Parliament must decide next steps after Supreme Court rules prorogation unlawful
The UK’s highest court has said it is for Parliament to decide what happens next after it declared the five-week prorogation unlawful.
A panel of 11 justices at the Supreme Court in London ruled unanimously on Tuesday that the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament until October 14 was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating Parliament.
The court also held that the prorogation itself was “void and of no effect” and therefore Parliament has not been suspended.
Announcing the decision, the court’s president Lady Hale said it is now for Parliament itself to decide what steps to take next.
She said: “It is for Parliament, and particularly the Speaker and the Lord Speaker, to decide what to do next.
“Unless there is some Parliamentary rule of which we are unaware, they can take immediate steps to enable each House to meet as soon as possible.
“It is not clear to us that any step is needed from the Prime Minister, but if it is, the court is pleased that his counsel have told the court that he will take all necessary steps to comply with the terms of any declaration made by this court.”
She said the prolonged suspension of parliamentary democracy took place in the “quite exceptional circumstances” of the UK’s impending exit from the EU on October 31.
The judge added: “Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons as the elected representatives of the people, has a right to a voice in how that change comes about.
“The effect upon the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme.”
In a statement after the ruling, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said he welcomed the decision and would consult the party leaders “as a matter of urgency”.
He said: “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.”
The court heard appeals over three days arising out of legal challenges in England and Scotland – which produced different outcomes.
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.
But in Scotland, a cross-party group of MPs and peers, led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, 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”.
The court allowed the appeal in Mrs Miller’s case and dismissed the appeal in the Scottish case.
Speaking outside court, Mrs Miller said the result was a win for parliamentary sovereignty and that MPs should go back to work “tomorrow”.
She said: “The ruling today speaks volumes. This Prime Minister must open the doors of Parliament tomorrow.
“MPs must get back and be brave and bold in holding this unscrupulous Government to account.”
SNP MP Joanna Cherry, who led the case in the Scottish courts, said Mr Johnson’s position was “untenable” and called on him to resign.
She added: “This is an absolutely momentous decision. There is nothing to stop us – Members of Parliament – resuming immediately the important job of scrutinising this minority Tory government as we hurtle towards Brexit.”
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.