Bercow may consider contempt of Parliament if Brexit impact papers not published
The Speaker said motions of this kind have “traditionally been regarded as binding or effective”.
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.
Since binding motion on handing #Brexit reports to Select Committee has passed Speaker makes it clear Govt must comply or be in contempt— Angela Eagle (@angelaeagle) November 1, 2017
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.
“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.”
Contempt of privilege is a term used to describe any act, or failure to act, that may prevent or hinder the work of either House of Parliament.
The Tory MPs most determined to say our motion not binding are those who led the long campaign to take back control to UK Parliament.— Karin Smyth MP (@karinsmyth) November 1, 2017
Examples of contempt include giving false evidence to a parliamentary committee, threatening an MP, forging documents or attempting to bribe members.
If the offence has been committed by an MP they may be suspended or expelled.
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.
On @BBCPM saying we must seek the best Brexit deal for Britain - Labour wrong to call for Govt to publish docs on our negotiating position.— Charlie Elphicke (@CharlieElphicke) November 1, 2017
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.”
Winding up the debate, Brexit minister Steve Baker said the Government had not stated any intention to publish the redacted documents.
“All we have said is that we will reflect on the outcome of this debate having regard to Parliament’s rights in relation to these documents,” he added.