Crisis point: May’s government risks being in contempt of Parliament over refusal to release Brexit papers

Theresa May’s minority Conservative government was in crisis after Parliament ordered her to release 58 secret studies into the economic effects of Brexit – and her ministers refused to say whether they would agree to the demand.

Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Exiting the EU, Keir Starmer, used an antiquated procedure called a “humble address”, in which the Queen is asked to direct that the documents – “sectoral impact assessments” – must be released.

As this was an Opposition motion, the government refused to allow Conservatives to vote on it. Several prominent Tories including Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston had spoken in favour of releasing the documents, prompting accusations that Mrs May knew she would lose the vote – and has lost control of the Parliamentary process of exiting the EU.

It meant the motion, for the assessments to be released to the Commons’ Brexit select committee for scrutiny, passed unanimously.

Independent Parliamentary clerks delivered a bombshell: The decision is binding on the government. That is to say that the governent must now deliver the documents or face the possibility of being found in contempt of Parliament.

And the Commons’ Speaker, John Bercow, said he would consider “carefully” any representations alleging contempt if the documents were not delivered promptly.

“I would consider that matter most carefully,” he said. “The question of time, in both the context of the decision taken by the House tonight and the wider context of public policy, is an important question, and yes, it does form part of the equation that the Chair would have to address.”


So, what happens now? Twitter has been a flurry of activity:

If Tom Newton Dunn’s tweet is accurate, then there could be more angry scenes as redacting the documents would be denying the will of Parliament and the government could still be facing allegations of contempt.

Last word – for now – should go to Dennis Skinner, who ended the debate by asking the Speaker: “I know that Mr Speaker likes to reply to points of order, so I will just throw him one. He and I have been here a long time, so, like me, does he feel that the Government are dying on their feet?”

Mr Bercow did not answer – perhaps because the answer is obvious.

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5 thoughts on “Crisis point: May’s government risks being in contempt of Parliament over refusal to release Brexit papers

  1. Jeffrey Davies

    did they release dwp figures hmmm did greyling tell the truth hmm yet may is committing fraud like most of them awarding contracts to companies they get monies from fraud theyshould be tried for and then culling the stock under mps eyes

  2. marcusdemowbray

    I am not religious, but I pray that this is the beginning of the end. Redacted copies should still be classed as contempt of Parliament. The Tories have already been contemptuous of Parliament, the Constitution, Democracy, The Law, the UK and its people and even the Queen. It is time for the Tories to be sent packing.

  3. NMac

    The rotten and corrupt Tory government sinks into a stinking cesspit of its own making. I suspect the release of these papers will totally and utterly discredit the Brexit case and expose the dishonesty of the Leave campaign.

  4. Barry Davies

    It would depend on who actually did the impact studies who commissioned them and what were the parameters set on the studies, as there were so many it would be logical that they were not all identical, or indeed not all if any could be taken as being meaningful. Keir starter as we all know is a rabid eurofederalist who has no thought for the democratic process, or what the British people actually want, just his own agenda, it’s time that he was demoted to where he belongs on the back benches.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’d probably agree with your first sentence.
      Shame you had to ruin things with your second sentence.

Comments are closed.