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Prorogation (Disclosure of Communications)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:14 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Independent, Beaconsfield 5:14 pm, 9th September 2019

I will if the hon. Lady will wait just one moment.

The justification that the Government have given for this length of Prorogation is that we were due to adjourn for the purposes of party conferences and to return shortly before the date the Government have chosen, but everybody in this House knows that the nature of the crisis that has been engulfing us in the last two months meant that it was clear the House would not consent to be adjourned because it regarded its continuing sitting as being absolutely essential. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knew this very well. Furthermore, it appeared—certainly at the time when he stood for the leadership of the Conservative party and was about to become Prime Minister—that although suggestions had been made about proroguing the House to facilitate achieving a no-deal Brexit, he apparently did not approve of them. Indeed, he said publicly during his leadership bid:

“I’m not attracted to archaic devices like proroguing.”

That is where the trust comes in. As news emerged of the decision to prorogue, it rapidly became clear that the Government did not appear to be giving a consistent account of their reasons. As the act of proroguing has led to litigation, it has then followed that some, but not all, of the motives for Prorogation began to emerge. We have seen that although on 23 August this year No. 10 Downing Street and the Prime Minister denied considering the idea of proroguing at all, in fact, internal Government documents reveal that this matter was under consideration some 10 days before. Indeed, there is a rather remarkable memorandum from the Prime Minister himself in which he expresses total contentment with this because he finds the September sitting to be an unnecessary and rather contemptible activity. It is perhaps rather typical of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that he gets something wrong—as we now know, he suggests that the September sitting is the product of the work of one of his predecessors, Mr David Cameron, whereas it was Mr Tony Blair who introduced it. It is rather noteworthy that when we found what was under the redaction, it turned out he had condemned Mr David Cameron, for his belief in having a September sitting, as a “girly swot”, which I supposed was meant to be contrasted with his manly idleness. That seems to be his established practice when it comes to confronting the crisis that threatens to engulf us on 31 October if he cannot get the deal that he promises he is going to achieve, but which it now appears from the resignation statement of the previous Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that he has done absolutely no work even to commence negotiating.