Judge fast tracks challenge to Parliament suspension in ‘interests of justice’
Legal action to be heard at Scotland’s highest civil court aimed at stopping Boris Johnson’s ability to suspend Parliament has been brought forward “in the interest of justice”.
A cross-party group of MPs and peers filed a petition at the Court of Session in Edinburgh earlier this summer aiming to stop the Prime Minister being able to prorogue Parliament.
They called for an interim interdict until a decision had been made on the case after Mr Johnson went ahead and announced that Parliament was being suspended for five weeks from September 10.
On Friday, judge Lord Doherty dismissed that action but moved the full hearing – scheduled for Friday September 6 – to Tuesday.
Aiden O’Neill QC, representing those for the action, argued there was an “urgency to this” and that any delay was prejudicial “to the country as a whole.”
Lord Doherty said: “Weighing consideration in the balance, it’s in the interest of justice that it proceeds sooner rather than later.”
A request was also made by the petitioners that the Prime Minister issues a legally binding statement to the court, known as an affidavit, over his reasons for the suspension.
This is not automatically granted but were it to be, the Prime Minister could potentially be called to face cross-examination.
Speaking outside the court, SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC – one of the campaigners behind the legal action – urged the Prime Minister to “tell the truth, have the courage and convictions – swear on oath your reason for prorogation”.
Labour MP Ian Murray, who is also backing the action, said Tuesday’s hearing would make next week “the most important week in modern British history”.
He said: “As well as this legal battle in the Court of Session, the campaign against a no-deal Brexit will also take place in the House of Commons.
“We must work tirelessly, across all parties and none, to fight against the devastation of a no-deal Brexit, fight for our democracy, and fight for the people to have a final say on Brexit.”
During Thursday’s hearing Mr O’Neill urged the court to step in and stop the suspension of Parliament, arguing it would prevent an “abusive” and “unconstitutional” use of government powers.
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.
Responding to Lord Doherty’s decision on Friday, a UK Government spokesman said: “As we have set out, the Government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda and MPs are not prevented from scrutinising our withdrawal from the EU.
“We are glad the court found against the interdict – there was no good reason to seek one, given the full hearing is due to take place next week, and the process of bringing the session to an end will not start until the week commencing September 9.”
The Scottish Government said it would bring a debate to the Scottish Parliament next week calling for a no-deal Brexit to be ruled out “under all circumstances”.