Birmingham MP and former practising barrister Shabana Mahmood was today named as lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice in the new Labour government. Mahmood was the fourth former shadow minister to walk into Downing Street today following Sir Keir Starmer's appointment as prime minister. She will be the first observant Muslim and only the second woman to assume the ancient office of lord chancellor. 

Mahmood, 43, was elected as MP for Birmingham Ladywood in 2010. She was born and brought up in Birmingham and called to the bar at Grays Inn after studying on a scholarship. In practice, she specialised in professional indemnity cases. She was appointed shadow justice secretary in September last year. Previous shadow ministerial roles included spells at home affairs, business and as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury. 

Shabana Mahmood

Mahmood: 'Renewed partnership'

Setting out a future Labour government’s plans for justice at a Law Society event in April, Mahmood said that rape victims would receive state-funded legal advice and representation to protect their rights as their cases go through the criminal justice process. Advice would be provided by a ‘local solicitor’ who will be ‘at hand in every police area in England and Wales', she said. 

Mahmood did not pledge increased funding for legal aid, stating that she could not make unfunded proposals. But she said that, if appointed, she would be a ‘champion of our legal industry’. She pledged to work with the Treasury to ‘ensure our legal services are a growth sector’ and to seek a ‘renewed partnership for the legal sector’.   

Mahmood is expected to be sworn in as lord chancellor at the Royal Courts of Justice ahead of the opening of parliament on 17 July. 

In a message congratulating Mahmood on her appointment, Law Society president Nick Emmerson said:

'The appointment of the new justice secretary Shabana Mahmood is a unique opportunity to bring much-needed change to our justice system and address the longstanding neglect and underinvestment that have left it on the verge of collapse. The challenges ahead are significant and demand urgent attention.

'It's crucial to acknowledge that transforming the justice system is a long-term project, requiring a collaborative effort. We look forward to working with Shabana Mahmood over the coming parliament and sharing the insight and experience of our members to rebuild our justice system, harness the economic power of legal services and ensure access to justice for all.

'Increasing criminal legal aid rates, investing in civil legal aid, dealing with backlogs, providing adequate funding for courts and resources are essential for a fair justice system for all.'

Emmerson concluded: 'Law must be at the heart of the new government’s plans for economic growth. Legal services contribute £60 billion to the UK economy every year and are one of the UK's most valuable exports. Legal services in England and Wales are recognised as the second-largest legal market globally and by prioritising legal services in trade agreements and upholding our human rights law framework, we enhance UK's reputation as a defender of the rule of law.'

Meanwhile Matrix Chambers' Richard Hermer KC was appointed attorney general. He will take his seat in the House of Lords as a life peer, the government announced. 

Update 8 July: Heidi Alexander MP has been appointed minister of state in the Ministry of Justice and businessman James Timpson appointed prisons minister, a post shared between the Home Office and Ministry of Justice.