John Bercow accuses Boris Johnson of 'constitutional outrage' over Parliament shut down

Posted On: 
28th August 2019

Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament is a "constitutional outrage" designed to stop MPs debating Brexit, John Bercow has declared.

John Bercow
Credit: 
PA Images

The Commons Speaker hit out after it emerged the Prime Minister will ask the Queen to prorogue Parliament for five weeks from 9 September.

Mr Johnson has insisted the move will allow Her Majesty to deliver a Queen's Speech on 14 October setting out the Government's legislative programme, and that MPs will still have "ample" time to debate Brexit before the UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October.

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But in a stinging blast, Mr Bercow said: "I have had no contact from the Government, but if the reports that it is seeking to prorogure Parliament are confirmed, this move represents a constitutional outrage.

"However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country."

The Speaker added: "Shutting down Parliamemnt would be an offence against the democratic process and the rights of parliamentarian's as the people's elected representatives.

"Surely at this early stage in his premiership, the Prime Minister should be seeking to establish rather than undermine his democratic credentials and indeed his commitment to parliamentary democracy."

Meanwhile, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accused the PM of mounting a “very British coup” as MPs from across the Commons condemned his plans.

He said: "Whatever one’s views on Brexit, once you allow a Prime Minister to prevent the full and free operation of our democratic institutions you are on a very precarious path.”

Former Chancellor Philip Hammond, who resigned when Mr Johnson took office, branded the move a "constitutional outrage" and "profoundly undemocratic".

Fellow Tory MP and arch-Remainer, Dominic Grieve told the BBC: “I think that the Prime Minister’s decision is deeply questionable and frankly pretty outrageous.

“He knows very well that we’re in the middle of a national crisis, he knows very well that parliament is extremely concerned about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and this has very little to do with starting a new session of parliament, it’s a deliberate attempt to make sure Parliament doesn’t sit for a five week period.”

“This is an attempt to govern without parliament. It’s pretty unprecedented and I think the Prime Minister will come to regret it.”

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson accused the PM of an “act of cowardice” and trying to “stifle their voices” of MPs who he knows would not allow a no-deal outcome.

Her intervention comes a day after MPs from pro-Remain parties vowed to use "legislative" means in the coming weeks to kill off the prospect of the UK crashing out of the EU in October.

“It is a dangerous and unacceptable course of action which the Liberal Democrats will strongly oppose.

“Yesterday, MPs from all parties united to avert a disastrous No Deal Brexit and to prevent an anti-democratic shut down of Parliament.

“We did this because a No Deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for our country.”

Former Tory MP Anna Soubry, now of Change UK, told the BBC the move was “disgraceful” and “unprecedented”.

"The country is in a crisis. We’re facing the biggest decision we’ve taken since the Second World War," she said. 

"He’s shutting down parliament deliberately to stop people’s democratically elected representatives doing our job, scrutinising the preparedness or otherwise for no-deal and what doing what many of us believe is absolutely right which is to stop our country from crashing out of the European Union without a deal."

Elsewhere, Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said Mr Johnson's action may be looked back on as a "dark day for democracy".