What is a ‘prorogued Parliament’ and when was it last suspended in UK? Will it affect Brexit?



Parliament has been suspended for more than a month, with the move happening only days after MPs returned to work from their summer break on September 3.

In a process known as prorogation, all parliamentary business has now been put on hold until October 14 when a Queen’s Speech will open a new session of parliament.

While prorogation is standard parliamentary procedure, the timing of the move has sparked outrage across the political spectrum as it has given MPs limited time to pass any new laws preventing a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced legal challenges over his decision to prorogue parliament with a Scottish Court ruling the move was “unlawful”, while MPs have staged symbolic protests in the Commons over the plans.

The government said it is lodging an appeal against the Scottish ruling, while Mr Johnson has denied lying to the Queen over the suspension. The Prime Minister insists he needs a Queen’s Speech to set out a “very exciting agenda” of domestic policy.

But what does it mean to prorogue parliament, and what does this mean for Brexit?

Here is everything you need to know:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to suspend Parliament: Dylan Martinez/PA Wire Dylan Martinez (PA)

What does a suspended parliament mean?

Suspending parliament usually happens for a short time before a new session starts. Also known as prorogation, it simply means the end of a current parliamentary session.

The Queen prorogues parliament on the advice of the Privy Council, and usually a statement will be read out in the House of Lords on her behalf.

After this short ceremony, neither the House of Commons or House of Lords will meet again until the State Opening of Parliament. 

During the suspension, all parliamentary business is ended. This means no debates or votes are held, and new laws can’t be passed or new motions or questions tabled.

Bills and motions that have not completed their journey through Parliament will not progress further. 

However bills may be carried over to the next session.

This process is different to dissolving parliament, which happens during a general election and requires MPs to give up their seats to campaign.

What is prorogation?

Prorogation is standard practice in the parliamentary calendar, and usually happens for a short time once a year in the spring before the formal start of a new parliamentary session. 

Once parliament is suspended, MPs can only get back to work once the Queen’s Speech has been read out at the State Opening of Parliament, which sets out the government’s plans and policies for the upcoming session.

While parliamentary sessions tend to last one year, the current one has been running since the general election in June 2017 – the longest in history.

New governments will look to hold a Queen’s Speech after winning a general election, again to outline their plans ahead of the new session. Mr Johnson insists he has asked the Queen to bring about the end of the current session of Parliament so he can start anew.

Is there precedent for this? 

According to the BBC, during the last two times that parliamentary suspensions happened when it was not after a general election, they lasted for four and 13 days.

Theresa May’s former legislative advisor wrote in the Daily Telegraph that, in 1948, a special short parliamentary session of 10 days was introduced to speed up the passage of the 1949 Parliament Act.

Suspension also happened in 1628 under Charles I, who ruled the country as an executive monarch before Oliver Cromwell did the same. It also happened during the Great Reform Crisis in 1831 and under John Major in 1997.

What does this mean for Brexit? 

The timing of the suspension has caused controversy, as it will see Parliament closed for 23 working days until just a fortnight before the final October 31 Brexit deadline.

Since no parliamentary business can take place during suspension, it will limit the amount of time MPs have to debate any Brexit deal.

While MPs can approve dates, they can’t block prorogation. 

But the move has been slammed by MPs from across the political spectrum, with Commons Speaker John Bercow calling it a “constitutional outrage” and former chancellor Philip Hammond describing it as “profoundly undemocratic”. 

It means there is extra pressure on MPs to come up with a solution in the time remaining, which is now just 14 days



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