His departure “is a very worrying signal of how the government values human rights in particular and the rule of law more generally. This government has lost one of its sharpest minds but the country may have gained a freer and even more forthright defender of human rights in the process.”
Baroness Warsi, who resigned as foreign office minister in August over the government’s stance on the conflict in Gaza, noted in her resignation letter that: “In many ways the absence of the experience and expertise of colleagues like Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve has over the last few weeks become very apparent.”
Bar Chairman Nicholas Lavender QC, praised Grieve and former Solicitor General Sir Oliver Heald QC MP, who was also removed in the reshuffle. He said: “As Law Officers they acted as a bridge between the profession and the government, a vital role when so few ministers are lawyers, even those with important responsibilities concerning the legal system.
“Always approachable, they… deserve our thanks for their support of the profession, for their helpful and sensible advice and for the influence which they wielded on our behalf. I encourage the new Law Officers to follow their example.”
Grieve, the Conservative MP for Beaconsfield, previously Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, served as Attorney General from 2010. He told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One: “It’s quite a demanding job. I hope I’ve been able to do it properly, and if the Prime Minister had wanted me to continue I’d have done so cheerfully, but it’s a matter for him.”
A vocal supporter of the European Convention on Human Rights, his departure could clear the path to major reform of the UK’s relationship with Strasbourg.
“These are issues over which I think there has to be very careful, rational debate,” he said, referring to Conservative Party proposals for a so-called Bill of Rights which he has since described as a “disaster”. “If I can help to participate in that debate now I’m on the back benches, I will be happy to do so.”
New Attorney General is junior barrister Jeremy Wright, Conservative MP for Kenilworth and Southam. He was called to the Bar in 1996 (Inner Temple) and is a non-practising member of No. 5 Chambers’ Crime Group (Birmingham).
He was made Justice Minister with responsibility for prisons, probation and rehabilitation in 2012, served as a Justice Committee member, founded the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia and was appointed Opposition Whip in 2007 and government whip in 2010.
As the first non-QC in living memory to hold the post (he received the rank on his promotion), the selection of a politician over senior independent counsel was met with surprise. On his appointment, Wright said of his approach: “[The] job is best done with energy and independence, as it has been by my many illustrious predecessors.”
Barrister Robert Buckland, MP for South Swindon and a door tenant at 23 Essex Street, is the new Solicitor General.
Buckland said: “As a barrister, I know how important this role is and I am looking forward to making sure that the public can continue to have full confidence in the justice system.”
After his appointment, it emerged that Buckland had been found guilty of a breach of the Bar Code of Conduct in 2011.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said it was a matter of public record and that “the tribunal found it to be a minor breach in that no penalty was imposed, he was not suspended or fined and continued to practise and sit as a Recorder”.