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Prorogation (Disclosure of Communications)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:20 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:20 pm, 9th September 2019

It does rather have the whiff of that.

At Prime Minister’s questions last week, the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield asked the Prime Minister why it had proved impossible during the Scottish legal proceedings to find any Government official or Minister who was prepared to state on oath in a sworn statement the reasons for Prorogation. The Prime Minister did not answer the question. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman explained earlier, it has been suggested to a number of Members, myself included, by reliable sources, that Government officials were approached by the Government Legal Service about swearing such statements but refused to do so. I cannot know the reasons why they refused to sign a sworn statement; I can only speculate. I speculate that perhaps they refused for fear of perjuring themselves, or for fear that to tell the truth would be damaging to the Government. The idea that any Government official should be put in a position in which they fear having to perjure themselves before the courts of the jurisdictions of Scotland or England, or indeed any jurisdiction in the United Kingdom, is very concerning.

The same sources that suggested that officials have refused to sign sworn statements have also suggested to me, and to other Members of the House, that key figures in No. 10 and the Government have been communicating about the real reasons for Prorogation not through the official channels of Government emails and memos, but by personal email, WhatsApp and “burner” phones—normally used by people involved in a criminal enterprise to avoid being traced. If that is true, they will have adopted a subterfuge, and there can only really be one reason for that: to conceal the real reasons for Prorogation from the scrutiny of this House and, very seriously, the scrutiny of the courts.

The right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield explained at some length what careful thought he has given to the way in which this has been presented. I will not repeat any of that, other than to say that he has clearly applied his mind very carefully to it, and the allegations that underlie the motion are very serious. If there is no truth in them, so be it. But let us pass the motion and let there be transparency and accountability, because those are the two things, I suggest, that this Prime Minister and his shabby Administration fear the most.