Tag Archive | "Lord Chancellor"

New Lord Chancellor


In the past two years we have been privileged to serve four holders of the post of Lord Chancellor – Chris Grayling, Michael Gove, Lyn Truss and now, David Lidington.

All four have one thing in common. None is legally qualified.

The demotion of Lyn Truss to Chief Secretary to the Treasury stands out as the only senior casualty in the mini reshuffle following the general election. She has paid the price of the fury caused by her lacklustre defence of a judiciary dubbed ’Enemies of the People’ by the right-wing press over the Article 50 case.

David Lidington was elected Member of Parliament for Aylesbury in 1992 and has held a number of positions including Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 2003 to 2007 and Shadow Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2007 to 2010
He served as Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) from May 2010 until July 2016, the longest-serving Europe Minister in British history. He was Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council from July 2016 to June 2017. He was a staunch member of the Remain campaign.

Lidington has generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights. In May last year he voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act 1998. He has also consistently voted against allowing terminally ill people to be given assistance to end their life. He has generally voted against gay rights and voted against allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Lidington has also consistently voted in favour of restricting the scope of legal aid, and for allowing national security-sensitive evidence to be put before courts in secret sessions.

His voting record also shows support for stronger enforcement of immigration rules and mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities.

Commenting on Sunday Lidington said: “Democracy and freedom are built on the rule of law, and are protected by a strong and independent judiciary. I look forward to taking my Oath as Lord Chancellor, and to working with the Lord Chief Justice and his fellow judges in the months ahead, to ensure that justice is fairly administered and robustly defended.”

In May 2009, the Daily Telegraph revealed Lidington had claimed nearly £1,300 for his dry cleaning and had also claimed for toothpaste, shower gel, body spray and vitamin supplements on his second home allowance. He decided to repay the claims for the toiletries, saying: “I accept that many people would see them as over-generous.” He was also criticised by local newspaper the Bucks Herald for claiming £115,891 in expenses in one year, almost double his salary.

Posted in Law Updates, Legal AidComments (0)

The Lord Chancellor


When appointing a Lord Chancellor what was once rare is now almost routine.

The Coalition government in 2010 appointed Chris Grayling to the post, which is also that of Secretary of State for Justice. He was the first non lawyer to be given the job since the middle ages. It showed.

In the reshuffle following the 2015 election Michael Gove got the job. He also is not legally qualified. He made a promising start, clearing up some of the mess left by Grayling, and promising reforms. He became one of the more sensational casualties of the post referendum chaos as he was cast into the political wilderness.

Now Liz Truss has got the job. Also not legally qualified, she is the first female Lord Chancellor in the thousand-year history of the role. 41 today, she has been MP for South West Norfolk since 2010. Rapid promotion saw her appointment as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State from 2012 to 2014, with responsibility for education and childcare. She became a member of the Cabinet as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2014. On 14 July 2016 she was appointed Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor by new Prime Minister Theresa May.

According to George Monbiot in the ‘Guardian’, interviewers have said that she is “indissolubly wedded to a set of theories about how the world should be, that are impervious to argument, facts or experience. She was among the first ministers to put her own department on the block in the latest spending review, volunteering massive cuts.”

She set courts reform as one of her top priorities during the traditional swearing-in ceremony. She also stressed she was a great supporter of reform and modernisation through the courts and tribunals system. “That urgent task will be high on my agenda in the months ahead, as I know it is for senior members of the judiciary,” she added.

Her appointment has not met with a uniform welcome. As one disgruntled contributor to the ‘Gazette’ plaintively wrote “Why do the Tories persistently want to pee off the profession by making non lawyers Lord or Lady Chancellors. It is frankly insulting.” More officially, the Tory chair of the Commons justice select committee, Bob Neill, has become the latest senior political figure to question her credentials.

As reported in the ‘Gazette’, he said “My concern is this: while it’s not necessary for the lord chancellor to have a legal background, they have a specific role under the Constitutional Reform Act to represent the interests of the judiciary and to represent the judiciary, including its independence within government.

“It helps if the person in charge has been a lawyer or has been a senior member of the cabinet. I have a concern, with no disrespect to Liz, that it would be hard for someone without that history to step straight in and fulfil that role.”

Neill’s comments follow a claim by former shadow lord chancellor Lord Falconer that prime minister Theresa May broke the law in appointing Truss. Writing in the ‘Times’, Falconer said: “The lord chancellor has to be someone with the weight and stature to stand up to the prime minister or the home secretary when, for instance, they want to compromise on complying with the law in an attempt to placate the public. Or when the politicians are determined to blame the judges when their policies go wrong.”

Lord Faulks said last week that he resigned as Lords justice spokesman over fears that Truss would not have the necessary leverage to challenge the prime minister over crucial issues such as judicial independence.

Posted in Civil Law, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Civil legal aid


Legal aid will no longer be made available for cases with poor or borderline prospects of success that may have received funding, the government has said.

Last week the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) announced that there would be a new approach to making decisions on prospects of success for ‘poor’ and ‘borderline’ cases. The LAA has changed its approach to assessing merits in civil legal aid to take account of the Court of Appeal judgment in The Director of Legal Aid Casework (DLAC) and Lord Chancellor v IS. The Court of Appeal ruled last month that the agency’s exceptional case funding scheme and merits regulations were lawful.

Although the Court of Appeal ruled in the lord chancellor’s favour, several observations were made about the government’s exceptional case funding scheme. The LAA said that the MoJ was considering what steps to take following the court’s findings.

Under the current merits criteria most cases need to pass a ‘prospects of success test’ before legal aid can be made available. The LAA said:

“The merits criteria state that the prospects of success test is met in cases with ‘poor’ prospects or ‘borderline’ cases where:

  • funding is necessary to prevent a breach of a client’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, or any rights of a client to the provision of civil legal aid or services that are enforceable under EU law; or
  • DLAC considers it appropriate to find that the test is met having regard to any risk of such a breach.”

The change comes as a result of the Court of Appeal finding that it is lawful for the prospects of success test to have a 50% threshold, and this does not breach a client’s rights. “As a result, we are now no longer funding any applications for civil legal aid that are subject to a prospects of success test where the prospects are assessed as poor or borderline,” the LAA said.

The LAA added: “We have also reinstated delegated functions to allow providers to refuse legal aid in cases that they assess as having poor or borderline prospects. This allows Immigration providers to refuse applications for controlled legal representation in these matters without having to revert to us first.”

The ‘Gazette’ reports the Law Society as saying that the change could mean fewer people being entitled to legal aid. “We are therefore disappointed that the Ministry of Justice decided to announce this significant change so soon after the referendum, and without consultation,” a spokesperson for the Society said.

Posted in Civil LawComments (0)

Game, set and match


The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill bounced back to the House of Lords on Monday for consideration of Commons’ amendments. Members of the Lords voted eight times during the debate, and in scoreboard terms, the result for the government was played 8, won 4, lost 3, with one sort of score draw. Read the full story

Posted in Civil Law, Criminal Justice, Legal AidComments (0)


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