Employment minister Chris Grayling has been given the job of Justice Secretary as Ken Clarke is moved to minister without portfolio in David Cameron’s first major cabinet reshuffle.
Secretary of state for work and pensions Iain Duncan Smith was initially tipped to be Clarke’s replacement but is reported to have argued against the decision and will stay in work and pensions. The appointment of Grayling, a non-lawyer and former TV producer at BBC News, is expected to please the Conservatives but anger many Liberal Democrats.
Earlier this year Grayling was accused of trying to censor a Ministry of Justice courts service information video that helps people appeal against decisions to remove their disability and sickness benefit.
Politics Home’s Paul Waugh tweeted earlier today: “If Grayling goes to Justice, expect him to take much tougher line on European Ct of H Rights than Ken Clarke.”
According to BBC News, Ken Clarke has denied that his move from Justice Secretary to minister without portfolio is a humiliation, telling reporters: “Being offered a job in the Cabinet at my age? Don’t be so daft. It’s rather a privilege, I think.”
Bar Council vice-chair Maura McGowan QC said Grayling should put access to justice at the top of his agenda.
British barrister and Conservative politician Oliver Heald has also been named as new solicitor general after Edward Garnier QC was sacked from the role as part of the reshuffle. Garnier held the position from 2010.
Cameron is expected to leave those in the top positions where they are, including Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, foreign secretary William Hague and education secretary Michael Gove. Those understood to have moved so far have included health secretary Andrew Lansley, who has been demoted to the role of leader of the Commons, transport minister Theresa Villiers to new Northern Ireland Secretary and international development secretary Andrew Mitchell to new chief whip.
The wide-ranging shakeup is a first for the Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition and is expected to be the last before the next election in 2015.