Hand over reports on the economic impact of Brexit or you could be kicked out of the Commons, John Bercow warns David Davis
- Commons Speaker said Mr Davis could face a charge of contempt of parliament
- Brexit Secretary gave in a dossier on Brexit but with sensitive material redacted
- Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Davis to ‘treating parliament with contempt’
David?Davis could be expelled from parliament if he fails to hand over sensitive documents about the impact of Brexit on the economy, John Bercow warned yesterday.
The Commons Speaker said Mr Davis could face a charge of contempt of parliament if he fails to satisfy MPs demanding details of impact assessments covering 58 sectors of the economy.
The Brexit Secretary yesterday handed over an 850-page dossier on the subject to MPs, but only after sensitive information had been removed.
The Commons Speaker said Mr Davis could face a charge of contempt of parliament if he fails to satisfy MPs demanding details of impact assessments covering 58 sectors of the economy
Hilary Benn, Labour chairman of the Commons Brexit committee, said Mr Davis had failed to respect a parliamentary vote calling for the information to be provided in full.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Davis to ‘treating parliament with contempt’.
But Brexit minister Robin Walker said the Government had an ‘overriding duty to the national interest’ not to publish information that could undermine Britain’ s position in the negotiations with Brussels.
Craig Mackinlay, a Tory member of the Commons Brexit committee, said calls for the documents to be published in full were being led by ‘people who want to carry on fighting the Remain campaign’.
The Brexit Secretary yesterday handed over an 850-page dossier on the subject to MPs, but only after sensitive information had been removed. Pictured: John Bercow
He added: ‘This is a committee that is deeply divided. There are many on the committee that are still fighting the referendum.
‘I think it is really rather perverse now, as some Labour members are saying, that opening up our hand to the world is in the national interest where it patently must be the reverse is true.’
... but EU keeps its position secret
While Remain MPs insist details that could undermine Britain’s Brexit negotiations should be revealed, European Commission guidelines stress the need to keep its position secret in trade talks.
An official document on the EU’s approach to transparency during such negotiations states: ‘A certain level of confidentiality is necessary to protect our interests and to keep chances for a satisfactory outcome high.’
Labour Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer dismissed the need for secrecy yesterday when his call for the Government to publish details of the likely effects of Brexit on the economy was challenged.
Sir Keir said it should be up to MPs on the Brexit committee, and not ministers, to say what was kept secret. But pro-Brexit MPs said ministers should restrict information that may harm UK interests.
Tory ex-leader Iain Duncan Smith said they had ‘every right to ensure, as the EU has, not all confidential information is made available, otherwise that might restrict our negotiating position’.
Mr Davis last night agreed to hold talks with Mr Benn next week to explain his decision to limit the scope of the publication.
Ministers are also considering a fresh vote in parliament to make it clear they do not need to release information that would be damaging to the national interest.
But Mr Bercow said he would consider a charge of contempt of parliament if Mr Davis failed to satisfy his critics.
The Speaker, who has boasted of voting Remain in the referendum, said he would ‘do his duty’ if MPs complained about the conduct of the Brexit Secretary.
A charge of contempt of parliament could see Mr Davis suspended from parliament or even expelled. In theory he could even be incarcerated in a cell in the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben, although this punishment has not been meted out since 1880.
But last night Mr Benn faced accusations of hypocrisy after it emerged he had refused a string of freedom of information requests on the grounds of commercial sensitivity during his years as a minister in the last Labour government.
Official records show the former environment secretary rejected requests for information as trivial as a second giant panda coming to Edinburgh Zoo, the location of Welsh catfish and details of the contracts regarding the cleaning of his department’s toilets.
Tory MP Tom Pursglove said: ‘If the Labour Government wouldn’t release information about waste contracts and Catfish farms, why should it now have to release sensitive information for the most important negotiations in history??
‘The Government has produced sensible analysis and answered that requested. MPs should knuckle down and read it, not use it as an opportunity to play political games.’??
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