Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House.

Ministers must not attack independent legal professionals - letter to the Attorney General

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Today I've written to the Attorney General, Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP, calling on him as the government's senior Law Officer to prevent Tory Ministers from attacking independent legal firms and undermining the rule of law. You can read the letter and the report in The Times - 13 July 2017 below:

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HH_to_Attorney_General_13.07.2017-page-002.jpgFormer solicitor-general protests at government “attacks” on Leigh Day

The resignations came as Harriet Harman, the former solicitor-general, accused ministers of undermining the rule of law by attacking Leigh Day over its legal claims against the Ministry of Defence.

The former deputy Labour leader is calling on the Attorney-General, Jeremy Wright, QC, to stop ministers from attacking “an independent and fearless legal profession” and seeking to denounce lawyers who are representing claimants who say their rights have been violated by the government.

Harman, who was solicitor-general between 2001 and 2005, accused Whitehall of sending emails to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority that were “wholly inappropriate” and “designed and perceived to subject the SRA to pressure.” She has asked if the emails will be published.

“It is quite wrong for the government to seek to dictate to the SRA who they should be taking action against,” said the now backbench MP for Camberwell and Peckham in London. “It is invidious for the government to denounce solicitors who are representing claimants who believe that their rights have been violated by the government.”

Harman went on to say that “it is not for the government to decide whether any case against it is justified. That is a matter for the court. It is not for the government to decide if any case is vexatious or wrongly brought. That, too, is for the court.

“It is not for the government to decide who should be in the legal profession. That is for the profession and the independent Solicitors Regulatory Authority.”

Harman said that in her view, the government’s pressure on the SRA to bring disciplinary proceedings against Leigh Day and three of its lawyers was an action that undermined the rule of law” .

It was “designed to deter solicitors taking actions on behalf of clients claiming that the government had breached their human rights and was wholly wrong”, she said.

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