Lord Chancellor's Department gives top government post to non-lawyer

Jane Kennedy MP's appointment last week to become joint number two to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine has caused some bemusement, in both legal circles and in her constituency.

Kennedy, who is MP for the central Liverpool constituency of Wavertree, has been appointed Parliamentary Secretary.

She believes that her lack of legal training is actually an asset in taking on the job.

“I am coming in with a consumer's eye on things. I have done a lot of work within the community on law and order issues and I believe I can bring a different perspective,” says Kennedy.

“I am very pleased to have been given my first job in the Government. It is an extremely interesting time both for me and the department, which will be working with its first non-lawyer.”

Kennedy will divide up her responsibilities with David Lock, who continues to look after the sectors he has been concentrating on since his appointment in July. Sectors that include Legal Aid and Civil Justice.

Kennedy takes over from Keith Vaz, who becomes Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Kennedy will be responsible for criminal policy, magistrates' courts and the Official Solicitors department, among other areas.

Kennedy says: “I think that David Lock is tremendously talented and has got a lot of experience in the legal world. But a lot of the issues that the department is facing are political rather than legal.

“In terms of details in the department programme I am aware of some of the issues facing the department and know that there is a lot of work to be done.

“But it is too soon for me to say what my personal priorities will be.”

Kennedy admits that her constituency has been pleased but rather non-plussed about the appointment: “My constituency have been delighted to see their own MP promoted. But there is also a sort of non-plussed attitude when I tell them what the job is. They all say: 'That's interesting,' and move on. I have been explaining that I will have responsibility for access to the courts and so on, which is important to them.”

Kennedy has been a Merseyside MP since 1992, originally for Broadgreen and then, following the recent boundary changes, for Wavertree. Prior to taking the LCD position, she was a government whip, as a Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury.

Originally hailing from Darlington in Teesside, she moved to Liverpool to attend university. After university she worked for Liverpool City Council as a social worker.

Together with Peter Kilfoyle MP, who was regional organiser for the Labour Party in Merseyside at the time, she helped get rid of the Militants from Liverpool City Council.

She is definitively on the New Labour side of the party and like Prime Minister Tony Blair, supports Newcastle United.