Prorogation, a few facts
Yesterday, August 28th, HM The Queen accepted a request from the government to suspend parliamentary sessions between September 9th and October 14th – to prorogue Parliament. To prorogue Parliament simply resets the session. Any legislation yet to become law is wiped clean – except for those that MPs vote to carry over. The Queen’s Speech then marks a new session of Parliament.
“This morning I spoke to Her Majesty The Queen to request an end to the current parliamentary session in the second sitting week in September, before commencing the second session of this Parliament with a Queen’s speech on Monday 14 October,”the PM wrote. (See the full text of his letter below.)
HOW DIFFERENT IS THIS?
Parliament returns from the Summer recess on Tuesday, September 3, and would normally have sat through until September 11th or 12th, which would mark the beginning of the party conference season. MPs would then have returned after this year’s Tory conference, on October 2. The prorogation extends this by 12 days, until October 14.
In reality, although few people would ever guess it, MPS do not work Saturday and Sunday. (Few of them ever work on Fridays, the day traditionally set aside form Constituency surgeries). Thus, the calendar before the Prorogation clearly shows that Parliament would only have sat for 14 days excluding the day of The Queens Speech, October 14th. Following the Prorogation and assuming it comes into being on 12th September, MPs will sit for 9 days.
In other words, this mad grab for power, this calumny against democracy has simply removed five days of real Parliamentary time from the calendar, time in which MPs could have been discussing the same thing they have already discussed for over 450 days.
One should also remember that Prorogation usually happens every year – it’s so normal that we forget it is actually happening. However, Theresa May did not prorogue Parliament last year in an attempt to force through her Brexit deal, which means that this Parliament has been sitting since the June 2017 snap elections. This is only the third time since 1949 that the UK has had a biannual Parliament, and at 340 days, its tenure ranks as the longest since the conclusion of the English Civil War in 1651. “In almost 400 years only the 2010-12 session comes close, at 250 days,” Johnson wrote in his letter to Parliament.
PARTY CONFERENCE DATES
PARTY START – END VENUE
Trades Union Congress 08/09/2019 – 11/09/2019 Bournemouth
Liberal Democrats 14/09/2019 – 17/09/2019 Bournemouth
Labour 21/09/2019 – 25/09/2019 Brighton
Conservatives 29/09/2019 – 02/10/2019 Manchester
Green Party of England and Wales 04/10/2019 – 06/10/2019 Cardiff
During the recess, negotiations with the EU for a mutually acceptable Brexit deal will continue, according to Whitehall, and if there is an agreement, Parliament would then have two weeks (October 14th – October 30th), to approve it before the October 31st deadline. The Government’s critics – meaning Johnson’s critics – accuse him of suspending the Commons to limit the opportunity for legislation that would prevent a no-deal Brexit. This legislation, which would force the Government to seek an extension, was effectively proposed on August 27th by an opposition coalition, and the prorogation will reduce the amount of time available to pressure the Government into postponing the exit date.
The opposition’s options are by no means curtailed. Two separate challenges are being urgently pursued in court, although neither is likely to succeed as the government has the legal prerogative to prorogue Parliament. MPs could also attempt to schedule additional parliamentary sessions between mid-September and mid-October to bypass the suspension. With the summer recess ending on September 4th, time is already running out – but The Speaker, John Bercow, may play one of his cards at that time.
Additionally, opponents might also force a No-Confidence vote against the Government, which with a weakened majority would have a strong chance of passing. If Johnson loses that vote. In that event, Parliament would have 14 days to appoint a new leader – which might conceivably result in either Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman forming a Government of National Unity with either becoming the caretaker PM. The chances of Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems, the Greens and Plaid Cymru joining forces with the disaffected Tory Remainers and mutually and happily agreeing on a schedule, let alone a leader is, at best, implausible.
The Remain advantage of winning a No Confidence vote. would immediately be lost however with Johnson calling a snap election for a date post-October 31st, which would still ensure a hard Brexit. Indeed, it is still a possibility, that the PM could call a snap election during the few remaining days of this parliamentary session, allowing Johnson to portray himself as an honourable leader fulfilling the wishes of the people, and thwarted by the self-serving obstinacy of some tired old political hacks.
Meanwhile, the prorogation also puts pressure on Brussels to compromise on the proposed exit deal, as it emphasizes that could be financially catastrophic, as politically Germany’s EU alliances only depend on a strong German economy.
The European Council will meet on Oct. 17, and low-level talks are already taking place to solve the Irish back-stop conundrum. However, for the EU, giving political ground on this small piece of land will potentially destroy forever the federalist dream, making Ireland the EU’s red line.
Full text of the Prime Minister’s letter
I hope that you had an enjoyable and productive summer recess, with the opportunity for some rest ahead of the return of the House.
I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the Government’s plans for its business in Parliament.
As you know, for some time parliamentary business has been sparse. The current session has lasted more than 340 days and needs to be brought to a close — in almost 400 years only the 2010-12 session comes close, at 250 days. Bills have been introduced, which, while worthy in their own right, have at times seemed more about filling time in both the Commons and the Lords, while key Brexit legislation has been held back to ensure it could still be considered for carry-over into a second session. This cannot continue.
I therefore intend to bring forward a new bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit. There will be a significant Brexit legislative programme to get through but that should be no excuse for a lack of ambition!
We will help the NHS, fight violent crime, invest in infrastructure and science and cut the cost of living.
This morning I spoke to Her Majesty The Queen to request an end to the current parliamentary session in the second sitting week in September, before commencing the second session of this Parliament with a Queen’s speech on Monday 14 October. A central feature of the legislative programme will be the Government’s number one legislative priority, if a new deal is forthcoming at EU Council, to introduce a Withdrawal Agreement Bill and at a pace to secure its passage before 31 October.
I fully recognise that the debate on the Queen’s Speech will be an opportunity for Members of Parliament to express their view on this Government’s legislative agenda and its approach to, and the result of, the European Council on 17-18 October. It is right that you should have the chance to do so, in a clear and unambiguous manner.
I also believe it is vitally important that the key votes associated with the Queen’s Speech and any deal with the EU fall at a time when parliamentarians are best placed to judge the Government’s programme. Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the Government’s overall programme, and approach to Brexit, in the run-up to EU Council, and then vote on this on 21 and 22 October, once we know the outcome of the Council. Should I succeed in agreeing on a deal with the EU, Parliament will then have the opportunity to pass the Bill required for ratification of the deal ahead of 31 October.
Finally, I want to reiterate to colleagues that these weeks leading up to the European Council on 17/18 October are vitally important for the sake of my negotiations with the EU. Member States are watching what Parliament does with great interest and it is only by showing unity and resolve that we stand a chance of securing a new deal that can be passed by Parliament. In the meantime, the Government will take the responsible approach of continuing its preparations for leaving the EU, with or without a deal.
The Leader of the Commons will update the House in the normal fashion with regard to business for the final week. For now, I can confirm that on Monday 9 September both Houses will debate the motions on the first reports relating to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 (NIEFA). Following these debates, we will begin preparation to end the Parliamentary session ahead of a Queen’s Speech.
The Business Managers in both Houses will shortly engage with their opposite numbers, and MPs more widely, on plans for passing a deal should one be forthcoming. Decisions will also need to be taken about carrying over some of the bills currently before the House, and we will look to work constructively with the Opposition on this front. If an agreement cannot be reached we will look to reintroduce the bills in the next session, and details on this will be set out in the Queen’s Speech.
As always my door is open to all colleagues should you wish to discuss this or any other matter.
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP