Access to justice

Westminster update: new lord chancellor appointed

Your weekly update from our public affairs team on all the latest developments and debates in Parliament and across Whitehall.

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What you need to know

1. New lord chancellor appointed

On Wednesday (15 September), the prime minister appointed Dominic Raab as lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice in place of Robert Buckland, following a cabinet reshuffle. He has also been given the title of deputy prime minister.

Raab had previously served as foreign secretary and was appointed in Boris Johnson’s first cabinet in 2019. Raab is only the second solicitor to hold the lord chancellor post.

Raab has experience of the Ministry of Justice, having twice previously served in junior ministerial positions at the Ministry of Justice between 2015 and 2016, and again from 2017 to 2018.

Raab's early interests as an MP were around the protection of the green belt and civil liberties. He also worked with fellow MPs to advocate for a smaller state and less regulation.

In 2012, Raab, Priti Patel and Liz Truss co-authored a book arguing for quicker reduction of the national debt, and called for the UK to learn from Singapore’s economic and business practices. Raab was also at one stage supportive of a British Bill of Rights that would replace the Human Rights Act, based upon and superseding the rights in the European Convention.

Raab takes the helm at a crucial moment for the justice system, with ongoing reviews of legal aid and the Human Rights Act and a wide range of legislation before parliament, including:

We’ve welcomed him to the role and look forward to working with him to advocate for the sustained investment our justice system needs.

Read our press release

2. Prime Minister reshuffles his Cabinet

In addition to appointing Raab as the new lord chancellor, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, this week carried out a wider reshuffle of his Cabinet.

At the top of the cabinet, Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel retained their roles as chancellor of the exchequer and home secretary respectively, while Liz Truss was appointed foreign secretary in place of Raab.

Michael Gove meanwhile replaced Robert Jenrick at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), with additional responsibility for leading the government’s levelling up agenda.

Suella Braverman was reappointed as attorney general with Alex Chalk promoted to solicitor general.

In the Ministry of Justice, Victoria Atkins has been appointed Minister of State, with additional ministerial responsibility for the Afghan resettlement. James Cartlidge becomes a justice minister and government whip, while Tom Pursglove will be a joint home office and justice minister.

Neil O’Brien, who had been leading on the levelling-up white paper, has been officially appointed as a minister in MHCLG and will be supporting Gove.

3. The Lords scrutinise the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Tuesday (14 September) saw the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill pass its second reading in the House of Lords. Peers debated the bill, with Lord Pannick (crossbench) mentioning the Law Society and echoing our concerns around the use of remote juries despite the lack of evidence around their potential impact on access to justice.

Baroness Sater (Conservative) addressed the wider provisions extending the use of video and audio links. She expressed concern about their use with children and said the default position should be that they are only used for administrative hearings when involving children.

Lord Blencathra (Conservative) criticised changes to pre-charge bail, noting that powers to make regulations around its use should remain with parliament and should not be passed on to the College of Policing.

Finally, Lord Bach (Labour) highlighted the ongoing crisis in civil justice. He argued that civil justice is being denied to many and that there are serious issues around remuneration in the system.

Closing the debate, Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford noted the concerns raised about the use of audio and video links. She argued that their use remains subject to judicial discretion and so would only be used when doing so would be in the interests of justice. The minister however did not address points around remote juries or pre-charge bail.

Read the transcript

4. MPs question the lord chancellor

On Tuesday (14 September), Justice Questions took place in the House of Commons, as MPs queried ministers on a range of issues from Afghanistan to judicial review.

The shadow lord chancellor, David Lammy, referenced our president I. Stephanie Boyce’s recent piece in the Financial Times raising concerns about respect for the rule of law, and asked what the government would say to her.

Then lord chancellor, Robert Buckland, said that commentary on the Judicial Review and Courts Bill had reflected “that this is a measured and incremental approach to constitutional reform” and he was sure the independent review of the Human Rights Act would be the same.

Anne McLaughlin (SNP) raised the removal of cart judicial reviews and concerns that the Nationality and Borders Bill ignores the refugee convention. She asked the lord chancellor to demonstrate these areas did not show a disregard for the rule of law. Buckland responded by claiming legitimate political debate is being used as “a direct criticism of our adherence to the rule of law”.

Finally, Paul Holmes (Conservative) asked what engagement the lord chancellor has had with legal professionals on supporting Afghan judges coming to the UK. The lord chancellor commended everyone involved in their efforts to support judges from Afghanistan, adding that he has been discussing ways in which the legal community might help resettle them.

Read the transcript

Coming up

We’ll be working closely with MPs and peers to influence a number of bills and inquiries:

Judicial Review and Courts Bill

The bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons on 18 October.

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

The bill had its second reading in the House of Lords on 14 September. It will begin its committee stage on 20 October.

Read our briefing for the bill

Environment Bill

The bill completed its report stage in the House of Lords on 15 September. It will have its third reading on 13 October.

Professional Qualifications Bill

The next stage of the bill will be its House of Lords report stage, the date of which is yet to be confirmed.

Read our briefing on the bill

Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill

The bill had its third reading in the House of Lords on 14 September. Its second reading in the Commons is yet to be announced.

Building Safety Bill

The bill will continue its committee stage in the House of Commons on 21 September.

Nationality and Borders Bill

The bill will begin its committee stage in the House of Commons on 21 September.

Read our briefing on the bill

Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill

The bill will begin its committee stage in the House of Lords on 11 October.

If you made it this far...

We'll be holding a programme of events at each of the political party conferences this year. If you are attending the conferences this year, please do join us.

  • At the Liberal Democrat conference, our vice president Lubna Shuja will be speaking at a virtual fringe event on Monday 20 September hosted by the Lib Dem Lawyers Association, titled ‘Rebuilding the Broken Justice System’
  • For Labour conference, Lubna Shuja will be speaking at our fringe event with the Society of Labour Lawyers and the Bar Council on Sunday 26 September titled ‘Broken justice – what next?’
  • At the Conservative party conference, our president I. Stephanie Boyce will be speaking at two events. On Monday 4 October, she'll be speaking at a fringe event with the Legal Aid Practitioners group and LawWorks titled ‘Levelling Up Justice’. We'll also be holding a reception and panel discussion with the Society of Conservative Lawyers and the Bar Council on Tuesday 5 October titled ‘Global Britain: Leading with Legal’

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