MP brands the government a 'disgrace' as attorney general says MPs have 'no moral right' to sit in parliament

PUBLISHED: 12:37 25 September 2019 | UPDATED: 14:10 25 September 2019

Labour MP Barry Sheerman hits out at Geoffrey Cox and the government. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman hits out at Geoffrey Cox and the government. Photograph: Parliament TV.

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A Labour MP has said the government is a 'disgrace' for 'obfuscating the truth' about the prorogation of parliament, after Geoffrey Cox told MPs they had 'no moral right' to sit in parliament.

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Angered opposition MPs lined up to say that Geoffrey Cox had "no shame" and that the government was a "disgrace".

One was Labour MP Barry Sheerman who said: "The fact that this government cynically manipulated the prorogation to shut down this house so it couldn't work as a democratically assembly. He knows that is the truth and to come here with his barrister's bluster to obfuscate the truth, for him to come here and talk about morals and morality is a disgrace!

"For a man like him, a party like this, and a leader like this to talk about morals and morality is a disgrace!"

It followed the attorney general telling MPs they had "no moral right" to remain sitting in the House of Commons, comments SNP MPs called to be retracted.

"This parliament is a dead parliament. It has no right to sit and has no moral right to sit on these green benches."

He said opposition parties were blocking an election and also blocking 17.4 million votes that wanted to Leave.

"This parliament is a disgrace!"

He added: "The time is coming when even the turkeys won't be able to prevent Christmas."

Falling short of an apology Cox, however, defended High Court judges saying that while it is acceptable to be "robustly critical" of their decision, and that it is not acceptable to question whether they had any "improper" motives.

He said: "There is nothing wrong at all in any member of the public, be it a Member of Parliament or otherwise, in criticising a court judgment. But what is wrong is that motives of an improper kind should be imputed to any judge in this country.

"We are defenders of the entire democratic constitution and we must be sure in everything we say."

He added: "With the judgments, we can be robustly critical, with the motives we can not."

Labour MP Hilary Benn stood up to ask Cox if he still thought the Supreme Court judgement amounted to a "constitutional coup".

Cox said: "I do not believe that anybody does. These things can be said in the heat of rhetorical and poetical licence."

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve similarly asked about his previous statements.

Grieve said: "I was struck by the fact in the leaked document that his opinion is referred to as believing it is constitutional when I'd understood from comments he made as far back as July when prorogation was first being mooted, in order to achieve a no-deal Brexit on October 31, that he considered that such an act would be unconstitutional.

"I wondered, therefore, if this isn't one issue which he ought not to clarify?"

Cox replied: "Let me say this, just some weeks ago it was being mooted that parliament might be prorogued from the beginning of September or even earlier until October 31.

"I say straight away to my right honourable friend, if that had been the proposition, I could not have stayed in the cabinet whilst it was done."

Former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas described the response to the Supreme Court ruling as "depressing".

"So parliament has started sitting again - but government attitude so far doesn't bode well," she tweeted.

"Depressing to see the attorney general to treat the issue of the #SupremeCourt ruling on the unlawfulness of prorogation with such levity and lack of humility."

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