Gresham College Lectures

Wealth Inequality: English Law's Unintended Legacy? - Leslie Thomas KC

March 22, 2024 Gresham College
Gresham College Lectures
Wealth Inequality: English Law's Unintended Legacy? - Leslie Thomas KC
Show Notes Transcript

Today, the UK is a deeply unequal society.

This lecture critically evaluates the relationship between English law and capitalism and explores how legal changes over the past 30 years, such as deregulating the housing market and weakening trade unions, have widened wealth inequality.

The lecture examines the role of lawyers in addressing these issues.


This lecture was recorded by Leslie Thomas KC on 29th February 2024 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
https://www.gresham.ac.uk/watch-now/wealth-law

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Good evening everyone. Um, number four, uh, the law and hard edged questions, hard choices, wealth inequality, English laws, unintended legacy quote, in its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep on the bridges, begging the streets and still loaves. And at France, the Gresham College lecture that you're listening to right now is giving you knowledge and insight from one of the world's leading academic experts making it takes a lot of time, but because we want to encourage a love of learning, we think it's well worth it. We never make you pay for lectures, although donations are needed, all we ask in return is this. Send a link to this lecture to someone you think would benefit. And if you haven't already, click the follow or subscribe button from wherever you are listening right now. Now let's get back to the lecture. Many of my previous lectures during the, my four years as Gresham professor have focused on race and racism, but today I want to put the spotlight on class. You see, this is something that we lawyers really talk about, but we should, because law I believe is at the heart of class conflict in hundreds of different ways. The legal system is a daily battleground between the class interests of the rich and the poor. It's the law that defines and enforces property rights and that punishes the poor for stealing from the rich or trespassing on their land. It's the law that determines how much the rich are taxed and how much is redistributed to the poor by the welfare state. It's the law that determines when a landlord can evict a tenant and how much they can charge in rent. It's the law that determines when an employer can sack an employee and what rights the employee has at work. It's the law that enforces contracts and it's the law that decides what happens when people cannot pay their debts. All of this, all of this has deep ideological choices. They affect the balance of economic power in our society. For centuries, English law has been a system weighted heavily in the favor of class interests. The class interests of the rich, the class character of the English legal system was particularly stark during the 18th and 19th centuries. And as I described in one of my previous lectures during the 18th century, hundreds, hundreds of minor offenses were made punishable by death. This wasn't just about being tough on crime, it was about promoting the class interest of the rich within the incipient capitalist system. In the wake of the South Sea bubble, England's first great stock market crash and amidst the process of enclosure of rural land that left many laborers, landless parliament passed the Black Act of 1723, which imposed the death penalty for many offenses connected with poaching writing in counter fire. Dominic Alexander states, quote, this was nothing less than a class war over the use of rural resources and an unsparing attack On the traditional rights of the poor. And even the middleland ranks over in over resources in the woods, streams and fields of England. Alexander adds the enclosures, those countless acts of class robbery that privatize common lands was already well underway, but they were only a part of the relentless drive to transform a subsistence economy into a market orientated one. It was underpinned by new legal ideas. Lawyers had become converted to the notions of absolute property ownership. The result was the gradual impoverishment of rural labor and the driving of people into low wage industrial employment. The foundations of the Industrial Revolution lie here, end quote, as Simon Farley describes the Black Act without doubt, the most vicious repressive legislation in enacted in Britain in the last 400 years. This act authorized the death penalty for more than 50 offenses connected with poaching. The act stayed on the statute books for nearly a century. Hundreds were hanged for the crimes of feeding themselves with wild meat. And when the act was finally repealed, poachers were instead transported to the Amity antis for even minor offenses. Another historical example of patent class warfare on the statute book is the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which forced destitute people into the workhouse conditions in the workhouse were deliberately intended to be worse than conditions of the working poor. As Ian Ferguson writes, the 1834 Act was one of the earliest measures aimed at instilling labor discipline. In the new working class, He explains the core principle of the Paul law. The principle of less eligibility was aimed at disciplining the working class by ensuring that the alternative to working the workhouse or poor house was so awful that workers would accept any jobs And any conditions as one of the law. The poor law commissioners put it to George Nicholas at the time, quote, I wish to see the poor house looked to with dread by the laboring classes and the reproach for being an inmate of it extended down from father to son for without this, where is the stimulus to industry? Similarly, the philosopher Jeremy Benham, who developed the concept of less eligibility according to which the poor relief should always be set at below the level of the income of the worst paid. Argued that quote, only the cheapest fare should be served in the house and ample fare might be served. Only if it did not render the condition of the burdensome poor, more desirable than that of the self-maintaining poor. Now, you might think that these examples belong to the distant past and that the class character of the legal system is different today. But we can see many of the same patterns playing out again in recent history that we've all lived through. Most of us remember the 2008 financial crash and the conservative liberal democratic, uh, coalition which came to power in 2010 and imposed a vicious regime of austerity making the poor pay for the crisis caused by the rich. We can see real parallels between the 1834 Acts policy of less eligibility and the welfare policies of present day. Universal credit claimants are not given enough money for dignified existence and are threatened with benefit sanctions if they don't comply with requirements designed to force them into work. We've seen governments wage war on poor families through policy such as the two child limit, the bedroom tax, and the benefit cap like the 1834 Act. This is class warfare designed to benefit the rich by creating a pool of easily exploitable labor, nor has the state stopped using criminal law to repress those who threaten the class interests of the rich. Most of us will remember the harsh punishments meted out after the English rights of 2011 following the shooting of Mark Duggan, which included a six month prison sentence for stealing bottles of water worth three pounds 50. And while Parliament has passed legislation repealing the Vagrancy Act of 1824, an act which effectively criminalized the homeless, the government has yet to bring the repeal into force. In short, all too often the law is wielded by the rich against the poor. Yet it doesn't have to be that way. The measures taken by the reform in 1945 Labor gov government, such as the establishment of the NHS and the welfare state, the nationalization of key industries and the introduction of civil legal aid, made life measurably better for the poor and narrowed inequality. Unfortunately, many of the achievements of the post-war decades have been undone by successive conservative and labor governments, whether wedded to a neoliberal ideology who have wielded the law unashamedly as a tool for promoting the the class interests of the rich. So in this lecture I'm going to talk about how various changes to the law in the past few decades have widened wealth inequality in the UK and promoted the class interests of the rich at the expense of the poor. I will close this lecture with a few thoughts on what we as lawyers can do about it. Housing am gonna start by talking about housing. One of the leading causes of poverty and inequality in this country is the exorbitant cost of housing. Many of you will be intimately familiar with this if you are renting your home privately or if you have family members who are, you. See, housing in our society is thoroughly commodified. It's a for profit business in which properties are brought, bought and sold not as homes, but as investments and the poor, especially the younger generation, are paying the price. What You may not realize is the legal changes have played a major role in creating our current housing crisis. This housing crisis did not come about organically and it isn't inevitable. It's the product of the disastrous policy pursued since 1979 by both conservative and labor governments, which have undone many of the great achievements of post-war decades. Let's look back at the turn of the 20th century. At that time, many working class people lived in overcrowded slums, but that were unfit for human habitation. The housing of the Working Classes Act 1890 to 1900 gave local authorities the power to build publicly owned housing for the working classes. Council housing, as it became known, they were also given powers to purchase land compulsorily for the pur purpose of providing housing. The housing and Plat Town Planning Act 1919 known as the Addison Act and enacted in the wake of the first Foot World War, launched the first major national council house building program with national subsidies for council house building. Famously, the prime minister Lord George, promised homes fit for heroes for the soldiers returning after the war. The University of the West of England explains it in its history of council. Housing planners promoted the construction of new suburban garden estates situated on the outskirts of cities, mainly consisting of three bedroom houses for families. The design of estates aimed at aimed to create self-contained communities of low density, often with no more than 12 houses per acre. Facilities such as churches, schools, and shops were provided and houses had large gardens. Conditions were a great improvement over the slums that had previously existed. It was intended that half a million homes would be built under that act, although in fact, only 213,000 were built. Nonetheless, in the interwar years, there was a substantial number of council house building Under the first labor government, the Housing Financial Provisions Act 1924, known as the act increased central government subsidies for house building. The Housing Act 1930 gave local authorities power to clear slum areas and rehouse residents to reduce costs. The size and standards of new council houses was reduced in this era relative to 1919 and the University of the West of England State. During this period, a new three bedroom house was often only 620 feet square feet compared to over a thousand square feet in 1919. But this was still an improvement on the overcrowded slums in which people had HI two been living. In total 1.1 million council homes were built during the interwar years. The golden age of council housing came after the Second World War. Clement at Lee's Labor government came to power in 1945. At the time, there was a desperate need for new housing thanks to the wartime bombing, the Housing Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1946 provided government subsidies for the construction of new council housing. The Housing Act 1949 removed the previous restriction that councils could only provide homes for the working classes. It allowed them to provide homes for all sections of the population. The Atley government was hugely successful at building new homes on a massive scale. Around 1 million homes were built, of which around 80% were council homes. That said there was still some problems as the University of West Eng west of England explains some of the housing consisted of prefabs, which were intended to be temporary. Do you remember the prefabs? Still many of them around today. And the use of precast reinforced concrete PRC, which sped up housing construction went on to cause structural problems in later decades. Still while not perfect, at least housing program was extraordinarily successful at reversing the wartime depletion of housing stock and providing decent homes for millions of ordinary people. At that time, there was cross party support for council housing, large scale council housing construction continued under both conservative and labor governments in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as the organization shelter states in three and a half decades after the end of World War ii, local authorities and housing associations built 4.4 million, uh, social homes at an average of more than 126,000 a year. Again, it wasn't perfect, as is widely known, some of the modernist high rise estate built during this era acquired a poor reputation. But it wasn't all high rise flats. For example, in the seventies, Norridge had the highest proportion of council housing of any city in the country. Despite having very few high-rise buildings, Plenty of council tenants lived in houses with gardens or in low rise flats. And generally speaking, council housing was a great deal better than the overcrowded slums. It replaced. Meanwhile, the first world War from the First World War up until the 1970s, the private rented sector was tightly regulated. Rent control was first introduced in 1915 as a temporary wartime measure during the First World War. Rent control was gradually phased out during the interwar years, but introduced in 1939 at the start of the second World War and rent control continued after the war. As Wendy Wilson writes, in the decades after the war, the private rented sector declined rapidly in both relative and absolute size. She highlights that stock was reduced by sale to owner occupied sector, demolition through some through slum clearance schemes and the acquisition by local authorities. The Rent Act 1957 partially lifted rent control including decontrol tendencies after a landlord had obtained vacant possession. And as Wilson explains this, gave landlords an incentive to remove Yes, you've guessed it, sit-in tenants by whatever means in order to charge them higher rents or sell properties. This process became known as rackman after a famously unscrupulous landlord. A little aside here, my parents used to live in Rackman, um, tenancy in, um, noting hill Back to the lecture, no an aside rackman, despite being an unscrupulous landlord, didn't care about the color of your money or the color of your skin. So he was one of the only, despite being a unscrupulous, vicious landlord would rent to people, ethnic minorities. Now back to the lecture,<laugh>, Despite the partial de controling of rents, the decline of the private rented sector that continued Wilson states that between April, 1951 and December, 1961, the sector was reduced from 45% of the housing stock to 25%. The Rent Act 1965 introduced regulated tendencies under which rents were limited to fair rents determined by rent officers, and the tenants had long-term security of tenure. These provisions were later consolidated into the Rent Act of 1977 and this type of rent control that many people of my generation remember, and there are still some elderly people who still have tendencies regulated by the 1977 Act. So by 1979 there had been decades of council housing on a massive scale. Conversely, the private rented sector, which was highly regulated, had seriously declined. And according to fi figures given in Parliament at the time, in 19 78, 30 2% of housing stock in Great Britain was rented from a local authority. Uh, while only 14% was privately rented, the latter figure included houses rented with or from housing associations. 55% was owner occupied. Now, while no one would say that council housing in this era was perfect, it was a huge step in the right direction. Housing policy focused on providing decent homes for ordinary people rather than helping landlords get rich. Then in 1979, Margaret Thatcher's conservative government came to power. She proceeded to inflict an extraordinary amount of damage on the British housing sector in multiple ways. The Housing Act 1980 introduced the concept of right to buy council houses. Councils were required to sell their stock, to sell homes at a massive discount to tenants who wish to buy them. They did not have a discretion to refuse to sell. Predictably, this led to a depletion of council housing stock. That depletion occurred not just because of the right to buy itself, but because the financial arrangements associated with it, which prevented councils from using the capital receipts to build more council housing. As the communities and local government select committee explained in 2020, quote from the outset of the scheme, there was no commitment that the sold homes would be replaced nor that local authorities would retain all the capital receipts for the first decade. The government intended that councils o could only use 20% of the receipts. Limited restrictions however, meant that councils were able to spend more than the government intended lead into stringent controls. Introduced in April, 1990, section 59 of the local government in Housing Act 1989 required local authorities to set aside 75% of the right to buy receipts, which could only be used to reduce debt. From 2004, when the local government finance supplementary credit approvals at 1997 came into force, 75% of right to buy receipts went to the treasury with 25% available for councils to replace stock or maintain housing, maintain the remaining housing. Overall, since 1980, almost 2 million social homes have been sold through the right to buy scheme. Over the same period, the total social housing stock has shrunk from 5.5 million to 4 million. Another major in major initiative of the Thatcher government was the deregulation of the private rented sector. The Housing Act 1988 abolished rent control on new private tenancies from the 15th of January, 1989. New private tenancies were either assured or assured shorthold tenancies and the rents on these tens are unregulated. Famously, section 21 of the 1988 act, which the government has now pledged to repeal, provides for no fault evictions of assured shorthold tendencies. Once the initial fixed term has expired, the landlord can recover possession of the property on just two months notice without having to prove any breach of the the tenancy by the tenant. This fundamentally changes the balance of power in the private rented sector, disempowering tenants and empowering landlords. Over the past few decades, it's become immensely profitable to be a landlord. We can see it. We're living that right now with in, uh, and I'm sure many of you, those of you, uh, in the private sector, you know, know just how vulnerable you are at huge rent increases. Unsurprisingly, many former council properties sold under the right to buy scheme have ended up in the private rented sector phenomenon that is sometimes called the right to buy to let With the massive decline in council housing building, the private renter sector has not taken up the slack. Only 174,000 houses were completed in England in the 2022 to 2023 financial year, according to government figures in comparison to the 307,000 in 1969 to 1970 and the 241,000 in 1978 to 1979, None of this has been put right by any of the governments that have since come to power, whether labor or conservative. Instead, the problem has been left to get worse year on year, and I'm gonna be perfectly clear here. When labor came to power in 1997 with a huge majority, it should have abolished the right to buy, reinstate rent control and returned council housing in building to its post-war levels. Obviously, it did none of those things. So Blair, as much as Thatcher is responsible for the parlor state of British housing of the British housing market today, disappointingly, it is clear that if and when he comes to power, Keir Starer is going to continue the Blair legacy of ignoring this particular problem. The scale of homelessness in this country is nothing less than a national scandal, as are the sky high rents that are causing generational poverty for millions of people in one of the richest countries in the world, there is no excuse for failing to provide adequate housing for all I Employment. Another obvious area Where the law affects the balance of power between rich and poor is the law governing employment and trade unions. In the post-war decades, one of the driving forces behind improved conditions for the working classes was the strength of trade unions. When the Atley government was elected in 1945, its base was the trade union movement to be sure there are plenty of good reasons to criticize the Atley government from the left. But Ian Ferguson in arguing that the Atley government quote operated very clearly within the framework of capitalism and had no hesitation in putting the needs of capital before that of the working classes also acknowledges that quote, the fact that the reforms were introduced in Britain under a labor government, which had been elected with a massive majority on the back of the defeat of fascism, meant that working class people felt a real sense of ownership of these reforms. And that in a very real sense, the welfare state was a product of a, of the class struggle that changed the balance of class forces in Britain. End of quote, As is well known, however, the Thatcher government waged war on the trade unions culminating in the infamous repression of the rock minor strike of 1984 to 1985. To a significant extent, the conservative warn on the trade unions was waged through the legal system. As Dell Leens writes, quote, between 1980 and 19, sorry, sorry, forgive me. Between 1980 and 1993, there were six acts of parliament, which increasingly restricted union's ability to undertake lawful industrial action. Secondary action, better known as sympathy strikes was outlawed and picketing was restricted. Ballots were needed for official industrial action from 1984, and these had to be postal from 1993. Although unions have learned to use ballots as part of the negotiating process, they have imposed increasing in financial costs. While the requirement to give employers seven days notice reduce further, reduce union's ability to respond quickly and the potentially reduce the effectiveness of any action they took. Employees could no, could also gain injunctions from the high court to stop unions undertaken strikes if there was any doubt as to their legality facilitated by the increasing complexity of strike law. This tactic led to many strikes being abandoned. Though if a union persisted, they could be charged with contempt of court and find or even have their assets seized. Injunctions gave employers a more immediate remedy than suing unions for damages, something that ha became possible again from 1982. A return to a situation before 1906 Trade Disputes Act when unions were at the mercy of the courts. The conservative government also interfered with the running of union's internal affairs by compelling certain forms of election for executive committees and general secretaries. Irrespective of the traditions of individual unions, the incoming labor government kept almost almost every aspect of conservative trade union law. The new relationship with unions was dubbed fairness, not favors as if the right to strike was a favor end quote. One very important change was the out outlawing of the closed shop agreements in which an employer and the trade union agreed that all workers must belong to the union in order to be employed. These were outlawed by the Employment Act of 1988. Tony Blair's Labor government deliberately chose not to roll back the conservatives assault on the trade unions. The 1998 white paper fairness at work said there will be no going back. The days of strikes without ballots, mass picking closed shops and secondary action are over. The war on trade unions continues today with the strikes minimum level of service act 2023 past last year that restricts the right to strike. This is another nakedly class. This measure, rather than concede in better pay and conditions for striking workers, the government has moved to suppress them through the legal system just as it did in the 1980s and 1990s. This is not to say that all the changes to employment law since 1979 have been bad. On the contrary, we've seen important progress in a lot of areas. For instance, the National Minimum Wage Act of 1998 passed under new labor, which introduced them a minimum wage for the first time. The new labor years also saw the expansion of legal protections against discrimination in in employment, culminating in the Equality Act 2010, a piece of legislation which is vitally important, albeit flawed, But that doesn't change the fact that the UK's labor market is heavily weighted in favor of employers against employees. Increasingly, many workers work in precarious employment, the gig economy jobs in which they are nominally self-employed and lack entitlement to the national minimum wage and other basic employment law protections. The national minimum wage itself is not enough to live on. Since 2012, employees cannot claim un unfair dismissal until they've worked for the employer for a quant qualifying period of two years. And with the lack of legal aid for employment and tribunal proceedings, many employees cannot afford effective access to justice, which brings me on access to justice. The third and final theme of this lecture, which is legal aid, much like council housing, the and the NHS legal aid is a vital public service. Most people in their lifetimes will encounter circumstances in which they need a lawyer that can arise in a wide range of situations from being accused of a crime, going through a divorce, being discriminated against or being unfairly dismissed at work. And anyone who's seen a litigate, who who's seen or been a litigant in person, seen them in action will know that navigating the legal system without the assistance of a good lawyer is no easy task. The rich, of course, can lawyer up afford the best lawyers, but for most of English history, if you were poor, legal representation was an unaffordable luxury. The 20th century saw the introduction of publicly funded legal aid. Criminal le Civil Criminal legal Aid was first established by the Poor Prisoners Defense Act of 1903, which introduced legal aid for trials on indictment. The poor person, sorry, forgive me. The Poor Prisoners Defense Act 1930 extended the availability of legal aid, which was available as of right in murder cases and available in other indict cases where the courts considered it desirable or in the interest of justice. Legal aid could also be granted exceptionally. In magistrate's courts. A system of means tested civil legal aid was introduced by the Atley government in the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949. It extended most kinds of civil, it extended to most kinds of civil, uh, proceedings with certain exceptions such as defamation. I suppose only the rich can be defamed in explaining at the second reading why the bill was needed, sir Hartley Sho Cross, the Attorney General recounted an anecdote about a famous 1845 case on bigamy quote. Then there was the very famous sentence imposed by Mr. Justice Moll in a certain bigamy case, a hawker convicted of bigamy urged in Extenuation that his wife had left her home and children to live with another man that he had never seen her since, and that he had married the second wife in consequence of desertion by the first Mr. Justice Small said, I will tell you what you ought to have done in those circumstances, and if you say you did not know, I must tell you that the law conclusively presumes that you did. You should have instructed an attorney to bring an action against the seducer of your wife. Damages that would've cost you about a hundred pounds. Having proceeded thus far, you should have employed a proctor and instituted a suit in the Eccles Courts for divorce, uh, Mensa at Thoro, that would've cost 200 or 300 pounds more When you had obtained a divorce by Mensa at Thoro, you only had to obtain a divorce. Olo matrimonio. That procedure might possibly have been opposed in all of its stages in both houses of Parliament and altogether, those proceedings would've cost you 1000 pounds. You'll probably tell me that you never had one 10th of that sum, but that makes no difference sitting here as an English judge. It is my duty to tell you that this is not a country in which there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. Then he added, you'll be imprisoned for one day. That was a considerable time ago. End of quote. So Hartley was actually wrong about this. According to the research by Rebecca Probert, the version of Mr. Justice Moore's remarks, he recounted is mythical and the bigger mis in question was sentenced to four months, not one day. Clearly, Mr. Justice Moore wasn't as insightful a social commentator as later reports suggest even if the sentencing remarks were fixed, fictitious, they weren't incited satire on the state of the English legal system and the unreality of expecting the poor to have recourse to legal remedies that they could not possibly have afforded. Of course, by 1949, divorce had been considerably simplified compared to 1845, but it was still out of the reach of many poor people. As to Henry Brook explained divorce work in the high court was the first target of the new legal aid scheme. With the legal aid gradually being extended to other areas of civil work. The 1949 act was later replaced with the Legal Aid Act 1974 and then the Legal Aid Act of 1988. The scheme did see a tightening of eligibility accordance to Sir Henry Brook, whereas 77% of households were financially eligible for civil legal aid In 1979 to 1980, only 47% were eligible by 1994 to 95, and by 2007 under new labor, only 29% were eligible. But the biggest damage to legal aid was inflicted by the conservative liberal Democrat coalition government. The legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders Act 2012 significantly narrowed the scope of legal aid taken many areas of legal work outta scope altogether, even when a person does have entitlement to legal aid, whether they can actually find a legal aid lawyer is another matter. The state of legal aid in England is dire. Many parts of the country are known as legal aid, uh, deserts where there's a chronic shortage of provision. Research by Lexus Nexus found that 12.45 million people live in legally aid deserts for housing law. That means the area in which you live. You cannot find a a, a a, a lawyer that deals in that area. Two point 12 million people living, living in legal aid deserts for criminal law. Can you believe it? You live in an area you can't find a legal aid specialist in criminal law. 1.09 million PE people live in legal aid deserts for family law. According to the law society, the rate of advice agencies and law centers now doing legal aid work has dropped by 59% since 2013. Legal aid rates are often insultingly low, especially in crime, making it impossible for lawyers to generate an adequate income to cover their their costs. After the government rejected the, the recommendations of the independent review of criminal legal aid in 2022 and imposed real term cuts on solicitor's legal aid rates, the president of the law society gave the following stark warning, our warning to those entering the profession and considering a career in criminal defense practice is that given the current situation with criminal legal aid, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to generate a reasonable professional income from this work. In short, the government is refusing to pay criminal defense lawyers enough to keep the lights on. Once again, government policy has delivered one law for the rich and another for the poor. So let me come to the conclusion of this lecture. In this lecture we've looked at how legal policy in the past few decades has widened wealth inequality and promoted the class interests of the rich at the expense of the poor. I could finish this lecture in a conventional way by giving a wish list of the kinds of reforms in the law that I would like to see, such as massive council house building programs, rent control, a universal basic income and proper legal aid system. But that would be fairly pointless in our current political landscape. There seems to be little chance of these policies being enacted. So instead, I want to finish this lecture by talking about the moral responsibility of lawyers. A lot of lawyers would agree with many of the criticisms of our legal system I've made in this lecture, but many of them would shy away from the suggestion that lawyers themselves bear any responsibility for it. After all, they would say a lawyer's job is to represent their client, whether or not they agree with their client's. Cause and I of course understand that point of view and there is some truth to it, especially for lawyers such as myself, a barrister who are bound by the cab rank rule, and that for those of you who do not know what the cab rank rule is, I am like a taxi cab. If, uh, if you flag me down, I have to do your case. But I would also sound a note of caution. Lawyers wield a lot of power in our society. As a lawyer. You do have a significant amount of agency in what kind of practice you have, and I believe you do have a moral responsibility to care about the consequences of your work. What I've sought to show in this lecture is that the law is inherently political and all too many lawyers end up going into fields of practice where they are effectively waging war on the poor, on behalf of the rich or fighting or whether that by d defend the government's policies in court or fighting to evict tenants or prosecuting the poor. I would encourage the next generation, those of you who are starting out on your careers or thinking about a career law, to think about that when you make your decisions. Thank you. Thank you very much. We've got quite a few questions coming in on Slido, and we will have the microphone here in the hall too. I'd like to start with one which, um, is sort of building on from that, from, um, Eleanor who says, do you think this division between the rich and the poor will inevitably continued due to our current government and potentially next government? Yes,<laugh> short answer only prevented by lawyers. Then, Um, what is clear, and you can see, um, you know, I, you know, it's, it's clear that this le this lecture has been quite political, but that that's the whole point of this series. It's, you know, looking at law on the hard edge and as I've made clear, um, there hasn't been much difference between the two major parties since 1979. So in that sense, this isn't a political lecture because, uh, you know, I I my views of both political parties are fairly equal and I cannot see, particularly given some of the policies and um, the mirroring that the current labor, um, opposition are doing very different to the con to the conservatives. So my answer remains a yes. I don't think there's gonna be much change, And Johan is asking how can the legal education and training programs adapt? When I, um, was training, there were so few of us who wanted to do socially progressive law, you know, um, out of a hundred young trainees, I think about four or five of us wanted, were interested. Everybody else was in interested in commercial tax, that sort of work. And what, what I'm saying is I, I want the next generation to really think about the law that they go into. And I think that, you know, um, that will help to bring about change. Let's hope so. Yeah. Um, on a, on a house, on moving on to housing now, um, we had a question about from Hazel about has English law particularly made renting a long-term home seem undesirable in the uk almost inferior, unlike in European countries, whether is long-term renting? Yeah, I think it has. I think it has. I, um, as I touched upon in the lecture, the deregulation of rent controls and, um, tendencies, um, with the abolition of the, uh, 1977 rent act, the introduced introduction of the Housing Act, 1988, the concept of a short shorthold. We, we, we can see, can't we very, very clearly that it is a landlord's market and, um, with that homes are not, forgive me, houses, flats, apartments are not seen as homes. They're seen as, uh, commodities, investments, um, people, they're seen as pensions, uh, uh, and therefore the fact that there is a, you know, a landlord might have a family and I'm, I'm not talking about situations where you've got difficult families who are, or difficult tenants who are not paying. I'm talking about situations where you do have people paying, uh, uh, you know, that suddenly putting them out because you want to raise your rent to buy a third, double the rent, whatever is just shocking. A and so, and, and you don't have that in Europe or certain parts of Europe. I know that, um, countries like Germany and, and France, they have a, a very large rental, um, situation where, where, um, the, the rights of tenants are, are respected and we don't, they don't have that thing that the British have. You know, you've got to own your home. Yes. And then we don't have the situation where young, as everyone knows, young people nowadays can't afford a home and are staying at their parents' home for absolutely years. Years. And it's affecting their whole life, um, going forwards, which is, which is a very poor thing I think, for politicians to have created for us, actually. Um, lovely. Let's take a question from, from the audience, SFI one right next to you. Uh, hi, thanks very much. That was fantastic. Um, I was wondering on, on housing and, and about the shortage, um, as a young person, you know, who it seems quite far away, um, whether sometimes rights that were given originally in a benign spirit are actually counterintuitive, and particularly with Atley, the Town and Country Planning Act in 1947 allows these local communities to oppose developments. And in the modern day, that means generally elderly home owning pensioners are mixing developments. And now we have 4.3 missing, uh, million missing homes. So I know there's a balance there. You want to have give communities control, but is it, where does the balance lie? And, and is it wrong to say something should be taken out of, out of outta local control should be almost imposed from above for some sort of greater good and, and building target? I dunno, It's, it's a interesting concept. Um, yeah, uh, I, I, and I suppose, and I, um, just to add to that, just in terms of developing sites for building, you know, um, you know, there's so much law, um, restricting building on, um, green sites, uh, that's a similar issue. I I I, I do think that government policy needs to change, um, to reflect and to encourage more building of council homes. I, I, you know, I think that would be a great step in the right direction. Unfortunately, there, the, the, the, the, the figures that are being muted are just so minimal that we, we we're nowhere as close to the, the home building levels that we had in the sixties, seventies and eighties that I've touched upon in this election night. And I just can't see the either the present government or the potential next government, um, adjusting those figures. So yeah. Yeah, the answer is, I agree with you that a, a re-look at the balances, it, it would be, would be a good thing. Yeah. Um, one question is the title is Wealth and Quality, English Law's, unintended Literacy, but it sounds like you say it was very intentional by the Rich <laugh>, and I'm just wondering, um, where the unintentional comes and also in response to what you were saying about the German and French having much better rented, do you think we're copying the Americans too much? Right. Okay. So the, the first part of your, uh, question, uh, you, you detected the irony. Irony. And the second part of your question, are we following an American model? I think we are. I, I, I, you know, the short answer is I think we are, we have this notion about home ownership and investments in property, and so I, I think we are following, uh, an American model, probably too much<laugh>. Lovely. Um, I think that's all we've got time for. Leslie's got an important engagement with the jury on tv. I think we probably all do. Watch it too. Watch it. So see what I say. I'd like you to join me, please, in expressing Oh, great. Thanks to our professor.