SECRET Downing Street memos suggesting Boris Johnson agreed to suspend Parliament nearly two weeks before it was announced have been published amid a legal battle in Scotland’s highest civil court.

Three judges at the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh ordered the release of letters and notes relating to the controversial five-week prorogation of Parliament ahead of the Brexit deadline.

READ IN FULL: First batch of memos

The documents – which include a handwritten note from Mr Johnson insisting there was nothing “especially shocking” about the move – are heavily redacted.

However, their release was opposed by lawyers acting for the UK Government.

It came during an appeal hearing as a cross-party group of more than 70 MPs and peers seek to stop the Prime Minister proroguing Parliament. Their bid was rejected by Lord Doherty at the Court of Session earlier this week.

Aidan O'Neill, a lawyer acting for the group, accused the UK Government of misleading court. 

He said lawyers acting for UK ministers had submitted arguments to the Court of Session on August 27 insisting there was "no basis for reasonable apprehension that the UK Government intends to advise the Queen to prorogue Parliament".

The Prime Minister’s handwritten note, dated August 16, called the September session of Parliament a "rigmarole show the public that MPs were earning their crust".

READ IN FULL: Second batch of memos

He added: “So I don’t see anything especially shocking about this prorogation. It is over the conference season, so that the sitting days lost are actually very few.”

A memo dated August 15, written by Number 10 legal adviser Nikki da Costa, outlined a plan to prorogue Parliament from mid-September ahead of Queen’s Speech on October 14.

This was written almost two weeks before the move was publicly announced on August 28.


It added: “Are you content for your PPS [Parliamentary Private Secretary] to approach the Palace with a request for prorogation to begin within the period Monday 9th September to Thursday 12th September, and for a Queen’s Speech on Monday 14th October?”

Beside this, the documents shows a handwritten tick and the word “yes”. The Court of Session was told this was Mr Johnson’s handwriting.

READ IN FULL: Third batch of memos

In her August 15 memo, Ms da Costa said the usual length of prorogation in “modern practice” is under 10 days, although Parliament was suspended for longer periods in the first half of the twentieth century.

She wrote: “There have been five occasions since 1980 in which Parliament stood prorogued for longer than that, the longest of which was 21 calendar days.

“The present proposal would mean that parliament stood prorogued for a period of up to 34 calendar days.”

However, she said the number of days lost would be far less due to the recess period set aside for party conferences.

Elsewhere, minutes from a Cabinet conference call on August 28 insist "messaging" on the issue should emphasise that it was not intended to reduce parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit.

Mr Johnson has always maintained the decision is to set a new agenda for Government.

The minutes acknowledge that "Parliament would not normally be prorogued for a longer period than one to two weeks". 

They add: "It should be explained why in this case the period was significantly longer.

"The Government would be attacked for this decision, but it would be manageable."

They also show Mr Johnson stating that while there was a "good chance" a Brexit deal could be secured, "there was also a high chance that it could not". 

He told his Cabinet there were no plans for an early general election. 

An unnamed minister said the new timetable would "impact on the sittings days available to pass the Northern Ireland Budget Bill and potentially put at risk the ability to pass the necessary legislation relating to decision-making powers in a no-deal scenario".

They added: "This would be a significant decision for the future of Northern Ireland."

A separate memo written by Ms da Costa, and dated August 23, outlined a "handling plan" for announcing the prorogation. 

Lawyers acting for the UK Government submitted the documents to the Court of Session at 10:55pm on Monday, ahead of a court hearing on Tuesday morning.

Mr O'Neill described this as an "ambush".

Alongside Kenny McBrearty QC - who was representing the BBC, The Times and The Sun - he had pushed for the memos to be released without redactions. 

Mr O'Neill accused the UK Government of "a complete failure to come to court and explain and justify their decisions".

He argued proroguing Parliament was a "smash and grab raid" on the constitution, intended to "silence and disempower" MPs.

But David Johnston QC, for the UK Government, said the issue is "non-justiciable". He said the decision to prorogue is a political matter, and the court should not intervene. 

He said: "This is not the kind of thing that the court is equipped to review or control, and that is because it is inherently political — and to weigh a political decision against a legal standard is to measure things that are, by their very nature, not commensurable."

Lord Carloway, the Lord President, said it was unlikely a decision will be reached on the appeal before next week.

The hearing continues on Friday.