Image by: Magnus Manske

Theresa May started 2018 with a reshuffle of several top positions. After six months as justice secretary, David Lidington became cabinet office minister. He was replaced by David Gauke, the first solicitor to hold the position of justice secretary and lord chancellor. During this challenging time for the prison system, it is hoped that his experience will help him to bring about positive, long-term change. Here’s an introduction to the new justice secretary, including his career, voting record and priorities in his new role.



  • David Gauke is a Conservative politician and solicitor.
  • He has been the MP for South West Hertfordshire since 2005.
  • Gauke gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in law in 1993, at St Edmund Hall, Oxford.
  • He graduated in the legal practice two years later at the College of Law, Chester.
  • He trained with Richards Butler and became a solicitor in 1997.
  • Gauke was elected to the House of Commons in the 2005 general election, for Hertfordshire South West.
  • He was re-elected at the 2010 general election and was appointed exchequer secretary to the treasurer.
  • In 2016, he was made chief secretary to the treasury in Theresa May’s ministry.
  • He was made secretary of state for work and pensions in June last year.
  • May appointed him as secretary of state for justice and lord chancellor on January 8, 2017.


Gauke’s priorities will include tackling overcrowding, violence and drugs in the prisons of England and Wales. He will also be tasked with reassuring lawyers that cuts to the budget of the Ministry of Justice’s do not represent a downgrading of the status of law in politics.

So Far

Gauke has already had to deal with questions over the release from prison of rapist John Worboys.

He said that the Parole Board had followed the correct procedure but admitted that Worboys’ victims had not been informed about his release, and called for an urgent review.

“I express my unreserved sympathy to all of the victims,” he said.

“They will never erase the emotional trauma of his crimes and the Parole Board’s decision to order his release must have brought back painful memories.”


As work and pensions secretary, Gauke championed the extension of automatic workplace pension enrolment to all employees over the age of 18, and has voted in favour of raising university fees.

As work and pensions secretary, he oversaw the introduction of Universal Credit, which he called “a good system which has got even better, and it is helping people into work and dealing with the long-term challenges to ensure that people can support themselves.”

Gauke opposed May’s proposed cap on the number of immigrants accepted into the UK annually, but voted against the Dubs amendment, which would have allowed 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees into the UK from Syria.

“Chopping and Changing”

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said the reshuffle amounted to “chopping and changing in the Ministry of Justice” at a particularly challenging time for the prison system.

“This means there will have been four justice secretaries in just 18 months,” he added.

“Prisons, probation, courts and access to justice deserve better than this.”

Keeping Prisoners and Families connected


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