Dominic Raab has been reappointed as Justice Secretary less than two months after he was sacked, despite claims he failed to resolve the barrister strikes and presided over growing court backlogs.
The vocal supporter of Rishi Sunak throughout both leadership contests saw his dreams of a Bill of Rights, to overhaul human rights laws, shelved by Liz Truss when she became prime minister and banished him to the back benches.
But he has now made a Cabinet comeback, being reinstalled to his former roles of Deputy Prime Minister and Lord Chancellor putting him back in charge of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which he held in Boris Johnson’s government.
Mr Raab did not answer questions from the press as he left Downing Street following the appointment. But critics were quick to question the decision.
The 48-year-old, who had previously been justice secretary for just less than a year after being demoted from foreign secretary over his handling of the Afghanistan crisis, came under fire for failing to resolve the row with striking barristers over pay and conditions.
Mr Raab refused to meet the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) for talks during the industrial action, instead leaving this for his successor Brandon Lewis to resolve – which he succeeded in doing within weeks of taking office.
Labour’s shadow justice secretary Steve Reed said on Twitter: “So much for the new broom! Raab back at Justice where he failed to resolve the bar strikes, stood back as court backlogs and trial delays hit record highs, and wants to follow Putin by ripping up human rights laws that protect the British people from his government.”
Jan Matthews, managing partner at Reeds Solicitors, said: “Given Dominic Raab’s previous refusal to engage with the legal profession concerning the implementation of the Bellamy report, his appointment is concerning when it is clear that firms need at least the full minimum recommended increase in legal aid fees in order to remain sustainable.
“We hope that Mr Sunak’s premiership will mean that there is a change of approach across all of Government, including the Ministry of Justice.”
A CBA spokesman said the organisation “continues to want to engage with government and we fully expect any minister to fulfil their responsibilities.”
“The return of Dominic Raab as Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice provides a renewed opportunity to work with the criminal Bar for the benefit of the criminal justice system. I look forward to working with him on the ongoing implementation of immediate investment and long-term reform,” CBA chairwoman Kirsty Brimelow KC said.
After the Government agreed a deal with barristers over pay, there were fears the move could prompt a walkout by solicitors when the body which represents them, the Law Society of England and Wales, said the dispute on criminal legal aid funding was “far from over”.
The society’s president Lubna Shuja said: “We look forward to the chance to pick up discussions where they left off with the returning Justice Secretary.
“The first thing on his to-do list must be to provide parity for solicitors on criminal legal aid rates with the deal his predecessor agreed with barristers.
“We also urge the Justice Secretary to listen carefully to the concerns of parliament over the divisive Bill of Rights Bill.”