On Tuesday afternoon MPs debated the issue of prorogation of Parliament which should have been very encouraging to many people, although of course the prorogation has now begun so one could argue that it was a waste of time. There is of course the need for some context. At the end of January 2019 a petition was put together to call for Parliament to be Prorogued until the 2nd of April. The people behind this had seen Parliament reject Theresa May’s Deal on one occasion and were fearful that they would be able to do so again so the petition was started. The terms of the petition were:
“The Prime Minister should advise Her Majesty the Queen to prorogue Parliament.
The Prime Minister should advise Her Majesty the Queen to prorogue Parliament suspending the current parliamentary session until 2nd April 2019 to prevent any attempts by parliamentarians to thwart Brexit on 29th March 2019. Preparations for no-deal/WTO will continue.
The Prime Minister’s deal has been rejected. No further deal is available from the EU. Remaining in the EU is not an option. Extension or revocation of Article 50 is not an option. I believe the British people voted to leave with no mention of a deal and that WTO rules, to which Britain will default on 29th March 2019, are in Britain’s best interests. We may get a better deal after, but not until, we have left.”
At the end of the six months it had achieved 100,718 signatures but mid way through that period on March 18th a couple of weeks before the deadline for us to leave the EU the Cabinet Office responded:
“The Government has no plans to prorogue parliament and remains committed to delivering an orderly exit from the EU in line with its pledge to deliver on the outcome of the referendum.
The Government remains committed to delivering on the outcome of the referendum and leaving the EU in line with its pledge to deliver on the outcome of the referendum. We will continue to work towards that end in a way that is compatible with our constitutional principles, including giving Parliament its say. As the Prime Minister has set out, there will be further votes to ensure that Parliament’s voice is heard.
As it is the responsibility of this Government to deliver the exit that people voted for, and as Parliament is clear that it does not wish to deliver a ‘no deal’, we must secure a deal.
It is a priority of the Government to make sure businesses and citizens are ready for Brexit, including no deal. This includes consulting closely with stakeholders to develop no deal contingency plans and minimise disruption. We have engaged with businesses and other sectors to understand their needs and to make sure we are prepared to address the effects of no deal.
So the debate on Tuesday referred to that petition, but they also referred to the more recent petition which emerged publicly on 28th August. The petition was much briefer than the first one and it stated:
“Do not prorogue Parliament
Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.”
When I came across it, it had already been signed by 88,000 people and by the end of that day along with myself over 1m people had signed it. The current total is 1,722,006 so it was signed by 17.2 as many people who signed the petition which called for Parliament to be Prorogued back in March. Whilst such petitions are not like a vote, if 17.2 times as many people voted for an action as voted against it, this would be a major indication of what people were calling for. In addition the numbers of people out on the Streets in locations like in Liverpool as above at the end of August were not matched by any major campaigns back in March. As I wrote yesterday the Cabinet response to the second petition seemed very confused so I reproduced it in full just to be clear. Parliament needed to pay attention to this and so their willingness to hold discussion was very encouraging. The debate was set out by a London based Conservative MP called Paul Scully who happens to be the Deputy Chair of their party. Sadly there were no contributions over the 2 hour debate from any MPs in Sussex, Surrey or Kent, even though the 1.72m petition signatories came significantly from such locations. The opening statement by Paul Scully included the following element:
“I have noticed that over the last three years we have wanted to talk about Brexit quite a lot; and because of the topicality of the issue, and because the Prime Minister has been clear that we will leave the EU by 31 October, come what may, people want to express their opinion, whether they want to stop no deal or stop Brexit in its entirety. It is important that we discuss that in the House of Commons. There is a clear reason why Prorogation is a sensible idea.”
Which makes one wonder if Paul and his colleagues are capable of making any credible comments in the light of these two sentences. Indeed some people would argue that proroguing Parliament for 52 weeks of every year is worth considering and then we can look for a new way of governing our nation!