The Queen has approved the Prime Minister’s request for Parliament to be prorogued for 32 days, the longest suspension in modern memory.
With reports that Ruth Davison is set to resign as leader of Scottish Conservatives, the move is also proving a shocking embarrassment for cabinet members who had decried such a move just weeks ago. Whether they will stand by their words and now resign remains to be seen.
The decision to suspend Parliament for a month has been criticised as an “affront” to Britain’s democracy by parliamentary experts. Downing Street confirmed the Queen had met ministers on Wednesday at Balmoral Castle in Scotland to sign off on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wish for Parliament to be prorogued for more than four weeks.
After a meeting with Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and Lords Leader Baroness Natalie Evans, the Queen approved suspending proceedings for 32 days between September 12 and October 14.
Boris Johnson said the move was normal and there would be “ample time” to debate Britain’s exit from the European Union following the suspension.
But the Hansard Society, an independent group studying parliamentary affairs for more than 70 years, said the length of time involved for the suspension of Parliament was “both unnecessary and beyond the norm”.
Professor Meg Russell, a constitutional researcher at University College London (UCL), accused the PM of “deliberately dodging scrutiny” and “denying MPs a voice”.
Hansard Society director Dr Ruth Fox said: “The Government’s decision to prorogue Parliament may not be unconstitutional or unlawful but it is an affront to parliamentary democracy.”
She added: “essentially, this manoeuvre halves the number of pre-Brexit sitting days when Government ministers can be held to account.”
Prof Russell, director of the Constitution Unit, a non-partisan research body based at UCL, accused the PM of “deliberately dodging scrutiny” having only faced questions from MPs in the Commons for a single day since entering Number 10 after only being elected by Tory Party members.
It is not just constitutional experts who have expressed outrage at Boris Johnson’s move.
During the Tory leadership contest, Johnson’s Cabinet ministers hit out at the prospect of proroguing Parliament.
“We are not Stuart kings” – Amber Rudd
Now with reports that Ruth Davison is set to resign as leader of the Scottish Conservatives after this move, it will be interesting to see if they will be happy to serve in a cabinet capable of a move that Amber Rudd called “outrageous” in a June interview.
In a June interview with Sky News, Ms Rudd said suspending parliament would be “absolutely outrageous”.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd during the Tory leadership contest insisted: “I think it’s outrageous to consider proroguing Parliament. We are not Stuart kings.”
“To consider closing parliament…is the most extraordinary idea I have ever heard,” she also told Sky News, “It is a ridiculous suggestion to consider proroguing parliament. For a start it would involve approaching the Queen, and nobody should consider doing that.”
“Goes against everything that those men who waded on to those beaches fought and died for” – Matt Hancock
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock insisted in June: “There’s this idea from some people that to deliver Brexit we should suspend our parliamentary democracy – that we should prorogue Parliament. But that goes against everything that those men who waded on to those beaches fought and died for (on D-Day) and I will not have it.”
“A policy on Brexit to prorogue Parliament would mean the end of the Conservative Party as a serious party of government,” Hancock also said.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd during the Tory leadership contest: “I think it’s outrageous to consider proroguing Parliament. We are not Stuart kings.”
“You don’t deliver on democracy by trashing democracy” – Sajid Javid
Chancellor Sajid Javid in the Channel 4 leadership debate: “You don’t deliver on democracy by trashing democracy. We are not selecting a dictator of our country, we are selecting a prime minister of our country.”
“It would not be true to the best traditions of British democracy” – Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I think it will be wrong for many reasons. I think it would not be true to the best traditions of British democracy.”
“Proroguing Parliament is clearly a mad suggestion” – Nicky Morgan
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan told the BBC’s Question Time programme: “Proroguing Parliament is clearly a mad suggestion. You cannot say you are going to take back control … and then go: ‘Oh, by the way, we are just going to shut Parliament down for a couple of months, so we are just going to drift out on a no deal’.”
Downing Street officials also appear to have been giving the BBC furious denials that Boris Johnson was planning the course of action:
Public say proroguing parliament is “not acceptable”
In a snap poll by YouGov, 47 per cent of the public said Boris Johnson’s plan to suspend parliament was not acceptable; 27 per cent said it was acceptable and 26 per cent said they did not know.
The pound took a tumble with the prospect of the UK leaving the EU with no deal becoming likelier now and many suggesting it is now Boris Johnson’s plan, followed by a snap election.
Whether the public will forgive Boris Johnson or any of his colleagues for making a mockery of their previous words remains to be seen.