I have every sympathy, and wholly understand, the concerns of the very many people who have contacted me outraged at the PM’s announcement that Parliament would prorogue until 14 October, when there would be a Queen’s Speech and the start of a new Parliamentary Session. For they seem to have swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the Remainer propaganda that this is some kind of Constitutional outrage designed to prevent the House of Commons debating Brexit, or even to facilitate a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. Let me try to assuage some of their concerns.
First of all, Prorogation of the House of Commons is absolutely standard practice. It normally happens once a year when the Government has completed all of the business it laid out in the previous Queen’s Speech. It is an important safeguard preventing a government running the session on indefinitely, which would remove an important weapon from the arsenal of the Opposition. If the government has not completed a Bill by the time of Prorogation, then the Bill fails. Prorogation is actually something which oppositions - and constitutional parliamentarians - like, and which Governments by and large dislike.
This Parliament has now been in Session for longer than 2 years and, as I argued in this Column on 4th July, that is the real constitutional outrage, depriving Parliament of one route to control the Government. Prorogation and a new Queen’s speech on 14 October is an essential step toward the renewal of the Parliament, and a setting out of the agenda for the 12 months which lie ahead.
The argument that this somehow or another curtails Parliamentary debate on Brexit is equally wrong. We have had 3.5 years of debate on Brexit, millions of words spoken. And we will of course have the two weeks between 14 October and 31 October when we finally leave the EU for any number of Brexit debates. The House every year comes back for two weeks in September, then breaks for 3 weeks or more for the Party Conference Season. That is exactly what is happening here, give or take a few days. Prior to Tony Blair’s introduction of the two-week September sitting, the House never returned until mid-October.
The outrage, of course comes from those who would want to stop Brexit, or at very least stop a No Deal Brexit. And it is only right to acknowledge that this Prorogation makes their plans harder to achieve. Well if so, then I am very glad of that. The people voted to leave, and that is what we must now do. Frustrating arrogant attempts by others to prevent that happening seems to me to be both wholly legitimate and thoroughly democratic.
So the outrage is misplaced. It largely comes from people who are keen to thwart Brexit altogether; or those who want to ‘take no deal off the table’ ignoring the damage that would do to the PM’s negotiating tactics. I can imagine how frustrated they must feel about that. But then they were frustrated when the people voted to leave the EU in the first place. For them to use extreme language about dictatorship, ruin of our Parliamentary democracy, arrogant self-motivation and the rest merely demonstrates either that they are unfamiliar with the Parliamentary calendar, or that they were previously so determined to stop Brexit that the sudden realisation that they will not now be able to do so sparks extreme use of language.
I welcome Prorogation and the Queen’s Speech as an essential part of holding the Government to account.