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Non-lawyers make better Lord Chancellors, argues Grayling

Tory blogger says Grayling has launched a 'counter-attack' on those who see him as unfit for purpose

21 January 2015

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Tory blogger says Grayling has launched a 'counter-attack' on those who see him as unfit for purpose

Chris Grayling has said that it is a help, rather than a hindrance, to perform the role of Lord Chancellor without a legal background.

The first non-lawyer to hold the post in 440 years said it meant he wasn't 'cup-tied' in any way to a previous career, or chambers, or law firm.

"So you don't arrive at a decision because you're a barrister and therefore you favour the Bar, or because you're a solicitor and therefore you favour the solicitors' firms," he said.

The Lord Chancellor made the remarks during an interview with ConservativeHome, where even contributing editor of the pro-Tory blog Andrew Gimson could not hide his surprise at Grayling's comments.

"Only when I transcribed the tape of this interview," said Gimson, "did I realise quite how astonishing Grayling's remarks are. For by implying that no lawyer can as Lord Chancellor exercise impartial judgment, at least on any question affecting the legal profession, he appears to insult his many distinguished predecessors.

Gimson said his comments were a "counter-attack" and a mark of how bad relations had become between Grayling and senior lawyers, and remarked how "annoyed" Grayling was by attacks on his lack of legal expertise.

JR is 'really important'

During the interview, Grayling also discussed "[his] point of difference over judicial review," saying it did have a core purpose that's "really important," but argued it was being used to stall changes made to professional bodies and for PR stunts.

"...the truth is, the question 'can we be JRd on something' has permeated all parts of government. I think the purpose of JR is to hold government to account, and public bodies to account, for serious breaches where they are infringing on the liberties of an individual…It shouldn't really be a campaigning tool, and yet that's what it's become."

The Lord Chancellor said that if one did a bit of "searching around", you would find those involved in bringing the case being open about the fact that they were doing so to disrupt or delay government plans. Grayling refused, however, to disclose to Gimson who those bodies were.

Grayling's controversial Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament, would restrict the use of judicial review, and includes provisions that would limit protective costs orders and subject third party interveners to costs.

The Bill has reverted to the House of Lords despite making two late concessions to parliament and heavy lobbying from the profession.

Gimson's full interview with Grayling can be found here.

Laura Clenshaw is managing editor of Solicitors Journal