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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 Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 11:37 am, 25th September 2019

I too took a close interest in the case. Let me start by assuring the Attorney General that I am not going to call for his resignation—yet.

Yesterday was a very special day for Scots law and the Scottish legal tradition going back to the declaration of Arbroath that the Government are not above the law. Following in the footsteps of Scotland’s Supreme Court, the UK Supreme Court asserted the rule of law and the separation of powers, and it restored democracy. It is worth emphasising that the decision was unanimous, as was that of Scotland’s Supreme Court, chaired by Scotland’s most senior judge, the Lord President of the Court of Session. Both Courts unanimously found that the decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful, void and of no effect. However, the question I am interested in is how it came to pass that that was ever allowed to happen.

Redacted documents lodged with the Scottish Court confirmed the suspicion that this was a plan cooked up in No. 10 by the Prime Minister and his special advisers. I want to ask about documents that mysteriously found their way into the public domain yesterday afternoon, when an unredacted version of one of those lodged with the Scottish Court found its way to Sky News and revealed that the Attorney General had said that the advice to prorogue was lawful and that anyone who said otherwise was doing so for political reasons. Knowing the Attorney General, I am sure that his advice was considerably more detailed and nuanced than the three sentences that appear in the unredacted document. Can he tell us whether a legal opinion was made available to the Prime Minister or the Cabinet?

Amber Rudd has said that when she was in the Cabinet, Cabinet Ministers requested to see the advice but it was not handed over. Is that correct? Can the Attorney General tell us what was given to the Prime Minister, if not to the Cabinet? Many of us believe that the Attorney General is being offered up as a fall guy for the Prime Minister’s botched plans. Does he therefore agree that releasing the advice in its entirety will help him avoid being the scapegoat for a plan dreamed up by the Prime Minister and his advisers? Will he give the undertaking, which he hinted he might give, today?