Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to hold a Queen's Speech on October 14 has sparked an onslaught of fury as critics branded the move a "constitutional outrage".

The controversial plan - described as "a very British coup" - will see Parliament temporarily shut down from around September 11 until the state opening on October 14.

Here are some of the things you need to know about Boris Johnson's controversial plans.

Is Queen’s Speech plan legit or has Boris gone prorogue?

What does prorogation mean?

Prorogation marks the end of a UK parliamentary session. The current session, which started on June 21, 2017 with the last State Opening and Queen’s Speech, has been the longest in British history.

Who does it?

The British Queen formally prorogues Parliament following guidance from the Privy Council, which is her body of advisers made up mainly of senior politicians.

Why does Boris Johnson want to prorogue Parliament now?

A new Government brings with it new plans and legislation which are set out in a Queen’s Speech. Mr Johnson insists he has asked the Queen to bring about the end of the current session of Parliament so he can start anew.

What happens during prorogation?

While Parliament is prorogued, MPs and peers cannot formally debate policy and legislation or make any laws of their own.

Parliamentary scrutiny is suspended and the powers of the Houses of Commons and Lords are effectively taken away until the next Queen’s Speech.

How long will Parliament be prorogued for?

Prorogation normally tends to be for a short amount of time – no longer than two weeks, with it leading to either a general election or the start of a new Parliamentary session.

Under the new plan, Parliament is set to be dissolved in the second week of its September sitting, possibly as early as Tuesday September 10, with MPs due to return for the Queen’s Speech on October 14.

Parliament had been due to break for its conference recess for at least two weeks in the lead up to October, even before the news of the prorogation broke, with Number 10 arguing that MPs are only losing an extra four sitting days in total.

So why has the move sparked such anger?

There have been fears for a number of months that, should the Government not be able to strike an exit deal with the European Union, the British Prime Minister could look to prorogue Parliament to prevent MPs from attempting to stop the UK leaving without a deal.

Critics believe this is what he is doing now. Senior opposition figures and Tory opponents of a no-deal Brexit met on Tuesday to draw up plans to stop the UK crashing out of the EU without an agreement.

A day later the British PM has effectively moved to curtail their time to draw-up legislation that would prevent Britain from exiting without a Withdrawal Agreement signed-off.

So could a snap general election still be on the cards?

Commentators saw the surprise announcement that UK Chancellor Sajid Javid will set out Whitehall spending budgets next week as a sign that the new administration was ramping up plans for an early election.

But inviting the monarch to Parliament for the pomp and ceremony of the Queen’s Speech on October 14 would be an odd thing to do if Mr Johnson is actually planning a snap election.

However, if opposition and rebel Tory MPs unite behind a no-confidence motion against the UK Government in retaliation against the plans to prorogue, that could force Parliament into a stalemate where a general election is the only resolution.

What is Privy Council’s role amid plan to suspend UK Parliament?

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

Mr Johnson's plan will reportedly be considered at a Privy Council meeting at the Queen’s Balmoral estate in Scotland.

What is the Privy Council?

The British Queen is head of the Privy Council whose role is to advise the monarch as she carries out her duties as head of state.

It dates from the time of the Norman kings when the monarch met in private – hence the description Privy – with his or her group of trusted counsellors who fulfilled the role that the Cabinet performs today.

What does it do?

As well as advising the Queen it provides administrative support for the leaders of the Commons and Lords. It also has responsibility for the affairs of 400 institutions, charities and companies incorporated by Royal Charter.

The body also has a judicial role as it is the court of final appeal for the UK overseas territories and Crown Dependencies, and for a number of Commonwealth countries.

It also has a number of important executive functions – UK Parliament is dissolved by proclamation approved by the Queen in Council and the monarch formally prorogues Parliament on the Council’s advice.

What is the ceremony for becoming a Privy Counsellor?

Tradition stipulates on being appointed to the post new members affirm an oath of allegiance, kiss the Queen’s hand – and here it is believed they kneel as they do so – then affirm a Privy Counsellor oath.

New members sworn in after Mr Johnson became British Prime Minister included Jacob Rees-Mogg who became Lord President of the Council as he is now Leader of the Commons.

Who are its members?

There are around 400 Privy Counsellors who take an oath of confidentiality and members are styled Rt Hon.

All the UK Cabinet are members along with some middle-ranking ministers, senior judges, figures from the Commonwealth and the leader of the opposition.

An individual becomes a counsellor for life, although their role may diminish over time.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

When are Privy Council meetings held?

The Privy Council meets around once a month with the gatherings held at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or, occasionally, Balmoral.

The meetings are held by the Queen with a Clerk of the Council and usually around four ministers, with the discussions unusually held standing up to ensure they do not last too long.

What is the Queen’s Speech?

The Queen’s Speech sets out the Government’s agenda for the coming session of parliament, outlining proposed policies and legislation.

It is delivered by the monarch during the State Opening of Parliament which marks the formal start of the parliamentary year.

Does the Queen write the speech?

The Queen remains politically neutral and above party politics so the speech is written by the Government.

Key players in unfolding political drama

Who are the key players in this unfolding political drama?

The British Prime Minister

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

Mr Johnson insists it is “completely untrue” to say Brexit was the motivation for his plan, explaining that it was time for a new session of Parliament to set out his “exciting agenda”.

In a letter to MPs, the British Prime Minister said he intends to bring forward “a new, bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit”, adding that while there will be a “significant Brexit legislative programme to get through” there should be “no excuse for a lack of ambition”.

But Mr Johnson will not escape accusations that his decision to hold a Queen’s Speech on October 14 is designed to block MPs from considering ways to thwart his Brexit plans.

The British Queen

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

Mr Johnson spoke to the monarch on Wednesday morning to request an end to the current UK parliamentary session in the second sitting week in September – a process known as prorogation.

MPs have hit out at the position the British Prime Minister has put her in, with Labour former cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw saying the move would “drag the monarch into an unprecedented constitutional crisis”.

As head of state, the British Queen is politically neutral and acts on the advice of her Government in political matters.

“The referendum is a matter for the British people to decide,” Buckingham Palace said at the time of the Brexit vote in 2016.

Jeremy Corbyn

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

The UK Labour leader said Mr Johnson’s plan to suspend Parliament was “an outrage and a threat to our democracy”.

Mr Corbyn has insisted his party will “do everything necessary” to try to halt a no-deal Brexit, calling for “an injection of democracy” so the people of the UK can decide their future.

The leader of the opposition said he is “appalled at the recklessness” of Mr Johnson’s government and said if the Prime Minister has confidence in his plans, he should put them to the people in a general election or public vote.

John Bercow

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

The UK Commons Speaker reacted furiously to the British Prime Minister’s announcement, saying it “represents a constitutional outrage”.

Mr Bercow was unequivocal in saying it is “blindingly obvious” that the purpose of prorogation would be to “stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country”.

In a searing assessment of how the Prime Minister is going about his role, Mr Bercow said that at this early stage he should surely be “seeking to establish rather than undermine his democratic credentials”.

Dominic Cummings

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

Mr Johnson appointed the Vote Leave campaign mastermind to his top team at Number 10 when he became British Prime Minister.

The appointment of the abrasive former campaign director was controversial given he was found to be in contempt of Parliament earlier this year for refusing to give evidence to MPs investigating misinformation.

Many will know him for being portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in a Channel 4 drama, as well as his role in covering a red bus with the £350 million NHS claim.

Philip Hammond

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

The former UK Chancellor, who is opposed to a no-deal Brexit, will be among a group of now ex-ministers – including Rory Stewart and David Gauke – who may not toe the Government line now they are on the backbenches.

Mr Hammond was among those disapproving of Mr Johnson’s plan, saying it would be a “constitutional outrage if Parliament were prevented from holding the Government to account at a time of national crisis”.

Ex-justice secretary Mr Gauke said the move was “a dangerous precedent”.

Dominic Grieve and the signatories of the “Church House Declaration”

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

Former British Conservative minister Mr Grieve is among a cross-party group of around 160 MPs to have signed a declaration to support doing “whatever is necessary” to stop a no-deal Brexit.

Remain supporter and former attorney general Mr Grieve has previously accused Mr Johnson of “behaving like a demagogue”.

The Church House Declaration reads: “Shutting down Parliament would be an undemocratic outrage at such a crucial moment for our country, and a historic constitutional crisis. Any attempt to prevent Parliament sitting, to force through a no-deal Brexit, will be met by strong and widespread democratic resistance.”

Nicola Sturgeon

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

Scotland’s First Minister has challenged the British Prime Minister to call a General Election before the October 31 Brexit deadline.

Ms Sturgeon said that unless Mr Johnson’s plan is stopped, August 28 will “go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy”.

She has previously said “reckless” Mr Johnson is “making up” his Brexit policy as he goes along.

Arlene Foster

Here's what you need to know about the plans to suspend UK parliament

The DUP leader said her party welcomed the move by the Government, pointing out that the terms of the Confidence and Supply Agreement will be reviewed in advance of the new session.

Ms Foster described it as “an opportunity to ensure our priorities align with those of the Government”.

Northern Ireland’s largest party, the DUP favours Brexit and had been propping up the Tories in key Westminster votes before it refused to support the Government over its proposed exit deal.

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