John Major joins legal bid to stop Boris Johnson shutting down Parliament

Posted On: 
30th August 2019

Sir John Major has confirmed that he intends to join a court case launched to try and stop Boris Johnson shutting down Parliament.

Former PM Sir John Major has joined Gina Miller's court bid against Boris Johnson
Credit: 
PA Images

The Prime Minister sparked a furious backlash after asking the Queen to authorise the five-week prorogation from the middle of next month.

Mr Johnson said the move was necessary so the Government's legislative plans can be set out in a Queen's Speech on 14 October.

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But his opponents say it is actually intended to prevent MPs from introducing legislation to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal two weeks later.

Sir John vowed in July to be one of “a queue of people” willing to launch a judicial review if Mr Johnson pushed ahead with the controversial plan.

However the former PM has said that he will instead seek the court’s permission to join the existing legal action brought by pro-EU activist and businesswoman Gina Miller.

In a statement, he said: “I promised that, if the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament in order to prevent Members from opposing his Brexit plans, I would seek judicial review of his action.

“In view of he imminence of the prorogation – and to avoid duplication of effort, and taking up the Court’s time through repetition – I intend to seek the Court’s permission to intervene in the claim already initiated by Gina Miller, rather than commence separate proceedings.

“If granted permission, I intend to seek to assist the Court from the perspective of having served in Government as a Minister and Prime Minister, and also in Parliament for many years as a Member of the House of Commons.”

Sir John said he would be represented by Tory peer Lord Garnier, who served as solicitor general in the early years of the coalition government.

Ms Miller, who rose to prominence after winning a case that forced MPs to legislate before Article 50 could be invoked, accused Mr Johnson of “a brazen attempt, of truly historical magnitude, to prevent the executive being held accountable for its conduct before parliament.”

Sir John said in July: “I think the idea of proroguing Parliament is utterly and totally unacceptable from any British parliamentarian or democrat.

“In order to close down Parliament, the Prime Minister would have to go to Her Majesty the Queen and ask for her permission to prorogue.

“If her first minister asks for that permission it is almost inconceivable that the Queen will do anything other than grant it... and then she is in the midst of a constitutional controversy that no serious politician should put the Queen in the middle of. 

“Now, I think this is completely and utterly against Parliamentary tradition and against the way in which our government should work. 

“If that were to happen I think there would be a queue of people who would seek judicial review.

“The Queen’s decision cannot be challenged in law. But the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen can, I believe, be challenged in law. 

“And I, for one, would be prepared to go and seek judicial review to prevent Parliament being bypassed.”

However, critics have pointed out that Sir John himself prorogued Parliament earlier than necessary ahead of the 1997 general election, thereby dodging a Commons debate on the cash for questions controversy.

On Friday, Sir John was later joined by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson in announcing their collaboration with Ms Miller's challenge.