Privilege (Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:59 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough 2:59 pm, 4th December 2018

Much of the debate today has been about what the debate should have been back in November. I am going to dismiss those arguments. Had a vote taken place in that debate, I would have voted with the Government. However, they did not put it to the vote and they accepted the motion. That is a matter of fact. It is therefore clear that not providing the information is a contempt.

The Father of the House, my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke, and my hon. Friend Mr Rees-Mogg argued the problem that it breached the other important aspect—confidential legal advice for the Government—which I also accept. It seems to me, however, that the only way we will get something like what the Father of the House suggested is if we vote for the contempt motion, so that the Government can then come back, overnight if necessary, to suggest that option. I do not see how we get to that if we vote for the amendment because it will go off to the Privileges Committee.

I was undecided before I came into the Chamber, but because of the arguments from my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset, the Father of the House and, for that matter, Chris Bryant, it seems to me that the motion before the House, signed by spokesmen for six different parties in this House, is not actually critical of any particular Minister. All it says is what the original motion said—it is perhaps even more precise than the original motion—about publishing the legal advice. Unless something changes very dramatically between now and the end of the debate—I have to leave the Chamber, Mr Speaker, as the Chief Whip would like to have a word with me—I think that, if the House votes for the contempt, a compromise will happen and we will get hopefully properly redacted information before we vote next Tuesday.