Harold Benjamin tours the historic Houses of Parliament with Lord Popat

08 Aug 2023
Vijay Parikh

Business Law

Harold Benjamin’s Young Solicitors Group, together with our managing partner, Vijay Parikh were invited to tour Parliament by Lord Popat earlier this month.

Lord Popat guided the group and provided a narrative of the origins of Parliament, its function, and the role of the House of Lords specifically.  In this regard, as part of the visit, the group observed the on-going debates on the Illegal Migration Bill which is currently being examined by the Lords.  This review process is a fundamental part of the way in which laws are considered and tested. In particular, the Lords play a crucial role in making sure that large-majority governments cannot simply rush through legislation without proper scrutiny. Additionally, the team were able to view the Magna Carta, the principal document which helped establish the modern relationship between people and government, and which was the first to enunciate the notion that everyone is equal before the law.

The Magna Carta has remained located within our democratic institutions since its inception in 1215 and commenting afterwards Vijay Parikh reflected on its foundational role in forming property, as well as the individual rights: “Harold Benjamin, will soon be celebrating 70 years of practice.  It is fascinating to see how a deal that was struck in another time is implemented everyday by our own practicing solicitors so many hundreds of years later”.

The historic nature of law-making is reflected in the physical architecture of the Parliament buildings.  The way in which the old and the present day continue to collide – from scaffolding clinging to the outside, through to modern-day additions such as video screens telling lawmakers what debates are happening – can observed while walking around the building.  Additionally, whilst lawyers today may be used to using digital data bases, the truly consequential character of the Houses of Parliament is revealed by the fact that it holds archival documents dating back over 700 years.  It is incredible to contemplate that legislation and laws, that are currently being deliberated will contribute to these records and will themselves become a part of this rich history.

The development of the rule of law, and democratic norms via Parliament has enabled social change. This is recognised by the fact that both  the law-making and reviewing Houses of Parliament now  have members with many different cultural heritages. Lord Popat himself came to the UK from Uganda.  Rishi Sunak’s premiership is a testimony to these changes, which have happened in no small part because of progressive statutes over the years. Indeed, it is noteworthy that President Obama was able to address Parliament – a feat given that as recently as the 1960s racial inequalities would have challenged this idea.

We are grateful to Lord Popat for his time, and our team was thrilled to have a first-hand account of the work this incredibly significant place does. The tour demonstrated how our firm can be at once situated in tradition, whilst at the same time be a vehicle for on-going change.