The chairman of the Bar, Alistair MacDonald QC, addressed the audience at the ceremony. He said: “It is an honour and a privilege to represent the Bar of England and Wales in welcoming into office a new Lord Chancellor. The office of Lord Chancellor of England is thought, by some, to go back to the year 605. It was certainly in existence by the time of the Norman Conquest and has been occupied ever since. It even survived its own abolition in 2003.
“Though the woolsack and tricorne hats are things of the past seen, no doubt and saving the blushes of Her Majesty’s Remembrancer, as merely quaint traditions without utility, other more important traditions remain. The Lord Chancellor was keeper of the King’s conscience, emphasising the centrality of his great office of state to the concepts of equity and fairness, themselves so vital to the maintenance of the rule of law in this the country, which was the cradle of that concept. It is particularly apt to draw attention to that point as the new Lord Chancellor will be in office on the very day when we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. One thing I am able to promise the Lord Chancellor is that, despite the fact that he has missed 5 months of that celebratory year, taking into account the number of Magna Carta celebrations still to take place, he will become an authority on that great historical subject.
“The position of Lord Chancellor retains great prestige and, in the order of precedence, he ranks higher even than the Prime Minister as an officer of state. This emphasises the critical importance of the law in our national consciousness and this great office to the maintenance of a stable, prosperous and equitable civil state. It was so in Norman times and it remains so today.
“As the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution recognised in what is a short but central passage of their report published as recently as December of last year concerning the Office of Lord Chancellor: “Despite significant changes to the Office of Lord Chancellor, it still retains important constitutional duties and responsibilities that go beyond that of other ministers.”
“They went on: “The Lord Chancellor should be a politician with significant ministerial or other experience to ensure that they have sufficient authority and seniority to uphold the rule of law in Cabinet, and in dealings with ministerial colleagues.”
“My Lord, we are confident that, in the person of Mr Gove, we have someone who eminently fulfils the requirements identified by the Constitution Committee and we look forward very much to working with the new Lord Chancellor in order to assist him in performing his many heavy responsibilities of state.”
Mr Gove replied by abolishing the Human Rights Act