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Conservative MP Chris Grayling has been appointed as Secretary of State for Justice in the Government’s latest cabinet reshuffle, marking the first non-lawyer to take the role of Lord Chancellor in the modern era.
Grayling, currently the MP for Epsom and Ewell, will succeed Conservative veteran Ken Clarke, who is set to take up a wider economic advisory role in Government.
The move comes after two years in the role for Clarke, who was appointed in Prime Minister David Cameron’s first cabinet.
Clarke has overseen a number of key legislative changes during his time in the position, including the controversial cuts to legal aid, the implementation of the Bribery Act and the Jackson civil litigation reforms, which are set to come into effect next April.
Clarke, a qualified barrister who took silk in 1980, has held numerous cabinet positions over the last 30 years, including Secretary of State for Health and Secretary of State for Education and Science.
Grayling was most recently Minister for Employment, before which he was Shadow Home Secretary. He attracted controversy in 2010 after he was recorded suggesting that people who run bed and breakfasts in their homes should have the right to reject homosexual guests, comments for which he later apologised.
The news comes as part of a wider shake-up by the Prime Minister today (4 September) that has also seen Edward Garnier sacked as solicitor general. Garnier, who has held the role since May 2010, told the BBC: “We have to take the rough with the smooth.”
Garnier will be replaced as solicitor general by North East Hertfordshire MP Oliver Heald. Heald is a trained barrister and practised for 23 years before becoming a government minister in 1995.
Other moves confirmed today (4 September) have seen Health Secretary Andrew Lansley take the role of Leader of the Commons and replaced by former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Reaction to Grayling’s appointment
“Grayling has taken a substantial interest in justice issues, so it is not wholly surprising that he has been appointed. He will have a steeper learning curve because he is not a lawyer. Although Ken Clarke had not practised for some time, his background was in law, and this helps with understanding critical issues such as ensuring the independence of the judiciary, having equality of arms in the Courts, maintaining vitally important public funding to maintain quality representation in criminal and family cases, reducing delays and appeals. In order to gain respect from the judiciary he will need to demonstrate that he thoroughly understands the many issues affecting law, and is prepared to fight hard for all of the ingredient elements that make for the Rule of Law.”Tim Dutton QC, head of chambers, Fountain Court
“We’re a long way down the road of profound change in the legal system. In the context of civil justice it would be regrettable if the appointment of a new Justice Secretary meant the genuine progress made on Jackson’s proposed reforms was further disrupted. That said, several key details remain to be decided and some aspects are under challenge. We want to see well thought-through change rather than poorly-coordinated piecemeal measures. Hopefully having a new broom at the top of the MoJ will apply pressure for this to happen. We look forward to working with Chris Grayling to achieve this. The legal profession will be concerned that a non-lawyer has become Justice Secretary. It’s possible that Grayling’s appointment reflects the government’s drive towards a wider business focus, exemplified by the introduction of alternative business structures with lawyers and non-lawyers working side by side on an equal basis.”Francesca Kaye, president, London Solicitors Litigation Association
“It is a significant surprise that a non-lawyer has been made Justice Secretary. It is too early to say exactly what his appointment will mean but it could be a response to suggestions that his predecessor was too pro-European, and it could well mean that we shall see a toughening of the Government’s stance against the decisions of the European Court and the European Court of Human Rights.”Paul Dacam, head of UK and EU public law and policy, Hogan Lovells
“Ken Clarke was a pleasure to work with, and although we disagreed on legal aid the Law Society supported his commitment to prison reform. We look forward to working with the new Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, on a range of issues affecting our members and the public.”Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, president, The Law Society
“The new Justice Secretary should signal his intention to give access to justice his priority. Whatever challenges the Ministry faces, it has a fundamental obligation to ensure that everybody is able to access justice, regardless of their means. Mr Grayling must resist adding to the already punitive cuts which the last Government and Coalition Government have presided over.”Maura McGowan QC, vice-chairman, The Bar Council
“Ken Clarke was a breath of fresh air as Justice Secretary. Rather than grabbing cheap headlines, he focused on cutting reoffending and saving taxpayers’ money. He fought to get prisoners doing an honest day’s work rather than lying around in bed. He has started to shift the balance towards community sentences that change lives and reduce crime and away from the old cliche of ‘prison works’. These policies will save money and save lives.Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform
“We are currently in the midst of the most far reaching civil justice reform for a generation and we look forward to working closely with the Secretary and his team on seeing through these reforms, including the implementation of LASPO, the setting of the discount rate and tackling the whiplash epidemic.”Laurence Besemer, CEO, Forum of Insurance Lawyers
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