New Prime Minister Theresa May has named Liz Truss as her new Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, sacking Michael Gove in the process.
Truss became a Member of Parliament at the 2010 election, representing South West Norfolk. She was previously Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Truss is the first woman to hole the office of Lord Chancellor, and after Chris Grayling and Gove, she becomes the third non-lawyer Lord Chancellor in a row. She has, however, been a member of the Justice Select Committee since 2011.
She read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Merton College, Oxford and is a qualified management accountant.
Responding to the news, Law Society CEO Catherine Dixon said: “Liz Truss is the first woman to hold the post of Lord Chancellor. We welcome her appointment and look forward to working with her as we have with her predecessors. This is a moment of significant change for the country and we are particularly focused on access to justice and that ensuring people’s rights are safeguarded.
“The legal sector contributes £25.7bn to our economy creating more than 370,000 jobs. We are calling on the government to safeguard the ability of lawyers to practice across the EU and other issues such as extradition rights which protect the interests of justice and safeguard our citizens.”
The chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook, paid tribute to Michael Gove in a statement, saying: “During his period at the Ministry of Justice, we have seen a welcome change in the rhetoric around prisons and prisoners and the reversal of some misguided policies of the previous coalition government.”
“The problems to be found in our overcrowded prisons can be overcome with imaginative thinking and bold action to stop throwing so many people into these failing institutions, where they are swept away into deeper currents of crime by the boredom, drug abuse and violence behind bars.
“It is to be hoped that Elizabeth Truss is the person to take these opportunities on and we welcome today’s appointment by the new prime minister.”
Reaction to the announcement was mixed from legal commentators on Twitter, with most pointing to her stated eagerness to cut legal aid.
Thus prolonging a proud tradition of Justice Secretaries with absolutely no experience of the law whatsoever. https://t.co/lOPPBrtglx
— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) July 14, 2016
Truss on justice policy. pic.twitter.com/m4WjFxzHzM
— David Allen Green (@DavidAllenGreen) July 14, 2016
— Samara Brackley (@SBRBrackley) July 14, 2016
Very sorry indeed to see Gove sacked. He could have been a great justice minister.
— Matthew Scott (@Barristerblog) July 14, 2016
Liz Truss. Oh dear. As I was saying, that Gove chap was not too bad actually…….
— CrimeLine Complete® (@CrimeLineLaw) July 14, 2016
AFAICT Liz Truss has made 3 comments in Hansard about crime & justice, ever. The first was to bemoan the cost of legal aid & demand cuts.
— Ally Fogg (@AllyFogg) July 14, 2016
Truss herself has also Tweeted:
Delighted to be appointed Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. Looking forward to getting stuck in.
— Elizabeth Truss (@trussliz) July 14, 2016
As did Michael Gove:
It's been an enormous privilege to serve for the last six years. Best of luck to the new government – MG
— Michael Gove (@michaelgove) July 14, 2016
During his time in office, Gove pledged to fix a “creaking and dysfunctional” court system, but mostly concentrated on reforming prisons rather than attacking the Human Rights Act, as some lawyers feared he would do after the Conservative Party won an outright majority in 2015.