- Government comes under fire from MPs after Brexit impact papers are not published in full.
- Influential Conservative MPs call on the government to release the complete documents to the Brexit select committee.
- Speaker John Bercow says he will consider any allegation of contempt of Parliament against Brexit Secretary David Davis over the issue.
- Davis to appear in front of the Brexit committee to explain his department’s actions.
LONDON – David Davis has come under severe pressure from Conservative MPs over the publication of the Brexit impact reports after key details were removed from the documents.
Conservative MP Phillip Hollobone said the government and the Brexit secretary are “skating on very thin parliamentary ice” by not publishing the reports in full following a binding motion being passed by the House of Commons ordering that to happen.
The documents have been passed to the Brexit select committee by the Department for Exiting the European Union, which will decide what to make public.
Pro-Brexit Conservative MP and member of the select committee Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “If the government hadn’t wanted to publish the documents it should have voted against or amended the motion.”
He added: “It is not at the discretion of the government to decide what to take out – it is at the discretion of the select committee.”
- Neill Hall/Reuters
Fellow Tory backbencher and Brexiteer Peter Bone called for a second vote on the publication of the reports in order to allow the government to defend its decision.
Brexit Secretary Davis has agreed to appear before the Brexit select committee to explain the reports and why they have not been published in full. Committee Chair Hilary Benn described this as a “matter of urgency.”
Labour MP Benn said the government’s action “is not in keeping with this motion passed by the House of Commons,” and said: “I do object to any suggestion that the SC or I as chair that cannot be trusted to do our job.”
Benn said the committee would consider whether Davis’ actions were “a breach of privilege” and SNP MP Peter Wishart accused Davis of being in contempt of parliament by not publishing the reports in full.
Bercow: I will judge whether government is guilty of contempt
MPs from across the House were debating the government’s failure to publish the papers in full following an urgent from Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer.
Starmer said: “Accountability and transparency are two words this government does not understand,” and said that Davis is “certainly treating Parliament with contempt.”
Starmer added that he was “deeply concerned that the sum total of the government’s work… can be squeezed into two lever arch files… if this is the case we should all be worried.”
Brexit minister Robin Walker insisted that the government “had to protect commercially sensitive information” and “we have been as open as possible with these obligations.”
He also said: “We have not edited or redacted reports… we have collated information in a way that doesn’t include some material.”
Speaker of the House John Bercow vowed to consider any allegations of contempt against the government put to him by MPs.
Bercow said: “No other engagement is more important than respecting the house… if a further representation alleging contempt is made to me I will consider it very promptly and come back to the house.
“I hope the house knows me well enough to know I will do my duty.”
He reminded MPs that he ruled the “very important” original motion to be minding, adding “that remains a fact.”