MEMBERS of the UK House of Commons are to resume sitting at 11.30am tomorrow after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the decision by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend Parliament was illegal.
Mr Johnson had suspended or prorogued Parliament for five weeks earlier this month but his move was challenged in the law courts by opponents who saw it as a move to forcefully proceed with No-Deal Brexit against the will of Parliament. Delivering judgement on the matter this morning, the UK Supreme Court said it was wrong to stop MPs carrying out their duties in the run-up to Brexit on 31 October.
Delivering its conclusions, the Supreme Court’s president, Lady Hale, said: “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. The effect on the fundamentals of democracy was extreme.”
Lady Hale added that the unanimous decision of the 11 justices meant that Parliament had not been prorogued and that the decision by the prime minister to suspend it was null and of no effect. She added that it was now for the speakers of the Houses of Commons and Lords to decide what to do next.
Mr Johnson argued he wanted to carry out the prorogation ahead of a Queen’s Speech so he could outline his government’s new policies. However, critics said he was trying to stop MPs from scrutinising his Brexit plans and following the judgement, a raft of MPs have now called for the prime minister to resign and for Parliament to return as soon as possible.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the ruling showed Mr Johnson’s contempt for democracy and advised the prime minister to consider his position. Quick to react, the House of Commons speaker John Bercow, welcomed the ruling and said Parliament must convene without delay and has already consulted party leaders about a sitting tomorrow.
Mr Bercow said the citizens of the UK are entitled to expect that parliament performs its function, adding that he has instructed his officials to prepare for the resumption of the work of the Commons. He added that it is not a recall of Parliament because Parliament was not properly prorogued.
He added that he wants it to sit tomorrow at 11.30am, although it will not be possible for there to be prime minister’s questions because of notification requirements. However, Mr Bercow said it will be possible for MPs to table urgent questions, for ministers to make statements and for MPs to table standing order motions calling for emergency debates.
Downing Street said, however, that it was currently processing the verdict. In New York where Mr Johnson is attending the United Nations general assembly, he and his aides had a series of instant and tricky decisions to make.
Government officials said that it would take time to digest what they called an extraordinary ruling and provide a response. Mr Johnson was scheduled to make what had been billed as the major Brexit-related speech today telling US business leader and investors about how the UK would change after departure.
Now, he and his team face a difficult decision on whether to keep to their schedule or to head back to London. One option could be to take the prime ministerial plane back to London late on Tuesday evening rather than, as currently expected, first thing on Wednesday morning.