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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 to my hon. Friend’s first question, I say that, plainly, if one re-examines the historical records, there is no doubt that there would have been some—possibly quite a few— Prorogations that, under this test, might have had difficulty in passing. For example, Ramsay MacDonald prorogued this Parliament in 1930 for some months, during the course of a minority Government, at a time when the great Wall Street Crash had happened in 1929 and when I have no doubt that some would have said that the House should sit to determine the onset of the great depression and debate those important matters, but the courts looked on—they looked on impassively—as that Labour Government decided to prorogue. It happened again in 1948 and right up into the 1990s when it was said that a Parliament had been prorogued in order to avoid an embarrassing Select Committee inquiry. From now on, when a Prime Minister has to prorogue Parliament, he will have to look at all the Select Committees, see what inquiries they are doing and which Chairmen of which Select Committees might say in a mortally wounded and offended manner, “Why, to prorogue and not to allow my Select Committee to report is a matter of public importance, for which I will go to court and stop the Prorogation.” I do think that this test set by the Supreme Court invites quite a number of significant questions.