Fury as Tory Cabinet minister claims 'many people' believe judges are biased over Brexit after prorogation ruling

'Many people up and down the country, are beginning to question the partiality of judges'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 12 September 2019 09:38 BST
Cabinet minister Kwasi Kwarteng says judges involved with decisions on Brexit are 'interfering'

A cabinet minister has ignited a fresh row after suggesting "many people" believe the courts are biased in relation to Brexit.

Kwasi Kwarteng - a business minister - made the incendiary remarks after judges in Scotland's highest civil court branded Boris Johnson's suspension of parliament as "unlawful".

The comments also came just hours after Downing Street was forced to defend the impartiality of judges, following accusations of political bias from Number 10 sources.

Asked about the Scottish court's judgement, Mr Kwarteng told the BBC: "Many people are saying - I'm not saying this - but, many people... are saying the judges are biased. The judges are getting involved in politics.

"I think that they are impartial, but I'm saying that many people, many Leave voters, many people up and down the country, are beginning to question the partiality of judges. That's just a fact."

Mr Kwarteng, a supporter of Brexit who was promoted to cabinet level when Mr Johnson formed his new government, added: "The extent to which lawyers and judges are interfering in politics is something that concerns many people."

The comments were seized upon by the ex-justice secretary David Gauke, who said: "I like Kwasi a great deal but he's got this badly wrong. This is not how government ministers should speak about the judiciary."

He later added on the BBC that questioning the impartiality of judiciary was "not acceptable" and "not responsible".

David Lidington, another former justice secretary, who was most recently Theresa May's deputy, also responded to the cabinet ministers comments.

He said: "I've seen no evidence of the courts getting involved in politics but rather English & Scottish courts grappling with important legal/constitutional questions referred to them by UK citizens - and coming to different reasoned judgements."

Former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Menzies Campbell also hit out as the remarks, claiming they were "ill-judged."

"I would expect a government minister to understand the importance of the independence of the judiciary and not make any comments that might undermine public perceptions," he said.

The row followed the surprise judgement by Scotland's highest court on the legality of the government's decision to prorogue parliament, and accused the prime minister of misleading the Queen about his motives for the contentious action.

In a devastating ruling, the Court of Session in Edinburgh said it would make an order declaring the prime minister’s advice to the Queen unlawful and the prorogation issued in her name “null and of no effect”.

Downing Street said it was “disappointed” by the judgment, which overturned a previous finding that the decision on prorogation was for politicians and not the courts.

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