Privilege (Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:22 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney 3:22 pm, 4th December 2018

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for making that point. Of course, he has considerable experience in those matters, but we are dealing here with a wholly different consideration. He deals with circumstances in which he has been subject to a court order, which brings me precisely to my point. No doubt he will say to me that Parliament is a court—it is the high court of Parliament, the highest court in the land—and I accept the force of that point, but the court before which he has been used to appearing, and the court before which I have been used to appearing at the Bar, has a procedure for dealing with such matters that we do not have here.

A number of Members have already referred to the Freedom of Information Act, which contains exemptions for certain purposes. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will also be aware of public interest immunity applications, which are made when cases are being prosecuted, and a judge can look confidentially at documents and there can be redactions and so forth. None of that applies here, because this procedure is not designed for the purpose for which it is being employed by the Opposition. There simply is no mechanism for this procedure to deal with issues of the gravity of those with which we are dealing now. To its great credit, the Government’s proposal offers a way of looking at that.