‘Don’t let the mother of parliament be shut down by the father of lies’, Supreme Court told

Aidan O'Neill QC watched by the government's lawyer James Eadie QC. Photograph: Supreme Court.

Aidan O'Neill QC watched by the government's lawyer James Eadie QC. Photograph: Supreme Court. - Credit: Archant

The Supreme Court has been told to 'stand up for democracy' as it heard why it should uphold a Scottish court's decision to rule the prorogation of parliament 'unlawful'.

Protesters outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to

Protesters outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Boris Johnson's decision to suspend parliament. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire - Credit: PA

In comments to the justices Aidan O'Neill QC. representing a group of around 75 MPs and peers led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, warned the court not to make it their "Dred Scott" moment where a US Supreme Court ruled African Americans were not citizens in 1857.

O'Neill asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the government's appeal against a ruling of the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, which found that Johnson's advice to the Queen was unlawful because it was "motivated by the improper purpose of stymieing parliament".

He urged them to "stand up for democracy" and not to allow the "mother of parliament to be shut down by the father of lies".

In his passionate closing remarks, he told the court: "Stand up for truth, stand up for reason, stand up for diversity, stand up for parliament, stand up for democracy by dismissing this government appeal and upholding a constitution governed by laws, not the passing whims of men.

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"What we have with prorogation is the mother of parliaments closed down by the father of lies. Lies have consequences - but the truth will set us free.

"Rather than allow lies to triumph, this court should listen to the angels of its better nature and rule that this prorogation is an unlawful abuse of power of prorogation which has been entrusted to the government.

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"But this government has shown itself unworthy of our trust as it uses the power of office to which is corrosive of the constitution and destructive of the system of parliamentary representative democracy on which our union polity is founded.

"Enough is enough. Dismiss this appeal and let them know that. This is what truth speaking to power sounds like."

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O'Neill said documents provided to the court in the Scottish proceedings contradicted Johnson's public reason for proroguing parliament, namely that it was to allow sufficient time for a new Queen's Speech.

He submitted that those documents - a memo to the prime minister on prorogation, dated August 15, and the prime minister's handwritten response of the next day - showed that "the true dominant purpose of prorogation was, as the Inner House correctly observed, to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive regarding Brexit".

He added: "Lying (albeit wholly unconvincingly) about the true reasons for exercising the prorogation power in the manner, at the time and for the period it has been exercised in this case, calls into question the lawfulness of the executive's action."

Referring to the government's failure to submit a witness statement or affadavit to the court, O'Neill said that it could normally be assumed that the government would not resort to "low, dishonest, dirty tricks - but I'm not sure we can assume that of this government".

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