UK’s Withdrawal from the EU

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 14th February 2019.

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Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Conservative, Broxtowe 2:16 pm, 14th February 2019

I rise to support the amendment in my name and those of many hon. and right hon. Members from all parties across the House. In simple terms, it calls for the publishing of papers that I know have been placed before the Cabinet, that the Cabinet has looked at and debated, and that in stark terms identify the very real dangers to our economy, to trade and to business of a no-deal Brexit.

I had the great honour to serve in Cabinet and to attend Cabinet. You may call me old-fashioned, Mr Speaker, but I am firmly of the view that there are times when the advice given to Ministers by their officials should remain confidential and should not be shared beyond the confines of that particular discussion. There are very good reasons for that, in my view. As a Minister, I made decisions not to share things. I take the firm view that advice given by, for example, the Attorney General to the Government should be subject to legal privilege. In those circumstances, it must be right that civil servants should be able to give advice without any fear that it might be made public. They should have no fear about giving such advice robustly and honestly.

The difference in this instance is that these papers that the Cabinet has debated contain important information that I believe my constituents and those of all other Members should have. It is also the view of a number of Cabinet members that those papers should be published. The fact—which nobody has denied—that members of the Cabinet take the view that those papers should be made public is the reason that I have tabled my amendment today and seek to persuade hon. and right hon. Members to support it.

These are not papers in the normal sense; they are papers of national importance. I am told that they make it very clear what the effects of a no-deal Brexit would be. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary has said that a no-deal Brexit would be “ruinous”, and he has no doubt come to that conclusion not only because he speaks to business, as he undoubtedly does, but because he has had sight of those papers and formed that sound opinion based on their contents.