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Charles Falconer, Baron Falconer of Thoroton : biography

19 November 1951 -

Charles Leslie Falconer, Baron Falconer of Thoroton, PC, QC (born 19 November 1951) is a British Labour politician and barrister, who became the Lord Chancellor and the first Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (a position created originally to replace the position of Lord Chancellor) in 2003. In May 2007, the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) became the new Ministry of Justice with an enhanced portfolio, that encompasses all the responsibilities of the former DCA plus some functions transferred from the Home Office. Upon that reorganisation taking effect on 9 May 2007, Lord Falconer became the first Secretary of State for Justice, while keeping the title and role of Lord Chancellor. Following Gordon Brown's accession to the position of Prime Minister, Falconer was replaced as Minister of Justice.

Education and early life

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Falconer was educated at the Edinburgh Academy, Trinity College, Glenalmond, and Queens' College, Cambridge.

On 20 July 2010, Lord Falconer was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) by Nottingham Trent University

Falconer and Blair

He became a flatmate of Tony Blair when they were both young barristers in London in the late 1970s in Wandsworth. They had first met as pupils at rival schools in the 1960s. At school, he dated Amanda Mackenzie Stuart, an ex-girlfriend of Blair's, immediately after that relationship. While Blair went into politics, Falconer concentrated on his legal career. He practised from Fountain Court Chambers in London, and became a Queen's Counsel in 1991.

Freedom of Information Act

In his role as Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, Lord Falconer sought to make it easier for government bodies to refuse to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act (2000), on the grounds that they are too expensive and too time-consuming for civil servants to find. Currently, the legislation allows requests for information to be refused if the cost they will incur exceeds £600 for Whitehall and £450 for other public bodies. Lord Falconer's proposed changes would make no difference to this level, but would expand the number of activities that would be included in the totals, making it easier for government parties to refuse requests for information. At the end of March 2007, Falconer's department announced that it would not introduce the proposals to parliament, but would instead have a second three-month consultation with the public (the previous consultation, also of three months, ended three weeks previous to this). Media elements reported this change as a 'backtracking', and Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, was quoted as saying "This raises the strong possibility that the government will decide to leave the current arrangements untouched"

Career under Gordon Brown

Falconer was replaced in his ministerial posts by Jack Straw in Gordon Brown's inaugural cabinet reshuffle.

On 22 May 2008 it was announced that Lord Falconer had been appointed as Chairman of the AmicusHorizon Group Limited, a Registered Social Landlord.

On 8 July 2008, Lord Falconer joined US law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, kll as a senior counsel

On 7 June 2009 on the BBC Falconer called for an urgent debate on Gordon Brown's leadership, as Labour braced itself for "terrible" election results at the 2009 European Parliament Elections, having been humiliated at the 2009 County Council elections. The former cabinet minister told the BBC he was "not sure" Labour could unite while Mr Brown remained leader. He told the BBC: "Can we get unity under the current leadership? I am not sure that we can and we need to debate it urgently and I think probably it will need a change in leader." He said he admired Gordon Brown "greatly" but said he had an "inability to hold the party together".

Personal life

He married Marianna Hildyard, also a barrister, in 1985. Her father, D.H.T. Hildyard, was the British Ambassador to Chile in Santiago. She became a QC in 2002. They have four children: Hamish, William (known as Rocco), Rosie and Johnny. Hamish is a student at St John's College, Cambridge. Charles Falconer was chair of Cambridge University Amnesty International 2006 – 2007, and is the director of Sudan Divestment. They own a £2.5m house and a £250,000 basement flat in Islington. They also own a £550,000 country retreat in Thoroton (between Bingham and Bottesford in Nottinghamshire). His father used to live in the village, and they rent out his old home.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine