Sir John Major to tell Supreme Court that Boris Johnson has 'deprived Parliament of a voice' over Brexit

Posted On: 
19th September 2019

Boris Johnson suspended Parliament to deprive MPs of "a voice" over Brexit, Sir John Major is to tell the Supreme Court.

The former Prime Minister will be represented by his barrister in court on Wednesday.
Credit: 
PA

The Tory ex-leader will make his intervention on the third and final day of the landmark case.

In a written submission to the court, Sir John - who will be represented by his barrister - warned that if the judges did not rule against the Government, nothing could prevent a future Prime Minister from using prorogation "in any circumstances" - including to scrap the Army if they wished to.

Boris Johnson suspended Parliament to ‘silence’ MPs over Brexit, Supreme Court told

John Major to challenge Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament at Supreme Court

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Supreme Court Brexit showdown

And he argued that Number 10's claim that prorogation was necessary to prepare for a Queen's Speech on 14 October "makes no sense and cannot be the true explanation".

The Supreme Court is hearing appeals on two different rulings from courts in England and Scotland over the parliamentary shutdown.

The High Court in London has said the issue is not a matter for the courts - but the Court of Session in Edinburgh found that the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen to prorogue parliament was unlawful, following a case brought by 75 MPs.

Citing a previous legal case in which an estate agent was found to be in breach of the law over advice to clients, Sir John said: "It could hardly be suggested that the duties of the Prime Minister to the monarch are less than those of an estate agent to a homeowner. Accordingly, if the court is satisfied that the Prime Minister’s decision was materially influenced by something other than the stated justification, that decision must be unlawful."

And he challenged the Government's claim that the courts cannot rule on the issue of prorogation, arguing: "If that conclusion were correct, the consequence would be that there is nothing in law to prevent a Prime Minister from proroguing parliament in any circumstances or for any reason." 

Sir John said that would leave the door open to a Prime Minister “opposed to the idea of a standing army" proroguing Parliament and doing away with the armed forces completely.

The former Prime Minister added: "In any event, one of the central points of the present case — and the reason why these proceedings are necessary at all — is that the power of prorogation subverts the possibility of control by political means.

"Its effect is to deprive Parliament of a voice throughout the period of the prorogation. The inference was inescapable that the prime minister’s decision was motivated, or in any event substantially motivated, by his political interest in ensuring that there was no activity in Parliament during the period leading up to the EU Council summit on 17-18 October."

'FATHER OF LIES'

Sir John's intervention comes after Aidan O'Neill QC - representing the group of MPs and campaigners challenging the Prime Minister's decision - accused Mr Johnson of an "abuse of power" and branded him the "father of lies".

Referencing an infamous US supreme court case which ruled that black people could not be American citizens, he said: “I say to this court, don’t let this case be your Dred Scott moment.

“Instead stand up for the truth, stand up for reason, stand up for unity in diversity, stand up for Parliament, stand up for democracy by dismissing this government’s appeal and uphold a constitution governed by laws and not the passing whims of men.

“We’ve got here the mother of parliaments being shut down by the father of lies.”

But Sir James Eadie QC, acting for the Government, said prorogation was "a well-established constitutional function exercised by the executive".

And he said such decisions “are inherently and fundamentally political in nature”, arguing it was not for the courts to intervene in the decision.

The judges are expected to deliver their ruling next week.