The Supreme Court has ruled that Boris Johnson’s move to prorogue parliament for five weeks was unlawful.
Supreme Court president Lady Hale told the court this morning that parliament had not been prorogued, leaving it to Speaker John Bercow to decide the next steps.
He responded immediately saying the Commons must “convene without delay” and that he would be consulting party leaders “as a matter of urgency”.
The court, which sat over three days last week, returned its verdict this morning saying it was conscious of the need for urgency.
A panel of 11 justices heard appeals arising out of separate legal challenges in England and Scotland.
In her ruling, Hale said: “This was not a normal prorogation in the run up to queens spech. It prevented parliament from carrying out normal constitutional role for five weeks… This prolonged suspension of parliamentary democracy took place in quite unusual circumstances.
Hale noted that the only evidence given to argue why prorogation related to the Queen’s Speech rather than Brexit was “a memorandum” from adviser Nikki da Costa.
“It does not explain why it was necessary to bring parliamentary business to a halt for five weeks,” she added.
“The court is bound to conclude that the decision to ask her majesty to prorogue parliament is unlawful.”
She added that meant parliament had “not been prorogued”, meaning all business can be brought back, while “it is for parliament, and in particular the speaker… to decide what to do next.”
Bercow said: “I welcome the Supreme Court’s judgement that the prorogation was unlawful. 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.”
Yesterday government sources indicated they were resigned to having the decision go against them. One told City A.M. they were expecting “a decision we won’t like”, although added that ministers were “resilient”.
Speaking ahead of the ruling from New York, where he is for the UN General Assembly (UNGA), Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government “fully respects the law and fully respects the judiciary”.
But the decision led to calls for Johnson to resign “immediately” from SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, fellow SNP MP Joanna Cherry who brought the case and Green MP Caroline Lucas.
Standing on the steps of the Supreme Court, the trio said Johnson “must go” and MPs “must get back to work”.
Anna Soubry, former Conservative MP, joined them to hail the moment as “bringing back control” to the country.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn added that the ruling “shows that the PM has acted wrongly in shutting down parliament”.
“It demonstrates a contempt for democracy and an abuse of power by him,” Corbyn added.
“I will be in touch immediately to demand that parliament s recalled so that we can question the Prime Minister, demand that he obeys the law that’s been passed by parliament, and recognise that our parliament is elected by our people to hold our government to account.”
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