Bercow to consider contempt allegations over Brexit impact assessments release

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John Bercow is to consider contempt of Parliament allegations aimed at the Government over its handling of the release of Brexit impact assessments.

SNP Commons leader Pete Wishart confirmed he has written to the Speaker to formally make an allegation of contempt for “refusing to fully comply with a binding vote” of the House.

Mr Bercow said he has yet to read the letter, adding he will study it “most carefully”.

MPs last week approved a parliamentary motion which pushed the Government to release its analysis on 58 sectors of the economy to the Exiting the EU Select Committee.

Brexit minister Steve Baker earlier said the Government expected to publish analysis of the economic impact of Brexit within three weeks.

But Conservative former minister Anna Soubry said the information should be released “properly and quickly” and labelled the response a “gross contempt” of Parliament.

Raising a point of order, Mr Wishart told the Speaker: “The Government has been mandated on a binding vote of this House to deliver analysis papers to the Brexit select committee as directed in the motion.

“They have to, as the motion clearly intends, do so without qualification, redaction or equivocation.

“There’s also an expectation the Government complies with the will of the House as a matter of urgency.”

Mr Wishart criticised Mr Baker’s response to the urgent question, adding of the three-week timescale: “This appeared to be an intention, not a binding promise or guarantee.

“He also suggested that the publication of these papers could be partial and qualified. He even went as far to suggest that these papers didn’t even exist.

“Mr Speaker, you have said a failure to comply fully would mean the Government could be in contempt of this House.

“I have now written to you regarding a privilege complaint that this Government has held this House in contempt for refusing to fully comply with a binding vote of this House.”

Mr Bercow, in reply, said: “He is quite right in his assessment that the correct way in which to proceed with an allegation of contempt is in writing to the Speaker.

“He has just informed the House he has just written to me. He will understand I have not yet seen his letter. I can, however, assure him I will study his letter most carefully.

“He will also I’m sure appreciate that I will not and cannot be expected to entertain… hypothetical scenarios as to what might follow.

“I will consider his letter carefully and when I have formed a view about it and any allegation it contains I will revert in all probability not only to (Mr Wishart) but, as necessary, to the House.”

Contempt of privilege is a term used to describe any act, or failure to act, that may prevent or hinder the work of either House of Parliament.

Examples of contempt include giving false evidence to a parliamentary committee, threatening an MP, forging documents or attempting to bribe members.

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