MPs have voted in favour of the motion finding ministers in contempt of Parliament. It is the first time in history a government has been found in contempt of parliament. The government will now publish its full legal advice on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Andrea Leadsome said the government would respond fully on Wednesday.
Labour MP Hilary Benn said “This Government is in office but is no longer in power”.
In all – 311 voted that the government were in contempt, with 293 voting against the motion.
Latest: MPs are currently voting on a motion tabled by Tory MP Dominic Grieve which would give the Commons more of a say on what happens if Mrs May’s deal is rejected in the meaningful vote further down the line.
Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, says: “Today’s finding of contempt is a badge of shame for this government. It is of huge constitutional and political significance.
“Never before has the House of Commons found ministers in contempt of parliament. It is highly regrettable that the government has let it come to this, but ministers left the opposition with no option but to bring forward these proceedings.
“By treating parliament with contempt, the government has proved it has lost its majority and the respect of the House.
“The Prime Minister can’t keep pushing parliament away or avoiding responsible scrutiny.”
Thumping defeat for Government on substantive contempt motion 311-293 – a number of Tories must have sat in their hands…
First time Government ministers found in contempt
Terrible backdrop for PM’s historic opening to Meaningful Vote debate
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) December 4, 2018
The Government has been found to be in ‘contempt of parliament’ by failing to adhere to a motion passed in November 2018. This outcome follows several days of frustration from opposition MPs, alongside backbench members of the Conservative Party.
Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer claimed that the Government ‘wilfully refused to comply’. He has asserted the belief that ministers wilfully defied the will of the House of Commons. Their numerous requests to have full access to the legal advice were dismissed and ignored by the Government.
Ministers have repeatedly refused to release the Attorney General’s full and final legal advice on their Brexit deal, as ordered by Parliament.
We have been left with no option but to press ahead with contempt. This is our cross-party motion that will be debated tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/iy2YpXTaJ8
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) December 3, 2018
Yesterday, it was hoped that the appearance of the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, would quell the calls for full legal advice from MPs. But, Geoffrey Cox antagonised members of the House. He claimed that issuing the full advice would ‘not be in the public interest’.
Cox gave his statement in the House of Commons on Monday. He claimed that the deal on offer is a ‘sensible compromise’. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP, challenged him for not obeying the will of the House.
In response to criticism from across the House, Cox said: ‘I sincerely believe it would not be in all of our interests’ to release the full legal advice on Brexit. He also published a brief summary, only fifty pages in length – in an attempt to satisfy the House of Commons.
Following his appearance in the House, a letter was sent on behalf of six opposition parties to John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons – in which members called for a vote to be held against the then alleged ‘contempt of parliament’
The Government has failed to publish the Attorney General's full and final legal advice on the Brexit deal, as was ordered by Parliament.
We have been left with no option but to write to the Speaker of the House of Commons to ask him to launch proceedings of contempt. pic.twitter.com/LNfUmHg7Tb
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) December 3, 2018
It remains unclear whether or not any members will face suspension, following the vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
In a further blow to May MPs voted for an amendment that ensured MPs get a vote on a “plan B” Brexit if May’s deal is voted down. The amendment passed by 321 votes to 299 – a majority of 22.
May’s deal is even more unlikely to pass now as she cannot threaten No Deal or No Brexit should it be voted down.
Comment from Thomas Howard, Editor:
The Government has defied the will of the House, by failing to adhere to a motion in November 2018. It has been speculated that members could face suspension, especially Geoffrey Cox MP.
It has come as another major defeat for the Government and suggests that their chances of holding onto power are becoming ever slimmer – especially as they are set to lose their upcoming vote on Brexit.
Some individuals believe that Theresa May will resign as Prime Minister by Christmas 2018.