Brexit Secretary David Davis could be found to be in contempt of Parliament after the latest twist in a four month battle over the release of Brexit impact assessments.
Labour will ask Commons Speaker John Bercow to rule on the issue after the Government refused to hand over the documents to the Brexit select committee without redactions – despite being ordered to do so by Parliament in a binding motion which was passed unanimously.
Brexit minister Steve Baker promised at the time that they would be delivered in full, saying there was “no suggestion of redaction” from the Government.
But in an 11th hour u-turn, the documents sent to the committee had politically and commercially sensitive information censored.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said it was because he had “received no assurances from the committee regarding how any information passed will be used”.
In lieu of Bercow’s ruling on whether that puts him and the Government in contempt of Parliament, the next best thing is the opinion of Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Whilst no fan of millionaire toffs, one has to admit that his knowledge of Parliamentary rules and procedure is unrivalled.
So, here’s what Rees-Mogg, a member of the Brexit select committee, said in Labour’s debate on the issue on November 1…
“As to the papers themselves, I have no particular view—this is, in normal circumstances, a matter for the Government—and I would have gone along with the Government had they wished to oppose the motion. But in the event that they do not, they must publish these papers to the Brexit Select Committee in full. The motion does not allow for redaction, and a happy chat across the Dispatch Box between the shadow spokesmen and the Ministers does not reduce the right of this House to see the papers…
“…The Canadian example—over Afghanistan—shows that failure to meet the requirements of this House is a breach of privilege, and there is no protection for any information that the Government have received from outside sources on the grounds of confidentiality once it is required by this House. Any agreement the Government have made is superseded by the powers of this House and cannot be challenged in any court because it is a fundamental privilege of this House that it should be guided by its own rules.”
Looks like the Government are heading for a humiliating end to a disgraceful saga…