John Bercow Confirms House of Commons will Reconvene

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has confirmed that the house must reconvene following the decision in the Supreme Court that Boris Johnson’s advice to the Monarch was “unlawful”.

In a statement, Bercow said:

“I welcome the Supreme Court’s judgement that the prorogation of Parliament was unlawful. The judges have rejected the Government’s claim that closing down Parliament for five weeks was merely standard practice to allow for a new Queen’s Speech. In reaching their conclusion, they have vindicated the right and duty of Parliament to meet at this crucial time to scrutinise the executive and hold Ministers to account. As the embodiment of our Parliamentary democracy, the House of Commons must convene without delay. To this end, I will now consult the party leaders as a matter of urgency”.

Ruth Davidson to Quit as Scottish Tory Leader as Country Plunged into Constitutional Crisis

Ruth Davidson, the Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, is expected to resign following the announcement of Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, that he wanted Parliament prorogued. John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, made a rare intervention into politics to say that the decision was a “constitutional outrage”.

The Guardian newspaper reported the expected resignation, but sources close to Ruth Davidson are suggesting that the decision was also made so that she could spend more time with her family.

Monarch Grants Request to Suspend Parliament

HM Queen Elizabeth II has accepted the request of Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, to prorogue Parliament, despite opposition to the plans from the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Constitutional Crisis for Monarch as Prime Minister Asks for Parliament to be Suspended

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has called HM Queen Elizabeth II to suspend Parliament causing a constitutional crisis for the Monarch. John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has said that the request from the Prime Minister is a “constitutional outrage”. The Prime Minister said that the decision still allowed time to discuss Brexit, but that it would allow the Government to pursue a new domestic agenda in Parliament.

The Monarch has yet to issue a statement on what her decision will be, but Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has called the request as “reckless” Philip Hammond, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, called the decision “profoundly undemocratic”. Jo Swinson, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, has also confirmed that she is writing to the Queen to complain about the request.

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said on Twitter:

“Make no mistake, this is a very British coup. 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.”

Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, said that the move was “dictatorship”.

Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, said on Twitter:

“Boris Johnson fought a referendum campaign to put power back in the hands of Parliament and now he wants the Queen to close the doors on our democracy. The Leave campaign claims are unravelling. It’s time to put this to the people.”

Republic, the campaign to end the Monarchy, said in a statement:

“Already people are petitioning the Queen to intervene, but she won’t. Not because she can’t, but because the Queen’s first priority is always the preservation of the monarchy. But Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament has created a unique crisis for the Queen. The convention is that the Queen does as she’s told by the PM. But in normal times the PM has the full support of a majority in the Commons.”

Simon Clarke, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said on Twitter:

“In 400 years we haven’t had a session of Parliament that’s lasted as long as this. We need a Queen’s Speech to set out a bold agenda for after we leave the EU – on policing, infrastructure and the NHS. And there will still be time for a Withdrawal Agreement if terms are agreed.”

Speaker and Minister Clash Over Legal Advice

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has called into question the legal advice given by the lawyers at the Department of Health during a debate into funding for those suffering from Batten Disease. Jacob Rees-Mogg had secured the debate to discuss the concerns of a constituent, but Caroline Dinenage, the Minister for Care, said that she couldn’t comment on the individual case.

Dinenage said in reply to Rees-Mogg’s speech:

“I will endeavour to respond as fully as I can to the issues that my hon. Friend and other Members raised, but I should begin by saying, sadly, that I am unfortunately unable to comment on matters relating to the availability of Brineura, a drug used to treat Batten disease, as this is currently subject to an active judicial review procedure.”

John Bercow intervened and said:

“However, for the purposes of clarification, I want to make this point. I am not aware that this matter is sub judice, as I have not received prior notification that it is. I am not aware that it is, I have not been informed that it is, and the Clerks have not been informed that it is. If it is not sub judice, nothing whatsoever precludes the Minister from commenting on this case. If it is sub judice, as colleagues will know, it is within the competence —I use that term in the technical sense—of the Chair to waive the sub judice rule, which it would most certainly be my instinct to do.​

What the Minister says is a matter for the Minister, but it would not be right, as far as I can tell, to say that it is not possible, in a legal sense, for the Minister to comment on this matter. The Minister is the Minister, and the Minister’s answer on the specifics is sought. If the Minister wishes to proffer that answer, she can do so.”

Civil servants from the Department of Health quickly debated the matter, with Dinenage then saying:

“The advice that I have been given is that I have to be very careful on the legal procedure because of the fact that it is not a legal procedure between individuals and the Department, but between individuals and NICE. I do not want anything that we say potentially to negatively impact on a family’s opportunity to get these very important drugs for their children.”

Bercow replied:

“Very important decisions are subcontracted to NICE, but policy responsibility, as the hon. Member for North East Somerset has pointed out, is that of the Government. We do not have Government by NICE; we have Government in the case of health policy through the Department of Health and Social Care.”

At the end of the debate Bercow commented:

“Ordinarily, the proceedings would now conclude, and they will do so shortly. However, I think it important that our proceedings should be intelligible not only to right hon. and hon. Members but others who are interested in our proceedings but are not Members of this House. To try to achieve that objective, I want to add, by way of conclusion, the following.

I am advised by my officials that the Department of Health and Social Care claims that this matter—the subject of the debate—is sub judice because an application for a judicial review has been made. In the light of that, let me explain. Under the sub judice resolution of this House,​

“Civil proceedings are active when arrangements for the hearing, such as setting down a case for trial, have been made”.

The Department has not supplied evidence that this test is met. Therefore, I stand by what I said earlier on advice.”

Dominic Raab Says he Would Shut Parliament if it Opposed Brexit

Dominic Raab

Dominic Raab, one of the candidates for the Conservative leadership, has said that he would shut down Parliament if it opposed his Brexit plans. The move was fiercely criticised by John Bercow, the current Speaker of the House of Commons, and Betty Boothroyd, the former Speaker of the House of Commons, as well as other senior Conservatives.

John Bercow, the current Speaker, rejected any move to prevent the House of Commons from stating its will on any Brexit deal saying:

“Parliament will not be evacuated from the centre stage of the decision-making process.”

Boothroyd said:

“I have a message for this ambitious young man: you don’t treat our Parliament, our democracy or our people that way. If you even try to impose your No Deal Brexit on us by cancelling Parliamentary proceedings, you won’t survive as Prime Minister for five minutes, you will be booted out of office and you are not worthy of your seat in Parliament which should be reserved for those who deserve the title of democrats.”

Other candidates criticised Raab’s plan, with Matt Hancock saying that it would “undermine parliamentary democracy and risk a general election” and Rory Stewart posted on Twitter:

“We live in a parliamentary democracy. You can try to lock the gates of parliament. But to do so for this purpose would be unlawful. This plan is unlawful, undemocratic, and unachievable. And the idea itself is profoundly offensive to our liberty constitution and traditions.”

Raab’s threat was also criticised by Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, who said that “I think it’s outrageous to consider proroguing Parliament. We are not Stuart kings.”

Mel Stride, the Leader of the House of Commons, also rejected Raab’s suggestion, saying that “I do think Her Majesty should be kept out of the politics of our Parliament.”

Andrew Bridgen Apologises After Comment About Paddy Ashdown

Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, has apologised in the House of Commons for a remark he made about the recently deceased Paddy Ashdown, the former Leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Layla Morgan, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said in a point of order to the Speaker:

“On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you are aware, at the beginning of Prime Minister’s questions when I was expressing my deep sadness at the loss of Lord Ashdown and his concern for the state of where we are now, the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) loudly shouted from a sedentary position, “From the grave.” I find such a comment disgraceful, and I ask for guidance on how the hon. Gentleman might, for example, retract such a statement and on whether it was becoming of the sort of conduct that we should expect from Members of this House”.

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, replied:

“I did hear those words. I did not hear a particular Member, and I did not see a Member mouth those words, but I did hear those words. I think it was most unfortunate that that was said. People sometimes say things instinctively and rashly, but it was most unfortunate. The hon. Lady was perfectly properly paying tribute to an extremely distinguished former Member of this House and someone that many would regard as an international statesperson. What was said should not have been said. If the person who said it wishes to take the opportunity to apologise, it is open to that person to do so”.

Andrew Bridgen then said:

“Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I will apologise for my remarks if any offence was caused to any Member of the House”.

John Bercow Makes Statement on Brexit Supporters Calling Anna Soubry a Nazi

Anna Soubry

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has made a statement in the Commons following the disruption of a television interview earlier today where Brexit supporters called Anna Soubry “a Nazi”. Bercow said:

“I have indeed been made aware of recent incidents involving aggressive and threatening behaviour towards Members and others by assorted protesters who have donned the yellow vests used in France. When I refer to “recent incidents”, I am more specifically referring to reports I have had of incidents that have taken place today, in all likelihood when many of us, myself included, have been in this Chamber. The House authorities are not technically responsible for the safety of Members off the estate—that is and remains a matter for the Metropolitan police—but naturally, I take this issue very seriously and so, I am sure, do the police, who have been made well aware of our concerns.”

The protesters are also alleged to have said that they hoped Soubry and Kay Burley, a Sky interviewer, were sexually assaulted.

Soubry said during the interview with Burley:

“I don’t have a problem with people demonstrating and making their views heard. I have a real problem with people who call me a traitor or ‘Soubry, you Nazi’. That is a criminal offence and I’m a criminal barrister. I’m also a lass from Worksop, so I don’t get scared by these people or intimidated. I was a reporter during the miners’ strike, so I don’t feel physically intimidated. My difficulty is I want to respond and you mustn’t, so I’m really behaving myself.”

John Bercow Referred to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has been referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards after it was alleged that he called Andrea Leadsom “a stupid woman”. The complaint has come from James Duddridge, the Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, who also called for audio and video evidence to be carefully examined.

Bercow, who has been accused of numerous serious allegations which he denies, had previously said that he would stand down by June 2018.

David Davis Ordered to Appear Before Brexit Select Committee

David Davis, the Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, has been told by John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, to appear before the Brexit select committee or face being held in contempt of Parliament. The Government had agreed to publishing internal reports about Brexit but has censored part of the text before they were handed to the Brexit select committee.

David Davis didn’t appear at the debate, but Robin Walker, speaking to MPs said:

“The sectoral analysis is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum. The House of Commons itself has recognised that, although Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament, the Government also have an obligation to consider where it will be in the public interest for material to be published”.

Keir Starmer, the Shadow Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, said in the debate:

“”Transparency” and “accountability” are two words this Government do not understand. On 1 November, after a three-hour debate, this House voted in favour of a Humble Address requiring all 58 sectoral analyses to be passed to the Brexit Select Committee—not some of the reports, not redacted copies, but the full reports. The Government did not seek to amend the Humble Address, nor did they vote against the motion. After your advice to us, Mr. Speaker, the Government accepted that the motion was binding. It is simply not open to the Secretary of State to choose to ignore it and to pass to the Select Committee the documents he chooses. Whether he is in contempt of Parliament is a matter we will come to at some later date, but he is certainly treating Parliament with contempt”.

Kenneth Clarke, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

“If the Government wished to resist the publication of the papers that they had, they should have voted against the motion, and if they wished to qualify or edit the papers that they had, they should have sought to amend the motion. We cannot allow, post-Brexit, the reduction of parliamentary sovereignty to a slightly ridiculous level. Will the Minister at least consider the possibility of sharing, at least with the Chairman of the Exiting the European Union Committee, the papers in the original form they were in when we voted on the motion, before this editing process started? The House would then no doubt be guided by the Chairman of the Select Committee on changes and omissions that are legitimately in the national interest and should be made”.

John Bercow said during a point of order into Davis’s behaviour:

“Beyond that formal statement, and in the hope that this is helpful to Members in all parts of the House, I would emphasise that we all heard what the Chair of the Brexit Select Committee had to say. He indicated that the Committee had made a public statement and requested an urgent audience with the Secretary of State, and that information from the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) was extremely important. The Minister responded, indicating a willingness on the part of the Secretary of State to meet, and to do so soon. May I very politely say to the Minister, who is always a most courteous fellow, that he was wise to make that statement? When it is suggested that that meeting should be soon, it means soon; it does not mean weeks hence. It means very soon indeed. Nothing—no commitment, no other diarised engagement—is more important than respecting the House, and in this case, the Committee of the House that has ownership of this matter, and to which the papers were to be provided. That is where the matter rests. As and when matters evolve, if a further representation alleging contempt is made to me, I will consider it very promptly and come back to the House. I hope that the House knows me well enough to know that I will do my duty”.