Bercow Could Consider Contempt Of Parliament If Brexit Impact Papers Unreleased

Bercow Could Consider Contempt Of Parliament If Brexit Impact Papers Unreleased

John Bercow has said he could consider contempt of Parliament claims if the Government fails to release Brexit impact assessments.

MPs approved unopposed Labour’s motion which asked for a “humble address” requesting the Queen to direct Brexit Secretary David Davis to release the documents.

There was confusion during the debate about whether a vote triggered by Labour’s use of an arcane parliamentary procedure would be binding.

Speaker Mr Bercow said motions of this kind have “traditionally been regarded as binding or effective”.

Responding to a point of order from shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, the Speaker added: “Consistent with that established pattern, I would expect the Vice-Chamberlain of the Household to present the humble address in the usual way.

“I say what I do, as colleagues on both sides of the House, on both sides of any argument, will recognise on the strength of an understanding of advice received in relation to precedent grounded in Erskine May.

Commons Speaker John Bercow (PA)

“When I’m asked, as I think I was, by (Sir Keir) about contempt or breach of privilege.

“What I would say to (Sir Keir) is that if anybody wishes to make an accusation of a breach of privilege or a contempt of the House, that must be done in writing to the Speaker.

“If I receive such a representation in writing, I will consider it and apply my best endeavours and take advice in reaching a view and reporting it to the House.”

Labour’s motion sought to compel the Government to provide to the Exiting the European Union Committee the 58 studies showing the potential impact of Brexit on different industrial sectors.

The Government earlier stood firm on its stance of not releasing the full Brexit impact assessments.

But Brexit minister Robin Walker, while confirming the Government would not oppose the motion, said he had taken note of Labour’s points about looking at “redaction or summary as approaches”.

Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) told the debate: “I have no doubt this motion is, in all senses, binding.

“It is not parliamentary wallpaper. It’s exercising one of our most ancient rights – to demand papers.”

He said he would have supported the Government if it had opposed the motion, adding: “In the event it does not, it must publish these papers to the Brexit select committee in full.

“This motion does not allow a redaction and a happy chat across the despatch box between the shadow spokesman and the ministers does not reduce the right of this House to see the papers.”

Raising a point of order, Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) asked the Speaker what he felt “would be a reasonable time frame for the Government to respond”.

Mr Bercow replied: “I don’t think I am obliged to do that and I’m not sure how much difference it would make.”


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