Boris Johnson: Supreme Court has no jurisdiction on suspension of parliament

18 September 2019, 08:05

Boris Johnson is set to defend his decision to suspend parliament at the Supreme Court today
Boris Johnson is set to defend his decision to suspend parliament at the Supreme Court today. Picture: pa

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson warned Britain’s most senior judges not to intervene in his decision to suspend Parliament. The Prime Minister is set to defend his controversial decision today.

Lawyers representing the Prime Minister will argue that his advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was lawful and that, in any event, the court cannot interfere in political matters.

Yesterday Lord Keen QC, the justice minister who is representing Mr Johnson at the Supreme Court, refused to rule out a second prorogation of Parliament if the court decides the first was unlawful. 

The case is being heard today at the Supreme Court
The case is being heard today at the Supreme Court. Picture: PA

It emerged yesterday that Boris told Supreme Court judges they had no jurisdiction over the decision and risked ‘entering the political arena’ if they blocked it.

The Supreme Court in London is hearing historic appeals from two separate challenges brought in England and Scotland to the prorogation of Parliament.

Antio-Brexit Campaigner Gina Miller at the Supreme Court yesterday
Antio-Brexit Campaigner Gina Miller at the Supreme Court yesterday. Picture: PA

Mr Johnson says the five-week suspension is to allow the Government to set out a new legislative agenda in a Queen's Speech when MPs return to Parliament on October 14.

But those who brought legal challenges against the Prime Minister's decision argue the prorogation is designed to prevent parliamentary scrutiny of the UK's impending exit from the EU on October 31.

The court, which is sitting as a panel of 11 justices for only the second time in its 10-year history, must reconcile contradictory judgments issued by the English and Scottish courts.

The High Court in London dismissed the case brought by businesswoman and campaigner Gina Miller, finding that the length of the prorogation was "purely political".

But the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that Mr Johnson's decision was unlawful because "it was motivated by the improper purpose of stymying Parliament".

On the first day of the hearing on Tuesday, Mrs Miller's barrister Lord Pannick QC argued that Mr Johnson's motive for an "exceptionally long" prorogation was to "silence" Parliament, and that his decision was an "unlawful abuse of power".

A cross-party group of around 75 MPs and peers, led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, was responsible for the Scottish challenge and the appeal against the Court of Session's decision is being brought by the Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Keen QC, on behalf of the Westminster Government.

Lord Keen submitted that the courts "must not cross the boundaries and intrude upon the business of Parliament", and confirmed Mr Johnson will comply with the Supreme Court's ruling if it finds his decision was unlawful.

On Wednesday, Sir James Eadie QC, representing Mr Johnson, will argue that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to rule on the lawfulness of the length of prorogation, followed by submissions from Aidan O'Neill QC for Ms Cherry.

Victims' campaigner Raymond McCord - who brought separate proceedings in Belfast, arguing that a no-deal Brexit would damage the Northern Ireland peace process - has also been given permission to intervene in the Supreme Court case, and his lawyers will address the court on Thursday.

Mrs Miller's challenge is supported by former prime minister Sir John Major, shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti and the Scottish and Welsh governments, who are all interveners in the Supreme Court case and will also be heard on Thursday.

Mr Johnson advised the Queen on August 28 to prorogue Parliament for five weeks and it was suspended on September 9.

It is not clear when the Supreme Court judges will give a ruling.