The Supreme Court judgment on the suspension of Parliament

Awards & rankings | 24 September 2019

The Supreme Court has today made real the long-standing proposition that the Government has no prerogative but that granted by law, and therefore governed by law.  A full bench of justices found unanimously that the power to prorogue Parliament is limited in law by other, fundamental constitutional principles, including the constitutional function of Parliament both to legislate and to scrutinise the Government.  The Government cannot suspend Parliament, and thus frustrate its constitutional role, without lawful justification.  The evidence put forward by the Government provided no adequate justification for the prorogation (given the exceptionality of the circumstances and the length of the prorogation).

The Supreme Court agreed with the Scottish Court, that the consequence is that the prorogation is of no effect – as a matter of law, it is now as if it had never happened.  It is for the Speaker and the Lord Speaker now to make appropriate arrangements for Parliamentary business to resume, and it will do so as if without interruption.  Accordingly, those Bills before Parliament before the prorogation are reinstated and can continue their Parliamentary passage.   It also means that there will be no Queen's Speech unless and until the Prime Minister is able lawfully to prorogue. 

In the eyes of the law, the Prime Minister need take no step now to comply with this judgment.  Whether he will seek to prorogue Parliament again in the near future remains to be seen, but he would have to give cogent and lawful reasons for doing so, and it is highly unlikely that it could be of anything like the length previously intended.  The law has now returned this matter firmly into the court of politics. 

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