What does the new appointment at Ministry of Justice tell us about the Government’s plans?
Ennobling a high-profile lawyer to the civil justice portfolio after months of the position being vacant could provide fresh impetus and direction.
Notwithstanding the importance of more recent macroeconomic shocks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, the development of civil law and justice legislation has been a fairly consistent plank of the Government’s agenda over recent years.
Ennobling a high-profile lawyer to replace Lord Keen, and manage the Government’s relationship with the legal profession, is in itself an outward signal of the importance that is placed on this relationship and this area of legislation, and the potential desire to get things moving again.
The introduction of David Wolfson QC (now Lord Wolfson of Tredegar) to the House of Lords on 7th January, and his appointment as Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), marks a continuation of the Government’s aim to have those with experience of the legal world managing the Government’s relationship with them. Prior to his new role, Lord Wolfson practised commercial law at One Essex Court, and won multiple awards including Commercial Litigation Silk of the Year 2020 at both the Legal 500 and the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2020.
He takes the reins on a job that had been vacant for some months following the resignation of Lord Keen. The April 2021 implementation date for these reforms is still the official deadline, so the new Minister will surely have the parliamentary and procedural necessities for this at the top of his in-tray. At least he will not have the complications of the Advocate General for Scotland role alongside his MoJ responsibilities (as his predecessor did), as this role has now been split and will be taken by Keith Stewart QC.
Looking to the future, the appointment of a legal expert to handle civil law and justice and the potential for Brexit and COVID-19 to not be as all-encompassing political issues as they were in 2020 could mean a renewed focus this year on the development of civil justice legislation. The insurance industry has been waiting for a significant period of time for developments on areas such as Fixed Recoverable Costs, and it could be that this new appointment gives the area fresh impetus.
In the meantime, the industry will surely look to introduce itself to the new Junior Minister, and we look forward to working with him throughout 2021 and beyond.