On 4 December 2018, parliamentary history was made as Government Ministers were held in contempt of Parliament over the Government’s failure to disclose the legal advice provided to Cabinet by the Attorney General on the Withdrawal Agreement.

Despite a binding vote being won in Parliament last month requiring the Government to publish that full legal advice, it refused to do so, publishing instead a commentary on the legal position, together with the Attorney-General providing an oral statement to Parliament in a move which was heavily criticised by the Opposition.

Responding to the Attorney General’s statement, the Shadow Solicitor General and Member of Parliament for Torfaen, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, challenged the Government’s decision to withhold the legal advice from Parliament on the grounds that it would offer MPs the fullest possible information of what they are being asked to sign up to in the Meaningful Vote.

Following the statement, the Shadow Solicitor General submitted a Point of Order in the House calling for the Speaker’s advice on how to proceed. He set out that a letter was submitted to the Speaker of the House of Commons signed by spokespeople for the Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Green Party, the DUP and Plaid Cymru requesting that the Speaker consider giving precedence to a motion being placed before the House of Commons that the Government held Parliament in contempt.

Speaker Bercow later announced that there was indeed an arguable case of contempt and the debate was held on that motion on 4th December. Following a failed amendment by the Government, Government Ministers were found in contempt of Parliament by 311 votes to 293, and has been compelled to release the legal advice in question tomorrow.

When asked about the proceedings, local MP, Nick Thomas-Symonds stated:

“I am pleased with this outcome. For the sake of our economy, our jobs and our futures, all possible information should be made available to Members of this House. With so much at stake for all our constituents and days to go before the vote on the deal, this House and this country deserved better from this Government. The legal advice should have been disclosed before, but at least it has been now, and MPs can know the full implications of the deal being put to Parliament.”

To watch the exchange in Parliament, see Mr. Thomas-Symonds’ YouTube here: 

Watch the exchange in the Chamber here

 

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