‘Contempt motion’ on publishing of legal advice – News from Parliament

The House of Commons will today debate a motion finding Ministers in contempt for their failure to publish full legal advice concerning the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The debate is expected to start at 12.45pm after Foreign Office Questions and a Ten Minute Rule Motion on Planning Appeals.

Transcripts of proceedings in the House of Commons Chamber are available in Hansard online three hours after they happen.

Motion for debate

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.

Background

On 13 November 2018 MPs voted in favour of a motion that the Government should publish the final and full legal advice that the Attorney General provided to the Cabinet concerning the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

This motion took the form of a ‘humble address’ which is considered binding in terms of Parliamentary procedure.

Attorney General’s statement: 3 December 2018

On Monday 3 December, the Attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, made a statement in the House of Commons on the legal position of the Withdrawal Agreement and the publication of the Legal position on the withdrawal agreement.

Contempt in Parliament

After receiving letters from six Opposition MPs relating to the failure of Ministers to comply with the terms of the motion, the Speaker, John Bercow, made a statement in the Commons on Monday 3 December stating:

“…I am satisfied that there is an arguable case that a contempt has been committed. I am therefore giving precedence to a motion to be tabled tonight before the House rises and to be taken as first business tomorrow, Tuesday.”

What is contempt?

Any act or omission which obstructs the House of Commons in carrying out its duties can be seen as a contempt of Parliament.

What is ‘legal advice’ in this context?

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) provides legal advice and support to the Attorney General and the Solicitor General (the Law Officers) who give legal advice to government.

Image: Parliamentary Copyright

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