Farcical Scenes As Conservatives 'Filibuster' In Parliament To Buy Time For Contempt Response Over Brexit Legal Advice

Sir Alan Duncan made a 48-minute speech when 15 would usually do.
Sir Alan Duncan
Sir Alan Duncan
PA Archive/PA Images

A Tory minister has riffed on an unlikely range of subjects in an attempt to buy time to respond to a motion of contempt against the government over Brexit legal advice.

In farcical scenes, Tory MPs piled into the Commons chamber to help Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan to extend the final debate of the day on Scotland’s foreign policy footprint.

It was the result of Commons Speaker John Bercow telling MPs that he believes there is an “arguable case that a contempt has been committed” by the government.

Bercow gave the ruling after representations from Labour, the DUP and four other opposition parties that ministers were wrong not to publish the full Brexit legal advice on Monday.

In an apparent attempt to ‘filibuster’, Duncan talked about steam engines and Scottish inventors, praised the “greatest drummer in the House of Commons” and offered an extended explanation on the founding of the Chilean navy.

SNP MP Chris Law (Dundee West) noted there was a “filibuster to the world’s end” while colleague Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) said the UK Government was “dependent on talking about Scotland to save their necks”.

Sir Alan received a pat on the back from ministerial colleague Harriett Baldwin after taking a pause during his 48-minute speech. He would normally be expected to speak for 15 minutes in response to an adjournment debate.

Opposition parties had complained, after a fractious two-and-a-half-hour debate, that the summary legal advice released by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox did not comply with a Commons resolution agreed on November 13.

Cox, who is the Government’s chief legal adviser, had staunchly defended the decision — telling MPs “there is nothing to see here”.

The Speaker however, in a statement to the Commons, said he was “satisfied” the matter should be put before MPs to consider on Tuesday morning.


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