holder possessed some legal training, but did not agree that they necessarily needed to be a lawyer, adding: “But, perhaps more important than a legal background, the position of Lord Chancellor requires an individual with personal qualities to stand up for the rule of law and, at times, act outside collective responsibility as the role permits and sometimes demands. This requires, more than anything else, substance and authority.”

Concluding his address, Lord Falconer said that under the current Lord Chancellor “the executive lacks a voice” to stand up for the judiciary and the rule law, and called for a return to the statute to “remind ourselves of Parliament’s intentions.”

The Bentham Association Presidential Address and Dinner is an annual reunion event for UCL Laws alumni. Established in 1949, the Bentham Association was formed to help maintain and strengthen relationships between the Faculty and its former students, staff and friends.

Download Lord Falconer’s Address: ‘The Role of the Lord Chancellor After the 2005 Reforms’ (pdf)

Watch Lord Falconer’s Bentham Assocation Presidential Address


Visit the UCL Laws on Flickr to view a selection of images from the event