Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Peer's plea for Magna Carta Day

A Liberal Democrat peer has called for an annual day of celebration of the Magna Carta.

Baroness Benjamin said many people were unaware that "our freedoms" were the "greatest legacy" of the Magna Carta.

A Magna Carta Day would help children and young people to "appreciate" the "precious gift" of freedom with "respect and responsibility", she argued at question time on 7 February 2012.

The treaty marked peace between King John and the barons, who were in revolt against him, and set out the principles of freedom under the law.

It provided the basis for legal and political systems around the world.

Responding to Baroness Benjamin's comments, the deputy leader of the House of Lords, Lord McNally, said he would put the idea to the chair of the Magna Carta Trust, Sir Robert Worcester.

Earlier on, Lord McNally told peers the government was keeping in "close contact" with the trust, which is making preparations to commemorate the 800th anniversary of "the signing of Magna Carta" on 15 June 2015.

But crossbench peer Lord Elystan-Morgan told peers the Magna Carta was never actually signed. "As a charter, as the name implies, it was sealed; sealed by the royal seal of King John."

He added: "May I apologise for making such a pettifogging legal point," prompting the chamber to erupt in laughter.

"Not at all," Lord McNally responded. "I have long considered [Lord Elystan-Morgan] a master of the pettifogging legal point," he quipped.

The final contribution came from Labour peer Lord Wills, who accused the government of attacking clause 29 of the Magna Carta - which enshrines the right to due process - by restricting access to legal aid.

He called on the government to scrap the plans contained in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill.

"Once again confirming, never take that last question," Lord McNally responded, to laughter from peers.

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