Reshuffle: Michael Gove to take the reins at Ministry of Justice

Former education secretary Michael Gove to take on justice secretary role while Nicky Morgan stays at DfE

By matt.foster

10 May 2015

Michael Gove is to be named as justice secretary in the latest ministerial appointment following the Conservatives’ election victory.

The Tory former chief whip is set to return to the helm of a major Whitehall department, having been moved from the role of education secretary in a reshuffle last year.

His successor in that job - Nicky Morgan - is to stay on at the DfE, and will continue her role as minister for women and equalities. Ms Morgan said she was “delighted” to stay in position, saying there was “lots more to do in both roles". Chris Grayling, the previous justice secretary, is to become leader of the Commons, responsible for timetabling government business in the House.

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One of the key tasks facing the Ministry of Justice under Gove will be to implement the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to abolish the Human Rights Act in favour of a “British bill of rights”. 

A document published by Grayling last year said the Act - introduced by the previous Labour government - “undermines the role of UK courts in deciding on human rights issues in this country”. 

The party instead promised a shift in the UK’s relationship with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg so that its judgments could not bind the UK’s Supreme Court, with the ECHR instead acting only as an “advisory body”.

At the time it was announced, the plan to scrap the Act came under fire from Conservative former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who branded the proposals “unworkable”. The idea was also attacked by the former justice secretary, Ken Clarke, who warned they could lead to “arbitrary” government decisions free from proper challenge.

Gove and Morgan join chancellor George Osborne, home secretary Theresa May, defence secretary Michael Fallon and foreign secretary Philip Hammond in being named as Cabinet ministers following the Tory win.

'Merging departments'

As the fallout from the election result continues, one of the potential frontrunners for the Labour party leadership has also outlined his belief that the party should seek to scrap several government departments.

Chuka Umunna - who served as shadow business secretary under former leader Ed Miliband - said part of the process of renewal for the defeated opposition should include “reducing what is done in Whitehall by consolidating and merging departments and cutting the number of ministers by at least a third”.

The comments, made in a column for the Observer, put Umunna at odds with the party’s election campaign position. Lord Falconer, a key adviser to Miliband, told CSW before the vote that the party would want to see “very, very few” changes to the structure of Whitehall if it were elected.

For more on what the Conservative win is likely to mean for Whitehall, you can read our full analysis of the party's manifesto here.

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