Friday, 15 July 2016

A glance at the new British government

Updates 16th and 17th July - further appointments

Full list of government appointments

On 13th July, David Cameron's time as Prime Minister ended with his visit to Buckingham Palace.  HM The Queen invited Theresa May to form a government and she accepted.  The apparently seamless transition from one government to another had occurred.  Here is a brief look at some of the changes that will have the most impact on Brexit and on legal matters.

The new Prime Minister made a statement outlining her vision for the new government and this set a desire to keep the UNION of Great Britain and Northern Ireland together.  A meeting with Scotland's First Minister took place on 15th July - (Statement from Scottish Government). On the criminal justice system, Mrs May said - "If you're black, you're treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you're white."  If that is true (despite sentencing guidelines) then how it will translate into actual policy remains to be seen.  On leaving the European Union, Mrs May said: "As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us."

After receiving
a number of telephone calls from other European Leaders, Mrs May got on with making her first Ministerial appointments and she has been very clear that the referendum outcome is accepted by the government ("Brexit means Brexit").  In this context certain appointments are of interest.  Boris Johnson (a prominent member of the leave campaign) was appointed Foreign Secretary.  A new Ministerial brief has been created - Secretary of State for Exiting the EU - and David Davis MP appointed - see his profile.  Liam Fox MP became Secretary of State for International Trade - clearly a key role as the UK moves toward a new relationship with Europe and the wider world.

Other moves of particular interest to the legal world are that Michael Gove (another prominent member of the leave campaign) is out of government and replaced as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice by Elizabeth Truss MP (announcement) who becomes the first female holder of the office of Lord Chancellor.  She is the third non-lawyer to hold the Lord Chancellorship and as to whether this matters please take a look at The Secret Barristers excellent piece.  Interestingly, the Lord Chancellor post is paid but the Secretary of State for Justice is unpaid.   The Secretary of State for Home Affairs is Amber Rudd MP  (announcement + profile) and Jeremy Wright remains as Attorney-General (announcement).

Truss has not had a particularly pro-legal aid record ....

The Ministry of Justice has been handling the British Bill of Rights issue (another Conservative Party 2015 manifesto commitment).  It will be important to watch for any change of policy in this area where Dominic Raab MP has been looking after things.  Rightsinfo has taken a deeper look at the Ministers in the new government and what is known about their stance on human rights - Where Theresa May's new Cabinet stand on human rights

Finally, it would be remiss of any law blogger not to say that Michael Gove won the respect of many in the legal world for his careful and measured approach to his duties and for reversing a number of problematic policies espoused by his predecessor - e.g. the criminal courts charge.  Gove also had a desire to reform the prison system and one hopes that this will be taken forward by Mrs Truss.  Unfortunately, Mr Gove did not have much impact on legal aid provision and it continues to be governed by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which imposed drastic cuts on civil legal aid.  The Lord Chancellorship must be a formidable role for any non-lawyer and Mr Gove did well.

Updates 16th and 17th July:

Dominic Raab left the government.

Sir Oliver Heald QC MP - a former Solicitor General - appointed as Minister of State for Justice.  This appointment attracted comments that he is massively more experienced in legal and political matters than the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

At the Home Officer, Brandon Lewis was appointed Minister for Policing and Fire Service and Robert Goodwill as Minister for Immigration.

Minister of State for Security - Home Office - Ben Wallace

Minister of State for Exiting the EU - David Jones; Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State for Exiting the EU are Lord Bridge of Headley and Robin Walker.

Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State at Ministry of Justice are Sam Gyimah and Phillip Lee.

Robert Buckland remains as Solicitor General.

Advocate General for Scotland - Lord Keen of Elie QC.

*** Reminders from the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto ***

We will let you decide whether to stay in or leave the EU

We will legislate in the first session of the next Parliament for an in-out referendum to be held on Britain’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017. We will negotiate a new settlement for Britain in the EU and then we will ask the British people whether they want to stay in on this basis, or leave.  We will honour the result of the referendum, whatever the outcome

We will scrap the Human Rights Act

We will scrap Labour's Human Rights Act and introduce a British Bill of Rights which will restore common sense to the application of human rights in the UK.  The Bill will remain faithful to the basic principles of human rights, which we signed up to in the original European Convention on Human Rights.  It will protect basic rights, like the right to a fair trial, and the right to life, which are an essential part of a modern democratic society but it will reverse the mission creep that has meant human rights law being used for more and more purposes, and often with  little regard for the rights of wider society.  Among other things the Bill will stop terrorists and other serious foreigncriminals who pose a threat to our society from using spurious human rights arguments to prevent deportation.

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