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Privilege (Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:59 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Father of the House of Commons 12:59 pm, 4th December 2018

Obviously, parliamentary sovereignty and the duty of Government to obey motions is extremely important to the House, but my right hon. Friend is rightly describing the other problem of the confidentiality of legal advice, which Labour and Conservative Governments need as well. Is there not a sensible solution to this, as opposed to this current party political exchange? The Opposition could agree to receive a confidential briefing on Privy Council terms, look at the documents and have the Attorney General point out those parts that, in everybody’s view, might damage the national interest or damage the negotiating position of any Government of any party, and in effect agree to redact the documents. The politically embarrassing bits, which are what the Opposition are after, and all the rest of it can come out.

Both the conventions—that the House must be obeyed and that the Attorney General’s legal advice should be confidential—should be protected, and that is a possible way of reconciling them.