(Title Image: Irish Times)
This afternoon’s plenary session began with an emergency question tabled by Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) asking for a Welsh Government statement on this morning’s dramatic Supreme Court judgement that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of the UK Parliament was unlawful as well as null and void.
Trinity of grave constitutional crimes
“Lying to the people, lying to Parliament, lying to the Queen is a trinity of grave constitutional crimes. What’s totally clear is that the UK Prime Minister had closed the doors of Parliament with the relish of the dictator that he is, and I’m very pleased that we played in a central part in the case that held the Prime Minister to account. Today we saw the true meaning of taking back control.”
– Adam Price AM
Adam Price promised to shout louder when attempts are made to undermine democracy or silence advocates; he asked whether the First Minister agreed that Boris Johnson should resign immediately given his blind spot to the rule of law?
The First Minister said the Supreme Court judgement laid bare an attempt to use prorogation powers to attack “the founding principles of our constitution”.
“It is impossible for us to conclude, the Supreme Court said, that there was any reason, let alone a good reason, to prorogue Parliament. It follows the decision was unlawful. When a Prime Minister is found to have acted unlawfully and undemocratically, I don’t see how that person thinks that he can legitimately continue in office.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)
Frustrating the Brexit process
Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), whilst accepting the judgement and the rule of law, was under no illusions as to who was to blame for this mess:
“….this Brexit impasse, and the position we now find ourselves in, has been created as a result of your Labour MPs having frustrated the Brexit process, against the will of the Welsh and British people….if your colleagues had voted for the previous UK Government’s Withdrawal Bill, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We would have left the EU by now….But we can now see that….you don’t respect the result of the referendum, because you’ve now made it clear that you want to stay in the EU, full stop.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM
He challenged the First Minister to support a UK general election.
The First Minister thought it was strange for the Conservatives to say they support the rule of law when the Prime Minister has publicly said he disagrees with the judgement and will seek to leave the EU on October 31st despite the UK Government passing a law to prevent a “No Deal Brexit”.
Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) believed the UK’s constitutional precedent was that royal prerogative powers are only limited when the UK Parliament has explicitly limited them in law – but no such law on prorogation has been passed in hundreds of years.
The First Minister replied the court was itself passing judgement on a Prime Minister who departed from constitutional norms.
Putting the Queen in an awkward position
Carwyn Jones AM (Lab, Bridgend) described it as the deepest political crisis in his 20 years of politics, but it’s not unusual for the courts to strike down ministerial decisions as unlawful – though the use of the word “improper” in the judgement is a stinging rebuke from a judge. He also said this put the Queen on the spot as she can’t be sure ministers are giving her good advice, yet she has little to no discretion in what to do in such a situation.
David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) said prorogation needed a clearer set of rules, so he welcomed the judgement. He added, to applause, that it was extraordinary to think that parliament shouldn’t sit during a national crisis. This was about more than Brexit.
Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) agreed, adding that prerogative powers had to be subject to democratic accountability not just the judgement of the courts – effectively calling for a new UK Constitution.