BREXIT secretary David Davis was accused of treating Parliament with “contempt” by MPs yesterday after he reluctantly handed over heavily edited documents relating to the economic impact of leaving the EU.
Opposition MPs, including some Conservatives expressed fury that the 850-page dossier detailing research about the potential impact of Brexit on 58 sectors had been censored with commercially sensitive details omitted from the papers.
The government claims that revealing the details would impinge on negotiations with Brussels.
But the MPs argue that Mr Davis and the government have purposefully ignored the will of the Commons which voted unanimously earlier this month for the release of the papers in full.
Brexit committee chairman and Labour MP Hilary Benn has told Mr Davis that the decision to remove information was “both contrary to the instruction given to the government in that motion.”
“The committee will therefore need to consider whether this is potentially a breach of privilege,” he warned.
Mr Benn argued that the committee should see all the information before the cross-party group of MPs decides if anything is subsequently published.
In the Commons yesterday, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer sought answers from Mr Davis in an urgent question, but the Brexit department sent junior minister Robin Walker.
Labour MPs shouted “Where is he?” over Mr Davis’s absence.
Commons Speaker John Bercow said that the urgent question was not the time to debate whether a contempt of the House had occurred.
However, he ordered Mr Davis to appear in front of the committee within days or risk being held in contempt of Parliament.
Former Cabinet minister and Tory MP Ken Clarke accused the government of reducing parliamentary sovereignty to a “ridiculous level” and suggested that Mr Benn at least should see the unedited documents.
Mr Starmer said: “Whether [Mr Davis] is in contempt of Parliament is a matter we will come to at a later date, but he is certainly treating Parliament with contempt.”
General union GMB, which has been calling for full disclosure of the impact assessments since January, said that redacting the reports heavily “makes a mockery of Monday’s industrial strategy.”
General secretary Tim Roache said: “Any industrial strategy that doesn’t reference the potential impact [of Brexit] isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”
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