There has been a shake-up of ministerial responsibilities at the Ministry of Justice following this week’s reshuffle, it was confirmed yesterday.
Shailesh Vara, the solicitor taking over from Helen Grant – who was moved to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – has been given responsibility for some of Ms Grant’s key portfolios, including civil justice and legal services, but has also been handed legal aid.
Ms Grant, who was in post for 13 months, did not have the legal aid brief which her predecessor Jonathan Djanogly held. It was thought that this was because of her links with her former law firm, a legal aid practice, and because she had previously spoken out against legal aid cuts.
For the past year Liberal Democrat minister Lord McNally has been responsible for legal aid.
Mr Vara’s official title is minister for the courts and legal aid; Ms Grant’s had been minister for victims and courts. Her victims brief has been passed to policing and criminal justice minister Damian Green.
Lord McNally, who is also deputy leader of the House of Lords, remains responsible for family justice and mediation, human rights and civil liberties (jointly with Mr Green), defamation and freedom of information.
He has also been handed some of those areas previously covered by Ms Grant, including women offenders, data protection, and responsibility for bodies such as the Law Commission, Office of the Public Guardian and Parole Board.
Ed Miliband’s Labour reshuffle saw legal aid campaigner Lord Bach moved from justice to the foreign affairs team, while former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer is back on the front bench on constitutional issues and to provide advice on planning and transition into government.