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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 Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Solicitor General, Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 11:37 am, 25th September 2019

I congratulate Joanna Cherry for securing the urgent question and for her work on this matter. Yesterday’s decision of the Supreme Court—I give credit to all those who brought the cases—was the most damning judicial indictment of a Government in modern times: that the decision to advise Her Majesty the Queen to prorogue Parliament was unlawful.

This Government stand in shame, tendering illegal advice to our monarch and not even able to uphold that most basic and important of principles: abiding by the rule of law. What we know from yesterday’s leaked document is that the Attorney General said that his advice on the question of the law was that this was

“lawful and within the constitution”,

and that any accusations of unlawfulness were “motivated by political considerations”. If that is in any way accurate as to his full advice, he was wrong on both counts. His “close interest” simply was not enough.

I will ask the Attorney General a number of questions. Can he confirm why the Government gave no witness statement to the Court? Indeed, the Court was left in a position where it said:

“No justification for taking action with such an extreme effect has been put before the court”.

Why not? The Attorney General talks about respecting the decision of the judges, but the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was on the radio this morning saying that he disagrees with the decision. He should tell us which parts of the judgment the Government disagree with. May I give the Attorney General a simple piece of advice for his considerations about the publication of this advice over the next few days—a simple suggestion? Just publish it and make it open to Parliament and the public.

On this Attorney General’s watch, the Government have been found in contempt of Parliament. Now they have been found in contempt of the law. Does he not accept that he does not have a shred of credibility left?