Motion to find the Government in Contempt of Parliament

Debate in the House of Commons started (on the 4 December 2018) to approve, or otherwise, the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration agreed between the UK and EU. Prior to starting the debate, a motion to find the Government in Contempt of Parliament was debated. This was considered as a result of the failure to provide “any and all legal advice provided to the Government”.

An earlier motion had been agreed “without dissent or objection” on 13 November 2018 …

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the following papers be laid before Parliament: any legal advice in full, including that provided by the Attorney General, on the proposed withdrawal agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union including the Northern Ireland backstop and framework for a future relationship between the UK and the European Union.

The motion to consider contempt on 4 December 2018 stated …

That this House finds Ministers in contempt for their failure to comply with the requirements of the motion for return passed on 13 November 2018, to publish the final and full legal advice provided by the Attorney General to the Cabinet concerning the EU Withdrawal Agreement and the framework for the future relationship, and orders its immediate publication.

Prior to the vote on the contempt motion, MP’s rejected the Government’s proposed amendment …

amendment … to leave out from “House” to the end and insert:

“refers to the Committee of Privileges the question of whether the Government’s response fulfils the motion passed on 13 November 2018 and requests the Committee to consider the constitutional and historic context and the proper use, ambit and scope of the motion for return procedure.”

This amendment was defeated by 311 to 307 votes. (In this vote, 2 Conservative MPS – Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone, and the 9 members of the DUP voted against the Government)

MPs voted in favour of the motion finding Ministers in contempt (of Parliament) for failing to publish the full legal advice given to the Cabinet, concerning the EU Withdrawal Agreement, by 311 to 293 votes and the Government were ordered to provide the full legal advice on the Brexit deal. (In this vote, 2 Conservative MPS – Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone, and the 9 members of the DUP voted against the Government)

Following the vote, Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House, announced that the legal advice would be made available to MP’s on 05 December. She also stated:

…recognising the serious constitutional issues that this raises, I have referred the matter to the Committee of Privileges so that it can consider the implications of the Humble Address.

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