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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:16 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset 4:16 pm, 4th December 2018

Let us be clear that contempt is not disobeying an order. In fact, a tweet put out on the UK House of Commons Twitter account defines contempt as:

“Any act or omission which obstructs the House of Commons in carrying out its duties”.

That can be seen as a contempt of Parliament. That is an incredibly high bar and I do not believe that Keir Starmer has made his case before the House this afternoon.

Mr Speaker, you and I love this place, but there is nothing more humorous than the synthetic confection of outrage, umbrage and humbug—that sounds like a rather dodgy firm of solicitors—that comes from this place when it thinks that its honour has been offended. It draws up its skirts like a slightly shocked maiden aunt at a risqué joke. The Opposition have, I am afraid, turned this into a parlour game—a parlour game called parliamentary politicking or parliamentary process. Let me pray in aid one or two thoughts that substantiate that viewpoint. So great is the umbrage of the Opposition that they ran out of speakers about 50 minutes ago. It strikes me that they are not exactly as hot under the collar as the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras tried to portray them as being.

Yesterday, when the Attorney General invited any question from any Member on any topic, about 75% of the stuff was to do with process and nothing to do with questions. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman was serious in his, I have to say, entirely synthetic sincerity about being more in sorrow than in anger, why was he trailing his letter around last Thursday and having it signed and sealed by close of play last Thursday? I thought that a former Director of Public Prosecutions would believe in honesty in the courts and in listening to somebody give their case before deciding what the next step would be, but he went around this place like a political costermonger selling his wares.