Dominic Raab sworn in as new Lord Chancellor at ceremony
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Dominic Raab has said he will be “unflinching” in upholding the rule of law as he was sworn in as the latest Lord Chancellor.
A former City lawyer, Mr Raab was welcomed to the ancient office by leading figures from the legal profession during a ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Thursday afternoon.
Mr Raab was made Justice Secretary in Prime Minister’s Boris Johnson recent ministerial reshuffle, a move seen as demotion following criticism of his handling of the Afghanistan crisis as foreign secretary.
He has also been given the title of Deputy Prime Minister, interpreted as a consolation role after losing one of the “great offices of state”.
Mr Raab becomes the eighth appointee to the office of the Lord Chancellor, which can be traced back to before the Norman Conquest, since the Conservatives first came to power in coalition with the Liberal Democrats following the 2010 election.
The grand ceremony in a wood-panelled court room on Thursday, was attended by senior members of the judiciary, including Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett.
Due to Covid precautions the event was a scaled back version compared to previous years, with those present spread across the court according to a seating plan, while others joined by video-link.
Mr Raab’s new ministerial colleagues, Victoria Atkins and Lord Wolfson, were also present, as was Conservative MP Bob Neill, chairman of the House of Commons Justice Committee.
Alex Chalk, Conservative MP for Cheltenham since 2015, was also sworn in as the new Solicitor General, while returning Attorney General Suella Braverman QC reaffirmed her role’s formal declaration.
Lord Burnett noted that it was the first time since 2010 that the holders of all three offices had gathered in court to swear their oaths at the same time.
He said Mr Raab’s appointment marked “something of a home coming” as he had previously served as a parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice from 2015 to 2016 and was also briefly as a minister of state from June 2017 to January 2018.
Lord Burnett said the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary role was “central in the constitutional firmament of this country”, highlighting that the rule of law becomes “fragile” if the the independence of the judiciary is not respected or if courts receive inadequate resources.
He added that Mr Raab’s appointment came “in course of the spending review discussions between all departments and the Treasury”.
“My Lord Chancellor we have confidence in your powers of persuasion and you advocacy skills,” he said.
Mr Raab, dressed in traditional gold and black robes, said that “the country owes the Lord Chief and the entire judiciary a debt of gratitude, for keeping the wheels of justice rolling throughout this awful pandemic”.
He thanked his predecessor Mr Buckland for his “deep” commitment to “supporting the judiciary and the rule of law”.
Mr Raab, who has served as MP for Esher and Walton since 2010, also promised he “will be unflinching in upholding the long held principles of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary”.
He joked that in looking for unique aspects to his appointment the best officials could do was to point out that “I’m the first Lord Chancellor, I think, to hold a black belt third Dan in Karate”, and suggesting this was a “sign of how tenaciously I would defend the rule of law”.
Laying out his agenda, Mr Raab said he want to “increase court capacity”, “see through our prison building programme”, “create a prison system that properly rehabilitates prisoners” and deliver a “step change” in support for victims.
He concluded: “I want, here at home, our citizens to feel a renewed confidence in their every day experience of British justice as a system that is fair, is open and accessible.”
An Oxford University law graduate, Mr Raab started his pre-political career as a business lawyer at the Linklaters law firm, working on project finance, international litigation and competition law.
He also worked on secondments at human rights organisation Liberty and advising on European Union and World Trade Organisation law in Brussels.
Mr Raab, who is married with two children, later worked at the then Foreign and Commonwealth Office on issues including investor protection and war crimes policy between 2000 and 2006.