Chris Grayling said yesterday he was "very happy" with his new cabinet post as Leader of the House of Commons - despite saying on election night that remaining as Justice Secretary would be his "main choice".

Mr Grayling, 53, re-elected as Epsom and Ewell’s Conservative MP with an increased majority last week, was handed his new job at the weekend by Prime Minister David Cameron, who is putting the finishing touches to his new all-Tory cabinet.

Having served as Employment Minister and then Justice Secretary for the last two-and-a-half years in the Coalition Government, Mr Grayling said he was happy to be appointed Leader of the House of Commons - seen as a demotion in political circles.

On Thursday evening, Mr Grayling told the Epsom Guardian that he would be "happy to do whatever David Cameron asks me to do" if a role in the cabinet was offered to him again.

But he said taking back control of the country's justice system - a role for which he has received widespread criticism from the legal profession - would be his "main choice".

LAST WEEK: Chris Grayling makes pitch to continue as Justice Secretary after increasing vote in Epsom and Ewell

"I would be very happy to be Justice Secretary. Lot of work still to do," he said.

“My main choice would be to stay there. I’ve enjoyed it.”

Speaking to this newspaper yesterday, he said he "had to" give the reply he did on Thursday evening when asked about remaining as Justice Secretary and added: "I’m very happy with the new job.

"I wasn’t certain I would stay as Justice Secretary and so it didn’t come as a surprise to me to be moved."

He said his "biggest project was finished", referring to his reforms on prisoners’ rehabilitation, and he had already had a "long chat" with his successor Michael Gove - but would not be offering him any advice.

"We have really done a swap as Michael Gove was chief whip," said Mr Grayling.

"It’s important he does what he thinks is right.

"There are budgetary challenges ahead, but it’s important for someone who has already done the job not to be a back seat driver."

He said he had not spoken to Mr Gove about controversial claims that he advocated a return to hanging as a form of capital punishment while working as a columnist for the Times newspaper in the late 1990s.

"I haven’t spoken to him about it so wouldn’t know what his position is," Mr Grayling added.

As a member of the Coalition Government, Mr Grayling said he was most proud of introducing the Work Programme - a scheme which involved private companies, charities and a public sector contractor aiming to find work for the unemployed for two years.

He said his other major achievement was transforming rehabilitation for offenders.

FROM FEBRUARY: "We need to have a frank debate about the cost of rising prison population", says chief prison inspector Nick Hardwick

LAST YEAR: 'Chris Grayling' namesake admits decimating UK's justice system

"My main project was my rehabilitation reforms which transformed the way we support prisoners post-prison with extra mentoring and support for people who go to prison for less than 12 months," Mr Grayling said.

"The single most important thing is, in the past, people who went to prison for less than 12 months, who left with nothing more than £46 in their pocket, had no support, two-thirds of whom reoffended within a matter of weeks.

"I have changed that.

"Every single prisoner who goes to prison for 12 months or less receives support when they leave.

"The next thing I would have done is focus on mental health in prisons.

"The Government will actually be taking a much broader, cross-departmental approach to mental health."

Asked whether he expected the level of scrutiny, criticism and attention which was levelled at him personally as Justice Secretary, he said fathers’ rights activists setting up camp on his roof were "an occupational hazard for anyone in the justice world".

FROM JANUARY: Father's rights campaigner climbs onto roof of court due to try him over damage to Justice Minister Chris Grayling's roof

But he said those protesting over legal aid changes had missed the point.

"The legal aid changes people were protesting were, and have been, an inevitability," he said.

"It was never a question of ideology - there was less money to spend.

"I took the protests in good heart.

"I’m not quite sure why producing a giant effigy of me was going to make me understand [their views] more. If anything, I was amused by it.

"And quite a lot of the protests against legal aid cuts were Ken Clarke’s legal aid cuts, not mine."

As Leader of the House Commons, Mr Grayling said he would "coordinate the Government’s legislative programme, be a voice of parliament in government and vice versa".

He said: "The Conservatives have a majority but it’s a very thin majority so there is a lot of careful work to be done to get our legislative programme through and keep Parliament in a good place."

Asked about how Scotland’s calls for complete financial autonomy would affect this, he added: "It’s about making sure, alongside what is being devolved to Scotland, to make it one of the strongest devolved governments anywhere in the world, there is a fairness with English votes for English laws."

Mr Grayling said he was "never remotely worried" about being re-elected in Epsom and Ewell.

"Firstly, because of the national picture," he said.

"Secondly, in the campaigning I did, I got a very warm response on the doorstep in the different parts of the constituency."

He said he had not heard any claims that being Justice Secretary had left him with little time to spend on constituency work: "I have never had anybody who wasn’t a political opponent who has said ‘we didn’t see you enough’.

"I live in the constituency. You will see me shopping here on a Saturday. I get the train with other commuters. There will be no change."

For a time, maths teacher and writer Chris Grayling, from Kent, received almost as much attention for the MP's justice reforms as the man himself - after being mistaken for him on Twitter.

He said today: "I'm going to miss the attention a little bit. It's allowed me to build up my Twitter followers so I can't complain.

"Obviously from the point of view of the legal profession, from what I've learnt, I'm disappointed the Conservatives got in.

"I was a teacher so I'm fearful Michael Gove will be the same [as in his previous role as Education Secretary] - ideologically driven and not listen to anyone."