Breaking: six opposition parties combine to call for contempt of Parliament proceedings

breaking news2

As flagged by Labour spokespeople during television interviews yesterday and today, a letter has gone to Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, asking him to begin contempt of Parliament proceedings against the government.

The call has been signed by six opposition parties – including the DUP, the government’s former ‘confidence and supply’ support.

Theresa May has withheld the government’s full legal advice on her Brexit deal from MPs, even though she failed to contest a Commons decision to order its release, with not one Tory MP voting against it.

Contempt of Parliament is a serious offence that can result in custodial sentences for non-MPs – and the expulsion of members of Parliament, vacating their seat and causing by-elections. For a government to face such a charge for ignoring the will of Parliament is unprecedented. According to the BBC’s Iain Watson, John Bercow intends to decide the issue very rapidly and possibly even this evening.

The call makes May’s prospects of getting her Brexit withdrawal agreement passed by MPs even more vanishing than they already were – and triggers a constitutional crisis that could and should bring down the government.

Labour’s leadership team has also agreed to table a motion of no confidence in May’s government as soon as the vote on the deal is over, assuming the universally-expected defeat is inflicted on her.

If the motion of no confidence succeeds, a new general election will be called if the government is unable to win a new confidence vote within fourteen days – in other words, by Christmas Day.

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    1. No, one man decides whether there is sufficient case for a motion to be placed before Parliament. Ironically it will be down to a vote of MPs to decide whether the Government, or May specifically, is in contempt. The key piece here is that the DUP have signed the letter, and the Conservatives are a minority government.

      It seems to be a completely inadequate system.

    2. What would you prefer ,,, a committee ,,, a referendum perhaps !
      It’s how it is within the rules of our Parliament , like it or not .

      1. I would prefer an independent body, whose job it is to consider evidence and whether it contradicts the rules. We could call these people the judiciary.

        Seems completely unsatisfactory that MPs will decide whether the government has acted in contempt of Parliament, as you expect MPs to vote along party lines. Therefore, a majority government would have nothing to fear by ignoring Parliament, and effectively an opt out of Parliamentary scrutiny.

        It kind of makes sense if we are talking about the acts of non-parliamentarians. However, for a government minister it seems completely inappropriate.

        Does make me wonder if an MP has ever faced a contempt motion before, and what was the outcome.

      2. “Parliamentary sovereignty is a principle of the UK constitution. It makes Parliament the supreme legal authority in the UK, which can create or end any law. Generally, the courts cannot overrule its legislation and no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change. Parliamentary sovereignty is the most important part of the UK constitution.”


        The Tories are proposing to hand partial sovereignty to the EU in perpetuity.
        I’d still prefer to remain part of a reformed EU – but always on a voluntary basis.
        I never sign blank cheques either.

    3. No. But it doesn’t get to the next stage if he finds there’s no prima facie case

  1. Whatever Bercow decides, Swawkbox is completely right to characterize this as a constitutional crisis. May’s coalition is breaking up, and her government is at odds with parliament. Labour’s opposition to the deal is bolstered by public opinion which has turned against the Tories.

  2. I know zip about constitutional issues but find this very interesting. I suspected this had the potential to be the quickest and cleanest way to bring down this fumbling but vicious Tory regime.

    A government found in contempt of Parliament is surely ignominy of the highest order…

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