Kenneth Harry Clarke, PC, QC, MP (born 2 July 1940) is a British Conservative politician, currently the Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe and a Minister without Portfolio in the UK Government. He was first elected to Parliament in 1970, and appointed as a minister in Edward Heath's Government in 1972. One of Britain's best-known politicians, he has served in the Cabinet as Education Secretary,
Health Secretary, Justice Secretary, Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Since 1997 he has been the President of the Tory Reform Group. He has contested the Conservative Party leadership three times – in 1997, 2001 and 2005 – being defeated each time. Although opinion polls have shown him to be popular with the general public, his pro-European views conflict with the Conservative Party's Euro-sceptic stance. He is currently the fifth longest serving cabinet minister in the modern era.
He is co-president of the pro-EU body British Influence. Notably, he is President of the Conservative Europe Group and Vice-President of the European Movement UK.
YOU MUST BE JOKING
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary
On 12 May 2010, it was announced that Clarke had been appointed Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor by Prime Minister
David Cameron in a coalition government formed from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. James Macintrye, Political Editor of Prospect magazine, argues that in his ministerial position he is instigating radical reform.
In June 2010, Clarke signaled an end to short prison sentences after warning it was "virtually impossible" to rehabilitate an inmate in less than 12 months. In his first major speech since taking office, Mr Clarke indicated a major shift in penal policy by saying
prison was not effective in many cases. This could result in more offenders handed community punishments. Mr Clarke, who described the current prison population of 85,000 as "astonishing", faced immediate criticism from some colleagues in a party renowned for its tough stance on law and order. He
signaled that fathers who fail to pay child maintenance and disqualified drivers and criminals fighting asylum refusals could be among the first to benefit and should not be in prison.
In December 2010 Clarke, in a move to cut prison numbers, said that a Conservative Party election pledge that anyone caught carrying a knife illegally could expect a
jail term will not be implemented. Clarke said he would put sentencing policy in the hands of
judges, not newspaper pundits but that those guilty of using a knife illegally would face a "serious" jail term. Asked by BBC political editor Nick Robinson whether people caught carrying knives illegally could expect a lesser punishment, Clarke said ministers would not insist on "absolute tariffs". It means that, as at present, someone caught carrying a knife illegally may not face a custodial sentence, and may be cautioned instead.
Clarke said in February 2011 that the government intended to scrutinise the relationship between the European Court of Human Rights and national parliaments. This follows calls from a large number of
Conservative backbenchers for the UK to leave the
ECHR because they are unhappy with its rulings. MPs recently voted to maintain a ban on voting by prisoners despite an ECHR ruling that it was illegal. Many MPs have also been outraged by the UK supreme court's ruling that the ECHR would uphold the right of
sex offenders to appeal against having to register with the police for the rest of their lives.
In May 2011, controversy related to Clarke's reported views on rape resurfaced after an interview on the radio station
BBC 5 Live, where he discussed a proposal to shrink the sentences of criminals, including rapists, who pleaded guilty in trial.
In 2011 and 2012, Clark faced criticism for his Justice and Security Bill, in particular the aspects of it that allow secret trials when "national security" is at stake. The
Economist said: "The origins of the proposed legislation lie in civil cases brought by former Guantánamo detainees, the best-known of whom was Binyam Mohamed, alleging that government intelligence and security agencies
(MI6 and MI5) were complicit in their rendition and torture." Prominent civil liberties and human rights campaigners argued: "The worst excesses of the war on terror have been revealed by open courts and a free media. Yet the justice and security green paper seeks to place government above the law and would undermine such crucial scrutiny."
MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO
Following the 2012 cabinet reshuffle, Clarke was removed from his position as Justice Secretary and made a
minister without portfolio. He still attends Cabinet in this capacity. It was also announced that he would become a roving trade envoy, with responsibility for promoting
British business and trade abroad.
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