Leaving the EU

Attorney General – in the House of Commons on 7th March 2019.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on his Office’s priorities.

Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General

The priorities of my Office are published in the business plan. In relation to the UK’s withdrawal from the Union, my priority continues to be supporting the successfully delivery of the Government’s objectives by giving legal and constitutional advice within the Government, and, in particular, by contributing to international negotiations. I take a keen interest in the programme of Brexit-related domestic legislation and I am of course involved in supporting preparations for future international co-operation with the Law Officers’ Departments and the prosecution agencies.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. We are running late, but I am willing to accommodate colleagues. I know that Deidre Brock, notwithstanding any advance text that she has penned, will express herself with admirable succinctness, which reflects the urgency of the situation.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

I will attempt to be pithy, Mr Speaker. We now know that the Department for Transport’s botched tendering process for ferry contracts has already cost the taxpayer £33 million to settle legal action. Will the Attorney General tell us whether similar tendering processes across Government could mean further litigation, and how much public money has been set aside for the contingency of such court action?

Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General

The hon. Lady knows that she is asking me questions that belong to the Department for Transport, not to me. These matters do not come to the Law Officers unless they have a Law Officers’ point, so the reality is that I am afraid I must direct her to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

Will the Attorney General therefore confirm whether or not he provided any legal advice to the Department for Transport in relation to that contract and settlement with Eurotunnel; and if he did, given the huge public concern about this, will he publish it?

Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox The Attorney-General

It grieves me to have to say to the hon. Gentleman that he knows I will be bound, and am bound, by the Law Officers’ convention not to disclose either the fact or content of my advice, if any were given on that subject. I am sorry.