Who’s who at the MoJ?
Just 11 weeks after the last ministerial changes at the MoJ, we have yet another new team at Petty France. The two senior figures who were positively regarded by the sector at the start of the year, David Gauke & Rory Stewart, have now returned to the back benches.
There was some relief among commentators when Robert Buckland was promoted from Prisons & Probation Minister to Justice Secretary; he is a barrister and Recorder by trade and at least was starting to get his head round the Justice brief since his move to the department in May.
Lucy Frazer also did a quick double shuffle. She was in charge of Court Services until May, was briefly Solicitor General for less than three months and now returns as Minister for State, with responsibility for prisons and probation.
Paul Maynard only stopped at the MoJ for less than three months before moving to the Department of Transport; he is replaced by Wendy Morton.
Given the persistent crises in our prisons and probation systems, it’s hard to see that the frequent ministerial merry-go-round does Justice any favours.
The role of Justice Secretary was only created in 2007 and there have been 9 incumbents in that 12 year period:
Here are my traditional short profiles of the Ministers alongside their roles and responsibilities. This post was updated on 2 August to reflect substantial changes in ministerial responsibilities.
Robert Buckland QC – Justice Secretary
Mr Buckland was born in Llanelli in 1968. He went to Hatfield College, Durham, graduating in Law in 1990. He attended the Inns of Court School of Law, where he was a prize winner for Advocacy and was Called to the Bar at Inner Temple in October 1991. In 1997, Robert married Sian, whom he met at university. In 2002, their twin children Millicent and George were born. They live in Wroughton. Mr Buckland’s interests include music, wine, political history and watching rugby and cricket.
He returned to practice in Wales, most recently being a member of Apex Chambers in Cardiff. Robert is a door tenant at 23 Essex Street Chambers, London. In 2009, he was appointed as a Recorder of the Crown Court, sitting on the Midland Circuit.
After three unsuccessful attempts to become an MP, Mr Buckland won South Swindon for the Conservatives in the 2010 election. He was previously Solicitor General, a post that he occupied from July 2014 until his promotion last night. Mr Buckland obviously has a detailed understanding of the criminal justice system and sat on the Justice Committee for three months in 2014 and the the Human Rights Committee between February 2013 and March 2015.
Lucy Frazer – Minister for State
Lucy Frazer (born 17 May 1972) studied at Cambridge where she was President of the Cambridge Union. She worked as a barrister in commercial law, and went on to become a QC at the age of forty. She won the South East Cambridgeshire seat in the 2015 general election with 28,845 votes (48.5%), a margin of victory of 16,837. and was elected to sit on the Education Select Committee in the same year. She also sat on the Policing and Crime Bill Committee in 2016. Ms Frazer was also David Lidington’s (a previous Justice Secretary) Parliamentary Private Secretary before getting her first ministerial appointment at the MoJ in January 2018 when she was responsible for court services. After 11 weeks as Solicitor General, she returns to the MoJ with responsibility for Prisons and Probation. Her full set of responsibilities include:
- Prison operations, policy, reform and industrial relations
- Probation services, policy, reform and industrial relations
- Public protection (including Parole Board, IPPs and Serious Further Offences)
- Offender health
- Female offenders
- Transgender offenders
- Foreign national offenders
- Electronic monitoring
Wendy Morton – Under Secretary of State
Wendy Morton is responsible for:
- Family law and justice
- Domestic abuse and violence (MoJ lead)
- Youth justice
- Legal aid
- Legal support
- Court and tribunal fees
- Mental capacity and the Office of the Public Guardian
- Race disparity in the justice system
- Coroners, burials, inquests and inquiries
- Miscarriages of justice
- Parliamentary Minister (scrutinising SIs)
Born in 1967, Ms Morton has been the MP for Aldridge-Brownhills since 2015. She was born in North Yorkshire where she attended local primary and secondary schools. She later gained an MBA with the Open University.
Her career began as an executive officer in HM Diplomatic Service at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before working in the business sector, in sales and marketing. She then set up an electronics company, with her husband, designing and manufacturing electronic goods for the agricultural industry.
In the summer of 2016, she was appointed a Parliamentary Private Secretary at the newly created Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
At the 2017 General Election, Morton increased her majority to 14,307 and gained 65.4% of the vote. In the government reshuffle following the election Morton was promoted to Parliament Private Secretary to Priti Patel at the Department for International Development.
She was made an assistant government whip during the reshuffle on 9 January 2018
Ed Argar – Under Secretary of State
Mr Argar has been at the MoJ since June 2018 and his responsibilities have been substantially changed in the latest reshuffle; he is now responsible for:
- Cross-cutting Criminal Justice System issues
- Criminal law
- Court and tribunal services and reform
- Administrative justice
- Devolved Administrations and devolution
- Human rights
- Supporting the Secretary of State on EU exit and international business
- Supporting the Secretary of State on departmental finance
Ed Argar has been the MP for Charnwood since 2015. After taking a degree in history at Oxford, he spent almost a decade working for private sector businesses including Hedra, Serco, and Mouchel in management consultancy and communications jobs, as well as previously having spent four years as Political Adviser to the then Shadow Foreign Secretary focusing on Middle East policy and travelling extensively in the region. His work for Serco was as a justice lobbyist and David Gauke has had to declare that the MoJ will take steps to avoid any conflict of interests. Mr Argar’s interests are listed as: Department for International Development; Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Department of Health; Department for Education; Home Office; Developing Countries: Contracts; Yemen, Algeria and children asylum seekers.
Ed Argar is not on Twitter.
Lord Keen – Advocate General for Scotland and MoJ spokeperson for the Lords
Richard Sanderson Keen has a long-standing involvement in the law having been an advocate (the equivalent of a barrister in England and Wales) in Scotland since 1980. He was chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party in 2014 and was ennobled in June 2015 when he became Advocate General for Scotland. He was the Lords spokesperson for the Home Office from April 2016 until moving to the MoJ later that year.
As an advocate he was involved in many high level cases representing Rangers Football Club and Andy Coulson among others.
Lord Keen is not on Twitter.