Labour secure Commons victory to have Brexit impact papers published
The papers must now be handed over to the cross-party House of Commons Committee on Exiting the EU.
Ministers face the prospect of having to publish Brexit impact studies after Labour secured a Commons victory on the proposal.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the Government “cannot ignore” the decision by MPs and called on David Davis to “urgently” set a date for when he will share the assessments.
Following a stormy debate in which confusion reigned about whether the vote would be binding or not, Speaker John Bercow made clear the Government must respond quickly and he could consider contempt of Parliament claims if ministers hinder the work of Parliament by failing to act.
He also said motions of the kind pushed by Labour have “traditionally been regarded as binding or effective” and cited precedent for his view.
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
Labour used an arcane parliamentary procedure in a bid to force a vote on a motion which asks for Brexit Secretary Mr Davis to hand the papers over to the cross-party House of Commons Committee on Exiting the EU.
A “humble address”, outlined in Labour’s motion, requests the Queen to direct Mr Davis to release the documents.
Brexit minister Robin Walker confirmed the Government would not oppose the motion but took note of suggestions by Labour about redacting or summarising the information from the 58 studies showing the potential impact of Brexit on different industrial sectors.
It remains now to be seen how the Government responds, with Brexit departmental questions taking place in the Commons on Thursday morning.
Responding to the motion being approved, Sir Keir said: “This is a victory for Parliament and for democracy.”
He added: “It’s completely unacceptable for the Tories to have wasted months avoiding responsible scrutiny and trying to keep the public in the dark. The reality is that it should not have taken an ancient parliamentary procedure to get ministers to listen to common sense.
“As the Speaker has made clear, the Government cannot ignore tonight’s binding decision.
“David Davis must now respond to Parliament’s ruling and urgently set a date for when he will share these papers.”
A Department for Exiting the European Union spokeswoman said: “As the minister made clear during the debate, we take all parliamentary votes seriously and recognise that Parliament does have rights relating to the publication of documents.
“Ministers also have a clear obligation not to disclose information when doing so would not be in the public interest. We will reflect on the implications of the vote and respond in due course.”
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “Ministers need to publish these reports in full, not subject them to a Whitehall whitewash.”