Number of lawyers in Justice Committee drops by almost a third as new members revealed

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By Katie King on

Now there’s only one solicitor

Portcullis House, Westminster, London

The new faces of the Justice Committee have been revealed, and 29% less of them are lawyers than previously.

At the end of May 2017 when parliament was dissolved, seven of the 11 Committee members (64%) were lawyers, i.e. had practised. One other MP had graduated in law and been a magistrate, so if you factor her in too then 73% were lawyers.

Now, however, only five members have actually practised law, which is 45%. One more has a law degree, so including her gives you a lawyer percentage of 54%. Using the former figure of solicitors or barristers, there are now two less lawyers on the Committee than there were this spring, equalling a drop of 29%.

Still at the Committee’s helm is ex-criminal barrister Bob Neill MP, who on these changes in lawyer numbers told us:

The numbers of people on [the Committee] who happen to be lawyers comes and goes, nothing significant in it, and of course we also deal with prisons, probation, etc.

It’s perhaps also worth noting that, in an interview with Legal Cheek earlier this year, former 2 Bedford Row tenant Neill lambasted the ferocity of legal aid cuts. He said: “The government gets the sense this just isn’t sustainable. We have taken out as much as we can, we cannot take out anymore.” The Committee will have an important role to play in the upcoming review on these cuts.

Other legally minded MPs to follow Neill onto the newly announced Committee are fellow barristers Alex Chalk and Victoria Prentis. Employment law barrister Ellie Reeves and housing solicitor Bambos Charalambous round off the quintet, and there’s Birkbeck, University of London graduate Kemi Badenoch too.

Prior to yesterday’s announcement, the Committee had enjoyed a strong solicitor input from MPs Keith Vaz, Alberto Costa, Richard Arkless and Jo Stevens (over one third of the select committee). Now, it’s just under one tenth. Kate Green, an Edinburgh University law graduate and former magistrate with over 15 years experience, has also not made the new Justice Committee cut.

As an interesting non-lawyer aside, political pundits may be interested to trace the Committee’s new party make-up. There are now less Tories than there were back in May (six versus five), meaning the scale is tipped towards non-Conservatives than Conservatives overall. Scotland has had a representative in both committees, but there’s no one from the Liberal Democrats, for example.

Justice Committee members as of May 2017

Name Lawyer? Party
Bob Neill Yes, barrister Conservative
Richard Arkless Yes, solicitor SNP
Alex Chalk Yes, barrister Conservative
Alberto Costa Yes, solicitor Conservative
Philip Davies No, marketer Conservative
Kate Green No, but she is a law graduate and magistrate Labour
David Hanson No, charity worker Labour
John Howell No, tax adviser Conservative
Victoria Prentis Yes, barrister Conservative
Jo Stevens Yes, solicitor Labour
Keith Vaz Yes, solicitor Labour

Justice Committee members now

Name Lawyer? Party
Bob Neill Yes, barrister Conservative
Kemi Badenoch No, but she is a law graduate Conservative
Ruth Cadbury No, councillor Labour
Alex Chalk Yes, barrister Conservative
Bambos Charalambous Yes, solicitor Labour
David Hanson No, charity worker Labour
John Howell No, tax adviser Conservative
Gavin Newlands No, business analyst SNP
Laura Pidcock No, mental health support worker Labour
Victoria Prentis Yes, barrister Conservative
Ellie Reeves Yes, barrister Labour

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