‘IT IS I think unprecedented for this House to find government ministers in contempt,’ Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary said yesterday, after a a motion found May’s government in contempt of Parliament.
The motion was carried with 311 MPs voting for the motion and 293 against. Starmer continued: ‘The motion makes clear that the government must now publish the Attorney General’s final legal advice in full. I hope the government will now confirm and comply with that order.’
The Tory Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom said: ‘We have tested the opinion of the House twice on this very serious subject. We have listened carefully and in light of the expressed will of the House we will publish the final and full advice provided by the Attorney General to cabinet, but recognising the very serious constitutional issues that this raises, I have referred the matter to the Privileges Committee to consider the implications.’
MPs then shouted out: ‘When?’ She replied that the full and final legal advice will be provided to MPs today. Leadsom had moved an amendment to refer the issue back to the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee, which would have bought the Tories more time. However that amendment was defeated, with 307 MPs voting for and 311 rejecting it.
During the debate Starmer said: ‘The government is wilfully refusing to comply with a binding order of this House.’ He continued: ‘I am moving this in my name and the names of the relevant spokespeople for the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, the DUP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party.
‘The issue before this House on this motion is very simple. Has the government complied with the order made by this House to publish the full and final legal advice by the Attorney General to the cabinet concerning the EU Withdrawal Agreement and the Frame work for the Future Relationship, yes or no? That order was binding.’
Peter Grant, SNP spokesperson for Europe said: ‘A government that seeks to put itself above the expressed will of Parliament is a government in contempt of the people and is a government which has taken a dangerous step down the road from democracy to dictatorship.’
He added: ‘The government has taken on itself the right to decide what is in the public interest, not the Parliament that holds sovereignty on behalf of the public. The government declares itself to know better than Parliament, about what is in the public interest. The government places itself above the decisions of Parliament, the government places itself in contempt of Parliament.’
• After the government was found to be in contempt of Parliament, Leader Leadsom began the five day debate on May’s Brexit deal. She made it clear that if the deal is defeated, the UK will still be leaving the EU on March 29, 2019 without a deal.