UK Government Held in Contempt of Parliament

Posted on the 5th of December 2018 at 14:11 in the Legal News category

Theresa May's minority government has today been held by MPs to be in contempt of Parliament, after it refused to comply with demands to make the entire legal advice letter by The Attorney General, public.  A motion to the House of Commons  was passed with a large majority, signalling the first defeat for the Prime Minister's Brexit Bill. The row centred upon the Government's refusal to release the full advice letter rather than the abrdiged version offered to MPs.


The MPs voted 311 to 293 to find the government in contempt.  It is the first time in Parliamentary history, that a uk minister or government has been ruled to be in contempt, which is ordinarily a very serious offence. It is higher than being found to be in contempt of court, which is probably one of the UK's gravest offences. Following the vote and ruling, the government now has to cave-in the demands, to publish the advice letter in its entirety. 

"We've tested the opinion of the house (of commons) twice before in this very severe difficulty," the leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom said without delay after the historical vote.


She added "We have listened carefully and in mind of the expressed will of the residence, we are  to publish the very last and full recommendation provided. Furthermore,  recognising the very critical constitutional problems this raises, I have also referred the matter to the privileges committee, to keep in mind the results of the ruling."


The advice, that has already been given to Ministers in May's government, spells out the implications of the United Kingdom's Brexit deal with the European Union, agreed with EU negotiators last month. Many MPs were angered that the full details were not being made available (only an abridged version of the legal advice), and were concerned that important details were not being made public.


The Attorney General, a well known Lawyer Geoffrey Cox, had previously stated it was "not within the public interest"  to publish the full legal advice, something that MP's and many in the media suspected contained secret information that could cause damage to the UK, in the event of a Brexit. 


Leading Constitutional Law Commentator Antony Oswin of Achieve Legal Services stated, "The move was an extraordinary one, as this is the first time that Parliament has ever initiated such contempt proceedings". He added, "it is by far the biggest constitutional crisis the UK has ever faced. It is clear that MP's are declaring their authority over what's appeared to be a shoddy Brexit deal being offered to the great British public, from a government that has clearly lost the plot".


It is expected that MP's are firmly in a mood for a fight with the Government over the Brexit deal that needs to be passed by MP's on 11th December. If the deal is not agreed by Parliament, then an even bigger consitutional crisis will take place, because there will be no deal on the table, leading to what many believe will be calls for a General Election or a new Referendum.


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