0 $
2,350 $
4,700 $
3,179 $
COLLECTED IN FEBRUARY 2020

Improper Purposes: Boris Johnson’s Suspension of Parliament

Donate

Improper Purposes: Boris Johnson’s Suspension of Parliament

Click to see the full-size image

Submitted by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

There was something richly amusing in the move: three judges, sitting in Scotland’s highest court of appeal, had little time for the notion that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension, or proroguing, of parliament till October 14, had been lawful.  Some 78 parliamentarians had taken issue with the Conservative leader’s limitation on Parliamentary activity, designed to prevent any hiccups prior to October 31, the day Britain is slated to leave the European Union.

It did take two efforts.  The initial action in Edinburgh’s Outer House of the Court of Session was unsuccessful for the petitioners.  Conventional wisdom then was that such issues were, as a matter of high policy, political and therefore non-justiciable.  Legal standards, in other words, could not be applied to the decision.  (British judges tend to be rather reserved when it comes to treading on matters that might be seen as the staple of political judgment.)

All three First Division judges thought otherwise, taking the high road that this was exceptional.  Lord Carloway, the Lord President, accepted in principle that advice by the Prime Minister to the Queen would not normally be reviewable by courts.  Such a realm was customarily one above and beyond the judicial wigs.  That said, as a summary of the judgement records, “it would nevertheless be unlawful if its purpose was to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, which was a central pillar of the good governance principle enshrined in the constitution”.  That principle was drawn, by implication, from the “principles of democracy and the rule of law.”  Feeling emboldened, Lord Carloway, on examining the documents supplied by Johnson and his team, felt that improper reasons could be discerned.

Lord Brodie similarly noted the singular nature of the circumstances. Under normal circumstances prorogation advice would not be reviewable, but if it constituted a tactic designed to frustrate Parliament, it could well be deemed unlawful.  In this case, Johnson’s move was “an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities.”  It could be inferred on the evidence that “the principal reasons for the prorogation were to prevent or impede Parliament holding the executive to account and legislating with regard to Brexit, and to allow the executive to pursue a policy of a no deal Brexit without further Parliamentary inference.”  Bold stuff, indeed, and hard to fault.

The third judge, Lord Drummond Young, was bolder still.  No need to be nimble footed here: the entire scope of such powers, relevant to prorogation or otherwise, could be legally tested.  The onus was on the UK government to show a valid reason for the prorogation “having regard to the fundamental constitutional importance of parliamentary scrutiny or executive action.”  The clues of evident impropriety in Johnson’s action lay in the length of the suspension and the general circumstances suggesting a prevention of scrutiny.  There could be no other inference that the move showed a wish “to restrict Parliament.”

The full bench, accordingly, made an order “declaring that the prime minister’s advice to HM the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and thus null and of no effect.”  Few more damning statements have ever issued against a prime minister of the realm.

In an effort to remove some egg on the faces of government officials, a spokesman for Number 10 claimed to be disappointed by the decision, insisting that Johnson needed “to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda.  Proroguing Parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this.”  This was a somewhat milder version from those offered by other sources close to the Prime Minister, claiming political bias on the Scottish bench.  “We note that last week the High Court in London did not rule that prorogation was unlawful.  The legal activists choose the Scottish courts for a reason.”  The cheek of it all.

As for certain conservative outlets, accepting the judgment of the Court of Session was, well, unacceptable.  The Supreme Court, it was hoped by the likes of Richard Ekins, would clean up the mess made by their northern brethren with clear heads.  The Scottish decision had been “a startling – and misconceived – judgment.”

Which brings us to the second front opened up by petitioners in England itself.  A High Court challenge, with an appeal now expected to be heard in the Supreme Court next week, initially failed to yield any movement.  But Johnson had little reason, or time, to gloat.  The government is now reverting to a stalling game, refusing to act on the Scottish decision till the English equivalent is handed down.  Not all business, however, will be suspended: the work of select committees, for instance, will continue.  The government also finds itself in the trenches, facing a Parliament intent on extending the Brexit date in order to achieve a deal.

The publication of the full, previously leaked doomsday document, the Yellowhammer contingency plan, anticipating measures if a no deal Brexit takes place, has also done its bit to pockmark Johnson’s efforts to maintain a steady ship.  The prime minister, said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accusingly, “is prepared to punish those who can least afford it.”

The government’s hope is that the Supreme Court case will move at its usual snail’s pace, thereby making any point ventured by Johnson’s detractors a moot point.  Richard Dickman of Pinsent Masons has observed that such appeals “take months sometimes years, but the court can move quickly in urgent cases like this one.”  The occasion promises to be quite a judicial party: 11 of the 12 law lords will be sitting.

Testing the judicial weather, Dickman suggested that there might “be a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision from the court with a more detailed judgment to follow.”  Another chapter in the annals of British law and parliamentary farce is being written.  In the meantime, the sentiment of the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, reverberates through Europe. “We do not have reasons to be optimistic.”

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Donate

SouthFront

Do you like this content? Consider helping us!

  • Ilya

    aha – so he breaks the law as a member of Parliament and they will strip his immunity for this? Careerists the lot of them – start with jailing Blair under the Terrorism Act (2000).

  • verner

    most important thing is to make brexit happen – it was a truly democratic referendum which rendered a result brussels found hard to accept and it’s been busy ever since sabotaging the british exit in a truly non-democratic manner and similarly has the remainers tried to stop uk to leave in all manners of undemocratic measures. it’s just deplorable and goes to show how quickly groups of people professing to democratic principles abandon any such principles if it goes against their interest. shameful!

    • AM Hants

      We just want it to happen, and I assume that is the same with the sane who voted Remain. Just the REMOANERS cannot take the hint.

      Funnily enough, I wonder how many know, that in or out, May has handed our Forces, Weapons and Systems, over to the EU, but, we are not meant to know about it? Theresa May snuck out, on her own, and happily signed over the Sovereign Defence of the UK to Brussels. No questions asked.

      Why were the House of Lords freaking out, when one of the Lords asked questions, regarding the UK joining the European Defence Forces? Two of the hysterical Lords, who served under Blair, including the one, who trotted off to lead NATO, many years ago.

      ‘Hero of Brexit’ Lord James of Blackheath Threatened over EU Defence Union
      Secret Party Political Pact of Silence on Defence Reveals Itself
      by UK COLUMN REPORTERS | Monday, 9th September 2019…

      ‘…The briefing covered the consequences for the UK if the defence and security sections of Theresa May’s Brexit ‘deal’ and its associated ‘Political Declaration on the Future Relationship’ are approved…’

      https://www.ukcolumn.org/article/hero-brexit-lord-james-blackheath-threatened-over-eu-defence-union

      (article also featured on Truth Seeker and thank you Florian for guiding me to the site).

  • AM Hants

    How many of the judges, swear allegiance to the Common Purpose programme?

    Do the Scottish Courts, overrule Westminster? Remember, Scotland has their own Parliament, Northern Ireland and Wales have their own Assemblies. The English have nought, just take the blame. Westminster is the Parliament of the UK, just based in England. Remember, the two Labour MPs, from Scotland, who were both Prime Ministers, one who was never voted in, Blair and Brown?

    The people of the UK voted, back in June 2016, in the Referendum, answering one of two simple questions.

    Leave – independent.
    Stay – remain dictated by the EU.

    The Scottish Referendum, held prior to BREXIT, on the understanding that their would be a referendum on whether to stay or leave the EU, in the UK, in the coming months, was held, asking the people of Scotland if they wanted to leave the UK, and be independent or stay with the UK, knowing full well, we would be voting to leave the EU. For some reason, the majority vote in Scotland, went to the remain side. Ironic, when the majority vote in the UK, went to the leave side.

    Every September, Parliament shuts down for around 4 weeks, whilst the party conferences go on and then the Queen turns up in October, to re-open Parliament, with the Queen’s speech. So what is the problem this year, with delaying it by 4 days?

    The Northern Ireland Judges, came to a different conclusion than the Scottish Judges. Funny that, as they stated it was a political judgement and not one for the courts.

  • Lazy Gamer

    That was not scrutiny, that was binding the prime minister in name, hand and foot, and sending him to Brussels to give an automatic answer to different situations. Now, this situation should have been (probably)unconstitutional and clearly intolerable but i guess no one decided to contest that situation in courts or to reassert the power of the position. Parliament might as well could have sent anyone, as the actions to be undertaken are all spelled out already. lol

  • Xoli Xoli

    Boris is a rape star he rape his girlfriend now his raping parliament sessions.

  • Noland

    Lol @ the use of “Lord” with these people…
    Regardless of their “decision”