Oh dear, Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly has put his foot in it again...
The extraordinary behaviour of the former SJ Berwin partner during Tuesday’s debate on plans to remove legal aid for asbestos victims has enraged Labour MPs and lawyers.
Labour MP Helen Jones told the House of Commons: “During the last debate, many of us were dismayed by the conduct of the minister on the front bench, who giggled and grinned through descriptions of people dying of mesothelioma and what they suffered."
“Mr Speaker,” she continued. “I have to say that in almost 15 years in this house, I have never seen conduct which so demeans a minister of the crown and which is so damaging to the reputation of this house."
The Speaker asked Djanogly if he wanted to respond. But the Justice Minister, who in 2010 famously hired a firm of private detectives to conduct an undercover investigation into his aides and colleagues, declined.
Labour MP Ian Wright challenged Djanogly during the debate itself.
“I have to say, listening and seeing the minister in his place tonight, he’s doing himself no credit with the smirking and the body language," he said.
In response to which Djanogly just flashed that Jay Gatsby-like winning grin of his (watch the incident below).
Heather Iqbal-Rayner, vice chair of the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society and a solicitor at Tenovus Cancer Charity, told Legal Cheek of her “dismay” over Djanogly’s smirking.
She also refuted his suggestion that the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO), of which the new asbestos claims regime is a part, would protect claimants from unscrupulous personal injury lawyers. “What the Bill actually does is prescribe that claimants can now lose up to 25% of their damages when a case is successful," she added, continuing:
"Many young lawyers have appealed against the devastating effects of the Bill and this behaviour highlights Djanogly’s unprofessional conduct in presenting a Bill which has far reaching effects for the legal profession and their clients."
Watch Djanogly being confronted on his "smirking" by Labour's Wright (at 21:59:45) below.