#AceNewsReport – Aug.31: After the prime minister planning to suspend Parliament – a process known as proroguing – for five weeks ahead of a Queen’s Speech on 14 October: a case was brought by cross-party group of politicians involved in the case, including SNP MP Joanna Cherry and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, wants the court to rule that it would be illegal and unconstitutional for Mr Johnson to suspend parliament ahead of that date: But their request was declined by Lord Doherty, who said he was not satisfied there was a “cogent need” for an interdict: However, the full hearing will now be heard next Tuesday, rather than Friday: Lord Doherty said this was because it was in the interests of justice, and in the public interest, for the case – which is opposed by the UK government – to proceed as quickly as possible: But he said: “I am not satisfied that it has been demonstrated that there is a need for an interim suspension or an interim interdict to be granted at this stage.” …..The judge will not decide on the merits of the case until he has heard legal arguments from both sides on Tuesday, with his final ruling potentially being delivered the following day……….His decision not to grant an interdict was largely based on the fact that Parliament cannot be suspended until 9 September at the earliest: Read the judge’s full ruling
The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October, and the cross-party group of politicians involved in the case, including SNP MP Joanna Cherry and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, wants the court to rule that it would be illegal and unconstitutional for Mr Johnson to suspend parliament ahead of that date.
WHOSE CONSTITUTION? ENGLAND, BRITAIN AND THE UK
The story begins in the origins of England’s constitution. England annexed the principality of Wales in the 1530s and then forged the Acts of Union with Scotland in 1707 to create Great Britain. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed in 1801 after the Acts of Union with Ireland, before the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922 left the “UK” as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
1215: MAGNA CARTA
Issued in June 1215, the Magna Carta was the first document to establish the principle that the monarch was not above the law and to place limits on royal power.
The charter, which King John was forced by his barons to sign, decreed that nobody should be denied the right to justice or subject to unlawful imprisonment, dispossession or exile.
John later persuaded the Pope to declare the document illegal and a civil war broke out. John died in October 1216 and his son Henry III eventually made peace with the rebels.
1529-1536: HENRY VIII AND THE REFORMATION PARLIAMENT
Jokingly referred to by some as the “first Brexit”, Henry VIII’s decision to break with Rome over his desire to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon split England from the Catholic Church and would fundamentally change Britain’s relationship with mainland Europe.
Henry’s ‘Reformation Parliament’ made laws affecting all areas of life, especially religion, which had previously been under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church alone. It established that parliament was “omnicompetent”, that is, it had control over the whole of government, albeit under the monarch.
1642-1660: CIVIL WAR AND RESTORATION
Long-simmering tensions between the monarchy and parliament over money, religion and other issues came to a head in 1642 when King Charles I entered the House of Commons in a bid to arrest five lawmakers personally.
Civil war erupted, culminating in victory for the parliamentarians over the royalists and in the execution of Charles I in 1649 for high treason.
England became a republic. Oliver Cromwell, increasingly frustrated with parliament, also led an armed force into the legislature, dissolved it and ruled as Lord Protector until his death in 1658. Chaos then ensued and the monarchy was restored in 1660 under Charles’ son, who became Charles II.
1685-1689: GLORIOUS REVOLUTION
In 1685, Charles’ brother, a Roman Catholic, became James II and suspended parliament amid tensions over his bid to repeal anti-Catholic laws.
His use of the royal prerogative to suspend all religious penal laws without parliamentary approval prompted lawmakers to invite William of Orange, a Dutch Protestant, to invade England and take the throne.
A Bill of Rights passed in December decreed that only a Protestant could be monarch, a rule which is still in place now.
The so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ marked the peaceful assertion of parliament’s rights over the monarch.
1906-1911: ASQUITH AND LORDS REFORM
The landslide election victory of the Liberal Party in 1906 left them with a healthy majority in parliament’s lower chamber, the House of Commons, but massively outnumbered by Conservatives in the unelected House of Lords.
Tensions came to a head in 1909, when the Lords rejected the Liberals’ budget, which included taxes on large landowners, going against parliamentary precedent.
Though the Lords passed the budget in 1910 after a new election, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith introduced a bill to abolish the Lords’ veto on finance bills and allow the Commons to force through other bills after a delay.
The government also sought to involve the monarch in politics, saying it might be necessary to create hundreds of new lords to pass the controversial bill through the chamber. The threat was eventually enough to pass the bill through the Lords.
Today the House of Lords remains an unelected chamber, though its members are now mostly appointees, not hereditary peers. Its role is to scrutinize legislation passed by the Commons and it can block bills for up to a year. The prime minister retains the power to create new lords.
What has happened today is the parliamentarians, who were seeking an emergency injunction to lift the suspension of parliament, have lost that but there is to be a full hearing on Tuesday: If they win that, then I think it is constitutionally significant and we really are in uncharted waters.
We could be in a position where we have a ruling that the advice given by Boris Johnson to the Queen, prompting her decision to prorogue parliament, was unlawful: The government can appeal it, but pending any appeal it remains intact – so you are in a position where the monarch has made that order based on advice that is unlawful: That would put the Queen in a very difficult position.
Speaking outside court, Ms Cherry challenged the prime minister to lodge a signed affidavit – a sworn statement on oath – with the court setting out his reasons for wanting to prorogue parliament: Mr Johnson has insisted that the suspension of parliament is aimed at allowing him to set out a “very exciting agenda” of new legislation in the Queens’s Speech, and will not prevent MPs debating Brexit ahead of the UK’s departure.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson warned his political opponents on Friday that they are damaging his chances of getting a deal with the EU by trying to block a no-deal Brexit:
The Court of Session hearing came as former prime minister Sir John Major announced he was joining forces with campaigner Gina Miller to oppose the decision to suspend Parliament in the courts: Ms Miller had already launched her own attempt, and Sir John said by joining her he would avoid “taking up the court’s time” by lodging a separate case of his own.
In Northern Ireland, proceedings at the High Court in Belfast by prominent Troubles victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord – who claims that leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement would be an “unconstitutional attack on the people of Northern Ireland” – have been adjourned until next week: Mr McCord is also seeking a ruling that the prime minister cannot “bypass” MPs by proroguing parliament.