Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful, the UK’s highest court has declared.
A panel of 11 justices at the Supreme Court in London gave their decision on Tuesday in a ruling on the legality of the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament until October 14.
The judges, led by the court’s president Lady Hale, heard appeals over three days arising out of legal challenges in England and Scotland – which produced different outcomes.
The panel held unanimously that Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating Parliament.
The court also found the prorogation and was also “void and of no effect” – meaning Parliament has not been suspended.
Commons Speaker John Bercow said the House must “convene without delay” and that he would be consulting party leaders “as a matter of urgency”.
That @UKSupremeCourt judgment – upholding the Scottish Court of Session – is of truly historic proportions. The prorogation of Parliament by Boris Johnson was unlawful and of no effect. Well done to @joannaccherry @JolyonMaugham @thatginamiller
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) September 24, 2019
Announcing the result, Lady Hale said: “The court is bound to conclude, therefore, that the decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”
At the High Court in London, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and two other judges rejected a challenge against the Prime Minister’s prorogation move by campaigner and businesswoman Gina Miller.
Strong judgement from the court proves Boris Johnson has no regard for the law.
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) September 24, 2019
But in Scotland, a cross-party group of MPs and peers won a ruling from the Inner House of the Court of Session that Mr Johnson’s prorogation decision was unlawful because it was “motivated by the improper purpose of stymieing Parliament”.
Mrs Miller’s barrister Lord Pannick QC, told the court on Tuesday that Mr Johnson’s motive for an “exceptionally long” prorogation was to “silence” Parliament, and that his decision was an “unlawful abuse of power”.
Sir James Eadie QC argued on the Prime Minister’s behalf on Wednesday that the suggestion the prorogation was intended to “stymie” Parliament ahead of Brexit was “untenable”.
The Prime Minister advised the Queen on August 28 to prorogue Parliament for five weeks and it was suspended on September 9.
Mr Johnson claimed the five-week suspension was to allow the Government to set out a new legislative agenda in a Queen’s Speech when MPs return to Parliament.
But those who brought the legal challenges argued the prorogation was designed to prevent parliamentary scrutiny of the UK’s impending exit from the EU on October 31.
This confirms what we already knew – Boris Johnson isn’t fit to be prime minister. He’s misled Queen and country, and unlawfully silenced the people’s representatives. I’m on my way to resume my duties in the Commons and stop Brexit altogether. https://t.co/CklIVPUGBX
— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) September 24, 2019
In a statement, Speaker John Bercow said: “I welcome the Supreme Court’s judgement that the prorogation of Parliament was unlawful.
“The judges have rejected the Government’s claim that closing down Parliament for five weeks was merely standard practice to allow for a new Queen’s Speech.
“In reaching their conclusion, they have vindicated the right and duty of Parliament to meet at this crucial time to scrutinise the executive and hold Ministers to account.
“As the embodiment of our Parliamentary democracy, the House of Commons must convene without delay. To this end, I will now consult the party leaders as a matter of urgency.”
Supreme Court decision has stopped Johnson in his tracks. Parliament cannot be swept aside by prime ministerial whim. It must resume immediately
This is just the start. Our democracy won’t be safe until we have a written constitution, protecting our rights and rule of law
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) September 24, 2019
In a statement after the ruling, James Libson, executive partner at Mishcon de Reya, who represented Gina Miller, said: “We are glad that the court recognised the threat to the rule of law caused by a prorogation based on misleading advice given to the Queen.
“This second success for our client Gina Miller in the Supreme Court is a testament to her resolve to take whatever steps are required to ensure executive overreach does not become a feature of our democracy.
“This case shows that our courts can be relied on to hold the executive to account when necessary and is evidence of the robustness of our system of separations of powers.”
The full judgment
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe