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Ken Clarke appointed Justice Secretary

Ken Clarke appointed Justice Secretary

Ken Clarke admitted today that he was "surprised" at his appointment as Justice Secretary in David Cameron's new government.

The former chancellor, who was shadow business secretary before the election, insisted he was not disappointed that he had not been given an economic portfolio.

He said his past experience as home secretary and a criminal lawyer meant he was well-qualified for his new role.

"It surprised me when I was offered it, but it isn't that surprising when you think about it," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One. "It's a big and important department."

Mr Clarke, who predicted during the election campaign that a hung Parliament could lead to Britain having to be bailed out by the IMF, welcomed the formation of a coalition government.

"A minority government would have been a disaster, it would have been fiddling whilst Rome burned," he said. "I am pleasantly surprised that a hung Parliament has not produced the chaos I feared."

He suggested that Conservative plans for a new Human Rights Act to replace the existing legislation – which controversially enshrines the European Convention on Human Rights in British law – may not now be a high priority.

"We are not committed to leaving the European Convention on Human Rights, we have committed ourselves to a British Human Rights Act. We are still signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights," he said.

"I have also got to see when the coalition agreement is completed how high a priority this is going to be given."