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Legal Advice: Prorogation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:37 am on 25th September 2019.

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Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General 11:37 am, 25th September 2019

As the hon. and learned Lady knows, the Supreme Court gave judgment on this issue yesterday, and that judgment sets out the definitive and final legal position on the advice given to Her Majesty on the Prorogation of Parliament. The Government’s legal view during the case was set out and argued fully before the Supreme Court. The hearing was streamed live and the Government’s written case was, and is, available on the Supreme Court website.

I took a close interest in the case—[Interruption]—and I oversaw the Government’s team of counsel. I have to say that if every time I lost a case I was called upon to resign, I would probably never have had a practice.

The Government accept the judgment and accept that they lost the case. At all times, the Government acted in good faith and in the belief that their approach was both lawful and constitutional. These are complex matters, on which senior and distinguished lawyers will disagree. The divisional court, led by the Lord Chief Justice, as well as Lord Doherty in the outer house of Scotland, agreed with the Government’s position, but we were disappointed that, in the end, the Supreme Court took a different view. Of course, we respect its judgment.

Given the Supreme Court’s judgment, in legal terms the matter is settled, and, as the hon. and learned Lady will know, I am bound by the long-standing convention that the views of the Law Officers are not disclosed outside the Government without their consent. However, I will consider over the coming days whether the public interest might require a greater disclosure of the advice given to the Government on the subject. I am unable to give an undertaking or a promise to the hon. and learned Lady at this point, but the matter is under consideration.