Judge to rule on legal challenge to stop parliamentary suspension
A judge is expected to rule on a legal challenge aimed at stopping Boris Johnson suspending Parliament.
A cross-party group of around 70 MPs and peers are backing the action at Scotland’s highest civil court after filing a petition earlier this summer aiming to stop the Prime Minister being able to prorogue Parliament.
They are now seeking an interim interdict, which would stop the Prime Minister taking the option of suspension until a final decision has been made on the case.
Judge Lord Doherty heard arguments from a lawyer for the campaigners – led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and aided by Jo Maugham of the Good Law Project – and from a legal representative for the UK Government at a hearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Thursday.
The hearing came a day after the Queen approved Mr Johnson’s request for Parliament to be suspended for five weeks from September 10.
The judge is due to appear at the same court on Friday morning to make a decision on the case.
On Thursday, Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the petitioners, urged the court to step in and stop the suspension of Parliament, arguing it would prevent an “abusive” and “unconstitutional” use of government powers.
He said the “Government, based on a parliamentary majority of one, is abusively seeking to entrench its power … by suspending Parliament”.
He added: “The political accountability of the Government is being eroded by proroguing Parliament. That’s their intention, that’s their aim, that is unconstitutional and this court should stop it.”
Mr O’Neill argued Mr Johnson’s letter to MPs outlining prorogation reasons has “got it wrong on the law” as it assumes the Government can allow a no-deal Brexit without the authorisation of primary legislation.
He said the Queen should be obliged to recall the prorogation order if it turned out to be based on an error of law, as she is “not above the law”, and said prorogation could be subject to review in the courts.
However, Roddy Dunlop QC, representing the UK Government, called on the judge to reject the request, as the Queen has already prorogued Parliament and there is “no reason” to have an interim decision on such an important matter.
He said the petitioners are asking the judge to take actions which are “wholly unprecedented and go beyond any interference which the courts have ever been permitted”.
“It is this sort of approach … that would be unconstitutional,” he added.
“It is either not justiciable because it is reserved for Her Majesty and is such a matter with which the courts will not interfere or it is a matter which involves such questions of policy that the courts should not intrude because they are ill-equipped to do so.”
He argued the advice given to the Queen and motivation for prorogation are covered by parliamentary privilege, it is “entirely normal” for Parliament to be prorogued, and the Parliament has “never had any say” on this.
Mr Dunlop argued primary legislation would not be needed before a no-deal Brexit.
He said there is “no reason” not to hear the full case at the hearing originally set on September 6, instead of making an interim order.