The prorogation of Parliament ‘is not an underhand or undemocratic mechanism’, Pudsey Conservative MP Stuart Andrew has said.
His comment comes as Labour’s Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of ‘setting an alarming precedent’.
And the former chair of Pudsey Conservatives, who quit over Mr Johnson’s appointment last month, has called on Conservative supporters to resign from the party in protest.
The Prorogation of Parliament is the formal name given to the period between the end of a session of parliament and the “State Opening” of Parliament that begins the next session.
In a statement, printed in full below, Mr Andrew backed the prime Minister’s decision and said:
“It would be inappropriate not to directly address the issue currently dominating the headlines. I have had a lot of discussions with my constituents on the decision taken on prorogation and I do recognise that there are strong feelings on both sides of the argument.
“Let me state my view plainly and clearly. The Prime Minister is not seeking to take us out of the European Union without a deal – extensive efforts are being made to secure one as we speak.
“In trying to secure the best deal possible with the European Union, the Prime Minister is quite right to say the only way to do so is to prepare to leave without a deal.
“The ability to leave without a deal is our strongest negotiating card, and at last it is being played in the right way. In addition to this, every measure possible is being put into place at every level of Government to ensure the country is as ready as possible should we need to leave in such circumstances.
“The prorogation of Parliament is not an underhand or undemocratic mechanism.
“Parliament is traditionally prorogued every year. Prorogation is the formal signal of the end of each session of Parliament and it allows for the preparation of the Queen’s Speech, which will set out the legislative agenda for the new Parliamentary session. Parliament was already due to be in recess for the annual Party Conferences anyway, as it is every year. The prorogation of Parliament on this occasion extends this only very slightly.
“The current Parliamentary session has been running for two years, notably the longest period since the English Civil War. The current session was set as such to give Members of Parliament the time to fully consider the laws required to allow us to prepare for exiting the European Union.
“Given the length of the current session and the introduction of a new Prime Minister, it is entirely understandable and routine to prorogue this session so that the new Government can bring forward its own legislative agenda.
“I do understand that there is a view that this move is designed deliberately to prevent those opposed to leaving the European Union without a deal from having their say. This simply is not the case.
Between the referendum and 31 March 2019, when we were due to leave the European Union, Parliament spent 501 hours debating how we should do this.
“The former Prime Minister lost her premiership trying to convince Members of Parliament to accept the Withdrawal Agreement, which was made clear by the European Union, at the time, to be the only offer on the table. In Parliament, this Agreement was rejected three times, twelve alternatives were suggested and rejected, and a second referendum was also rejected three times – facts which are difficult to reconcile with the view that the Prime Minister is using Parliamentary procedures to undemocratically supress the voice of a Parliament that has been debating this for three years.
“The Prime Minister has also made it clear that Parliament will have adequate time to debate the agenda in the Queen’s Speech and the outcome of the European Council meeting on the 17th and 18th October once all the facts are clear and the European Union has had a chance to consider whether they are willing to make changes to the backstop, which brought down the previous Withdrawal Agreement.
“On the subject of the Withdrawal Agreement, I consistently voted in favour of the former Prime Minister’s Agreement as it is not my preference to leave the European Union without a deal. I understood this was the only credible option on the table and I did encourage my colleagues across the house to understand this and to not frustrate the result of the referendum.
“More recently, I have met with and spoken to many businesses and residents in my constituency who have made it clear that what they are finding difficult is the ongoing lack of certainty.
“They want us to make this decision and simply get on with it. The ongoing uncertainty and further endless delay that many are pushing for is the very last things that individuals and businesses need.
“There has been a great deal of discussion on prorogation amounting to a betrayal of democracy.
“The greatest betrayal of democracy would be to ignore the outcome of the referendum and to remain in the European Union. In 1998, I campaigned hard as a passionate Welshman for a “No” vote in the Welsh Devolution Referendum. Even though we lost by a tiny margin of 50.3% to 49.7% we immediately accepted the result. Democracy is one of the great cornerstones of British society, and for democracy to survive, it relies upon those in power to do as they are instructed by the electorate and for those on the losing side to accept defeat.
“As a Government and as a Parliament we have been accused of allowing Brexit to crowd out all the other important issues that matter to the country. The Queen’s Speech will allow us to set a new legislative agenda, so that we can begin tackling these crucial issues such as supporting the NHS, tackling violent crime and the biggest threat to our planet, climate change. The Queen’s speech will allow us to do this and so should be welcomed.”
Labour’s Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves criticised the decision as ‘deeply undemocratic’. She said:
“Suspending Parliament is a constitutional scandal. Boris Johnson is behaving like a tin-pot dictator who is terrified of scrutiny of his no-deal Brexit, which would have a devastating impact on jobs and business.
“His attempt to block MPs from doing the job they were elected for and debating his cliff-edge Brexit is deeply undemocratic and sets an alarming precedent.
“We won’t allow Parliament to be gagged through this act of cowardice from a leader who lacks the confidence to even listen to the fatal flaws in his plans.
“I will do everything possible to stop him bypassing Parliament and shutting the door on democracy. No-one voted for a no-deal Brexit.”
The ex-Chairman of the Pudsey Conservative Association has called on his former Tory colleagues to resign their membership, after Boris Johnson decided to suspend Parliament for five weeks.
Dr Jason Aldiss, who resigned as Chairman of the Pudsey Conservative Association together with his membership of the party after almost 25 years on the day Mr Johnson was appointed Prime Minister, said Mr Johnson aimed to stop MPs legislating against a no-deal Brexit. He said:
“I said long before Boris Johnson entered Downing Street that he was unfit to hold high office. His actions in the few short weeks since becoming Prime Minister have only served to reinforce this view.
“By choosing to suspend Parliament when we are in the midst of a national crisis, Boris Johnson is treading the path of coward which is not remotely in the traditions of a once-great party.
“Those who choose to stay inside his treacherous tent will be as complicit as the Prime Minister for the untold damage caused to the economy and reputation of our country.
“Honourable Conservative Party members – elected and unelected – who consider themselves to be patriots and democrats who believe in the rule of law, freedom and British constitutional norms should resign en masse and declare publicly that they have done so.
“Many of my former colleagues are well aware of the vortex which has enveloped them, but are prepared to bury their own principles in the hope of political gain.
“The Brexit experiment, if it is allowed to proceed on the course Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings has set, will lead to disaster for the United Kingdom.
“The Conservative Party I joined in 1995 is already a casualty. It has become a ghoulish farce controlled and run by the living dead.”