The end of a conventional Parliament took place last night (well actually at around 2am this morning) and it is unclear what the future will look like when it returns after another five week closure, given it was closed from late July until last Tuesday. In that time Johnson was in Parliament as our Prime Minister for only one day in July and then some of the last five working days since they returned from the Summer recess. Many people who oppose our membership of the EU claim their opinion is based on the fact that the EU lacks democratic credibility. If anyone who claims that, is doing so on a matter of principle then they must like me be very disturbed at what has happened in our Parliament in the last week. The Government and indeed our nation is in the middle of its most acute challenge for many years and yet the Government has chosen to close down Parliament in an attempt to ignore and avoid the MPs who are paid to represent us and hold the Government to account. However just as Parliament was closing down for the next 5 weeks at 1.41am an email arrived in my in box. Its arrival was because I had signed the second most significant petition under the Government petition structure since the petitions began. As it happened I signed the first one too which called for Article 50 to be revoked, but that in theory is a separate matter. This petition calls for the Government not to prorogue Parliament. The email came from the Cabinet Office and one wonders why it did so late at night, given it was a response to the fact that we passed 10,000 signatories, which was something that happened on 28th August, so the Cabinet Office could have published the email a number of weeks ago. However it began very clearly referring to how prorogation is a legal process that the Cabinet can do and how the Queen has no choice about endorsing it.
“Prorogation is a prerogative Act of the Crown, exercised on the advice of Ministers. We must respect the referendum result and the UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October whatever the circumstances.
The UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October whatever the circumstances. We must respect the referendum result.
Prorogation is a prerogative Act of the Crown, exercised on the advice of Ministers, to bring about the end of the parliamentary session. The royal prerogative is the term used to describe the powers held by Government Ministers, either in their own right, or through the advice they provide to the Queen which she is bound constitutionally to follow. The Government determines the length of a parliamentary session and advises the Queen on the date for the beginning of the next parliamentary session.
The beginning of the next session is marked by the State Opening of Parliament during which the Queen delivers the Queen’s Speech. The Queen’s Speech sets out the programme of legislation the Government intends to pursue in the forthcoming parliamentary session.
As the Prime Minister said in his statement on 2 September 2019, the Government has committed to recruiting another 20,000 police officers, improving both NHS and schools funding, and completing 20 new hospital upgrades. It is to progress the Government’s agenda on these and many other fronts that the Prime Minister has sought to commence a new session of Parliament in October”
However perhaps because it was written when many of us were asleep and the author was also a bit tired, or because it was designed to tell us that it has an alternative purpose it then transfers onto explaining about the need for a new general election which seems very strange as that has nothing to do with prorogation and indeed the Governments two attempts to create a new General Election has been defeated.
“Parliament is only dissolved before a General Election. Dissolution brings an end to a Parliament. The effect of a dissolution is all business comes to an end and every seat in the House of Commons is vacated until a General Election is held.
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, General Elections are now automatically held every five years and the next general election is scheduled for May 2022. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act removed the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament; no longer can the Prime Minister advise the sovereign to dissolve Parliament and call a General Election.
The Fixed-term Parliaments Act also provides the basis on which an early General Election can be triggered:
1. If a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the whole House of Commons or without a vote; or
2. If a motion of ‘no confidence’, in the terms set out in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, is passed and no subsequent motion expressing confidence in Her Majesty’s Government is passed by the Commons within 14 days.
In the event of an early-general election, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act allows the Prime Minister to recommend a suitable polling day to the Queen. There will be a Royal Proclamation to set the date. Parliament is then automatically dissolved 25 working days before polling day.
The Government would prefer to leave the EU with a deal and will work in an energetic and determined way to get a better deal. The Government is very willing to sit down with the Commission and EU Member States to talk about what needs to be done to achieve that.
The Prime Minister has said an election needs to take place ahead of the European Council on 17 to 18 October. This would allow the Prime Minister to go to the European Council with a clear mandate from the British people to deliver the referendum result.
It is very hard to understand why this is being explained to the signatories to the prorogation petition as the issue of a General Election is something very different. One wonders if the Cabinet is either getting very confused or is attempting to imply that the prorogation will act as the first step in the General Election, even though there will not be a General Election because Parliament has chosen to deny one before it returns in mid October unless of course the Government decides to reverse its own plans? All in all one wonders what is going on in this strange setting!