“An Act to outlaw nonsense”, proclaims one bewigged clerk at the ‘Table’ in the House of Lords. “ Le Roi le veult” declaims another, and three gents sitting on the woolsack doff their tricorn hats. It’s the old French for “The King wishes it”- and it marks the moment that an act becomes law, records what we have been doing for the previous year and closes down Parliament until the State Opening of Parliament (on my birthday 7 November this year) marks the start of the new Session.
‘Prorogation’ got a bit of a bad name during the Brexit battles; but it is an essential part of the Parliamentary year. Leaving aside ‘carry-over’, which is becoming a dangerously common practice these days, Prorogation is the moment by which all legislation has to be completed. It is incidentally a moment of power for the Opposition (and for the House of Lords) who can demand all kinds of concessions from a Government desperately trying to get its legislation through before those gents doff their tricorns.
This year there is a potential problem looming over the horizon. If Israel launches a ground war in Gaza (which seems very likely before 7/11), there will be widespread calls for Parliament to be recalled. Yet the problem- and it may only be a technical constitutionalist’s problem in reality- is that since Parliament has been Prorogued, it no longer exists, and therefore cannot technically be ‘recalled’. I guess that the clever lawyers and clerks will find a way round it.
The reality is that Israel was attacked in the most dreadful way by Hamas. They have every right to defend themselves and to demand the final destruction of that diabolical organisation, Hamas. The only way that that can be done is with a land invasion after an aerial bombardment. That is the reality of all warfare, especially ‘Fighting in a Built Up Area’ as this will be. It will be a terrible war, with countless desperately sad civilian casualties. So Israelis have a perfect right to defend themselves, but they must do so in such a way as to minimalise civilian casualties. That is made even more difficult by the Hamas cynical use of women and children as ‘human shields’. And they must do so with the fate of the 220 or so hostages, including a number of Brits, who were so brutally snatched by Hamas, very much at the front of their minds.
Hezbollah, Iran, Syria are watching ready to strike; the American carrier groups in the Mediterranean, and even our British Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, secret intelligence and Cyprus base capabilities stand ready to do whatever is called for. But there can be no escaping the reality that add it all together and a terrible conflagration may well be about to ignite at a moments notice.
So we may be Prorogued. There may be good constitutional reasons as to why we cannot technically be recalled. But with all of that hanging over our heads, I for one will be ready to return to Westminster at a moment’s notice to hear what the Government are proposing; to quiz them on it; to stand up for Israel’s perfect right of self protection while at the same time trying to find a way of minimising ‘collateral damage’- the tragic death of so many innocent people. These are dangerous times, and if necessary we must find a way to meet to hold our Government to account for whatever it is they may decide to do.