Proroguing Parliament: What does it mean?

The Supreme Court in London has ruled that Boris Johnson's advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was "unlawful".

Parliament would've been unable to sit for most of September and half of October, however MPs could be back in the House imminently.

Following the ruling the Supreme Court's president Lady Hale said speakers of the Houses of Commons and Lords "can take immediate steps to enable each house to meet as soon as possible".

Boris Johnson could try to suspend Parliament to force a no-deal Brexit through. Credit: PA

What exactly does the term 'prorogation' mean?

Until recently only political and lexical experts will have heard the term but since Theresa May announced her resignation 'prorogation' has become a Brexit buzzword.

The official definition of the word, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is: "(To) discontinue a session of (a Parliament or other legislative assembly) without dissolving it."

In essence the term describes the process of shutting down Parliament.

It 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, according to

A prorogation usually takes the form of an announcement, on behalf of the Queen, read in the House of Lords. The last time a monarch performed the duty herself was when Queen Victoria did so in 1854.

Queen Elizabeth II has never prorogued Parliament herself. Instead a speech is read on her behalf in the House of Lords. Credit: PA

The last time Parliament was prorogued was in April 2017 when Theresa May announced she would hold a general election.

The current Parliamentary session is the longest sitting since the English Civil War in the mid-1600s, but in a more normal political climate a prorogation happens once a year.

Usually a prorogation takes place every spring, when Parliament is dissolved before it resumes again after a break.

A regular prorogation isn't a cause for contention but the kind used by Boris Johnson is highly controversial.

  • What happened last time Parliament was prorogued against its will?

Parliament was prorogued in 1948 - without any wars being caused - but it was for a much less divisive issue.

In June, Theresa May’s former legislative adviser Nikki da Costa, explained in the Daily Telegraph that back in '48 "a new Parliament Bill to reduce the power of the Lords was being blocked by peers.

"But powers … which would allow the government to override the Lords could only be used if there had been a delay over three ‘sessions.’

"A special short session of 10 days was therefore arranged."

Parliament was prorogued in 1948 in order to reduce the power of the Lords. Credit: PA

Back in the times of Oliver Cromwell, however, a civil war between Royalists and Parliamentarians did follow a prorogation.

First Charles I prorogued Parliament and ruled the country as an executive monarch before Cromwell did the same by sending all politicians home and taking charge for himself, according to

He ruled as Lord Protector and declared war on the Royalists in the English Civil War which lasted from 1642 to 1651.

The Parliamentarians won, Charles I was beheaded in 1649 and his son, Charles II, was made a constitutional monarch in 1660.

King Charles I (L) of the Royalists was defeated by Oliver Cromwell of the Parliamentarians. Credit: PA
  • How long should 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.

However this time Parliament would have be away for five weeks - but for the Supreme Court ruling - with party conferences taking place during the suspension, with MPs due to return for the Queen’s Speech on October 15.

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.

However following the Supreme Court ruling, rather than being one of the longest prorogations, it looks like one of the shortest.