Was the Closing of the UK Parliament Legal..
On the 29th August 2019, the Queen approved a request from Boris Johnson’s Government to shut down Parliament, correctly known as a “prorogue”.
The royal orders state that the UK parliament will be prorogued ‘no earlier than Monday 9th September and no later than Thursday 12th September’. So it will begin on one of the days from the 9th to the 12th September.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that Parliament will be prorogued – or suspended – from a day between 9th and 12th September and 14 October 2019.
Various news headlines have read:
- Our democracy is under threat
- Suspending Parliament is undemocratic
- The Queen should be removed
- An utterly scandalous affront to our democracy
But is it any of these things?
Could the Queen have refused a prorogue?
Constitutionally a refusal is impossible. Had the Queen refused, it could have sparked a Constitutional crisis, maybe even ended the Monarchy.
Has a prorogue happened before?
Yes. Almost every year or two. The last ones were in 2017, 2016 and 2014.
The first Parliament prorogue was in the 15th Century, and has been a common event ever since.
What is a prorogue?
Prorogation is the formal term for the end of a parliamentary session and is marked with a ceremony in the House of Lords. It normally entails an announcement and speech on behalf of the Queen.
Was Proroguing Parliament done Legally without a Vote?
Proroguing Parliament is a Royal Prerogative power exercisable by the Queen, (who, by convention, follows the advice of the prime minister). It does not require the consent of MPs.
Before 1918, it required the consent of the Cabinet, but from 1918 the process was changed to allow the prime minister alone to seek the formal permission of the Sovereign.
Prorogue to block political objections
There is at least one historical precedent of using a prorogue to block a specific political move.
This was done by Labour in 1948 when a Parliament Bill was being blocked. The prorogue was used to stop discussions and allow the bill to go through.
This appears similar to the 2019 prorogue to stop attempts blocking the EU Exit at the end of October 2019.
The current Labour party calls this undemocratic, but was OK with it when they used it.
- In 1948, the Labour Party prime minister prorogued parliament in order to silence House of Lords opposition to a law that would have reduced their powers.
- In 1997, the Conservative Party prime minister prorogued parliament for over a week early to sidestep publication of a report that exposed financial wrongdoing by two Conservative MPs.
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