Promoting England and Wales as a global legal centre at party conferences

Hugo Forshaw, senior public affairs advisor, discusses how we engaged with the three major political parties in England and Wales during party conference season.

The past few weeks have seen the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat party conferences take place. Our team, including the president and the director of public affairs, David McNeill, have hosted a number of events and meetings to make the case for our policy priorities with key political stakeholders.

Our programme at the Conservative party conference in Manchester saw our events spoken at and attended by:

  • new Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab
  • Solicitor General Alex Chalk
  • Justice Minister Lord Wolfson
  • chair of the Justice Select Committee, Bob Neill
  • vice-chair of the legal aid all-party parliamentary group (APPG), James Daly

Our flagship reception, held alongside the Bar Council and Society of Conservative Lawyers, concerned international issues facing the profession and how best to promote our jurisdiction as a global legal centre. This was well attended by party members, MPs and ministers. Our fringe panel on levelling up justice, co-hosted with the Bar Council, APPG on legal aid, and Legal Aid Practitioners Group, saw a spirited discussion on access to justice, regional disparity and the rule of law.

I. Stephanie Boyce met with new Justice Minister James Cartlidge and Security Minister Damian Hinds, leading to productive discussions on legal aid, the courts backlog and economic crime.

The courts backlog was recognised across the conference as one of the major issues facing the government, alongside gas prices and the cost of living.

At the Labour conference, we hosted events alongside Shadow Lord Chancellor David Lammy, the Shadow Attorney General Lord Falconer and Shadow Solicitor General Ellie Reeves. Lammy used his speech at one of our events to endorse our call for an independent review body to set legal aid rates.

We also held meetings with Shadow Immigration Minister Bambos Charalambous MP and Shadow Courts Minister Alex Cunningham MP, as well as with members from Sussex Law Society and a local firm.

The Liberal Democrat conference was virtual this year, but we were nonetheless able to take part in an online fringe event that also featured Wera Hobhouse and Lord Marks, the Liberal Democrat justice spokespeople in the Commons and the Lords respectively.

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