May’s government becomes the first in British history to be found in contempt of Parliament
THERESA MAY will publish legal advice on its Brexit deal tomorrow after becoming the first government in British history to be found in contempt of Parliament.
In extraordinary scenes in the House of Commons today, the PM’s Democratic Unionist Party allies joined Labour and other opposition parties to inflict defeat on the government by 311 votes to 293.
The emergency motion criticised government ministers for failing to comply with a binding Commons resolution to publish all legal advice on Ms May’s divisive Brexit deal.
A government amendment which sought to refer the allegations to the parliamentary standards committee fell by 311 to 307 votes.
Parliamentary sources close to the Star claim that Labour is aware of numerous Tory MPs having voted with the opposition.
The humiliating division took place shortly before Ms May was due to open a five-day debate on her deal, amid widespread expectations that her proposals are set for rejection by MPs.
Only hours before the vote, Ms May had told Cabinet that “candid” legal advice given to ministers must remain confidential, despite a motion passed by the Commons last month demanding the release of the “final and full” papers.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox insisted the government has “gone out of its way” to satisfy the terms of the humble address to the Queen passed by Parliament on November 13, which demanded the release of the legal advice in full.
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said: “Today’s finding of contempt is a badge of shame for this government. It is of huge constitutional and political significance.
“Never before has the House of Commons found ministers in contempt of Parliament. It is highly regrettable that the government has let it come to this, but ministers left the opposition with no option but to bring forward these proceedings.
“By treating Parliament with contempt, the government has proved it has lost its majority and the respect of the House.
The Prime Minister can’t keep pushing Parliament away or avoiding responsible scrutiny.”
A message from the Twitter account of Labour’s whips, led by Nick Brown MP, said: “The government has been defeated and goes down in ignominy as being the first government found in contempt of Parliament.
“Theresa May’s in contempt and incompetent government must now publish the full and final legal advice from the attorney general.”
The historic row is set to throw the government into even deeper crisis and cast doubt over Ms May’s political career.
The vote followed the BBC scrapping plans for a debate between Ms May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Sunday after failing to reach an agreement on the proposals.
It also comes as the European Court of Justice said that Britain can cancel its own withdrawal from the European Union without consent from other European member states.
Historically, members of Parliament found guilty of contempt were liable to be locked up in the clock tower at Westminster Palace.
In Scotland tomorrow, the Scottish Parliament is also set to vote against Ms May’s proposed Brexit deal, with MSPs calling instead for a “better alternative” to the PM’s plans be taken forward.
Four of the five political parties at Holyrood – the SNP, Labour, the Greens and Liberal Democrats – will unite to back a joint motion, which also makes clear their opposition to a no-deal Brexit.
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