DExEU minister Steve Baker [archive image].

The minority Tory government is trying to delay publication of its 58 sectoral assessments on the impact of Brexit on the UK economy, by around three weeks.

Steve Baker, a minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, has told the House of Commons that the impact assessments do not exist in the form that MPs assume.

Does this mean that Parliament has been misled by the government again?

Mr Baker said it would take three weeks to prepare the information.

Here’s the statement, as tweeted by Labour’s Seema Malhotra:

https://twitter.com/SeemaMalhotra1/status/927874880426606593/photo/1

As This Writer sees it, that is failing to comply with the will of Parliament, as expressed at the Opposition Day debate last week in which MPs voted for the assessments to be made available.

Hilary Benn, who chairs the Commons Brexit committee, made that point very clearly: The Commons voted to give the reports to his committee. They should be handed over in the form they exist now. It is for the committee to decide what is published.

Mr Baker denied this, saying some of the information is commercially sensitive. He said the government will give the committee information that is “timely and relevant”.

Wrong. “Timely and relevant” would be handing over the documents today – as demanded by Commons speaker John Bercow.

As for whether the information is commercially sensitive – the Brexit committee can decide on that, in a much more even-handed way than the Tory government, whose only concern is the good of the tiny minority it serves.

As I write, Labour’s Ben Bradshaw has asked what the penalties are for contempt of Parliament, and the Conservatives’ Anna Soubry has condemned the government’s actions as a “gross” contempt.

It seems increasingly likely that contempt proceedings will take place. Who knows what will happen then?


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