Brexit: SNP MP accuses Government of contempt after information removed

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Brexit secretary David Davis is facing formal censure for holding the House of Commons in contempt after handing MPs an 850-page dossier on the economic impact of Brexit that does “not contain any actual impact analysis”.

A complaint has been sent to the Commons speaker by SNP MP Pete Wishart after Mr Davis’ department insisted that documents promised to MPs and Scottish ministers had to be redacted.

Brexit Secretary David Davis, Picture: PA

Brexit Secretary David Davis, Picture: PA

The study of 58 economic sectors delivered on Monday night does not contain any sensitive information, prompting the chairman of the Commons Exiting the EU Committee to summon Mr Davis to an urgent meeting.

The Brexit secretary was forced to release the information to the committee following a House of Commons motion, and the Scottish Secretary David Mundell also said it would be shared with the Scottish Government.

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However, Scottish Brexit minister Michael Russell complained that the dossier contains no impact analysis, and called on the UK Government to “be up front with people and publish these reports immediately”.

SNP MP Pete Wishart has accused David Davis of contempt

SNP MP Pete Wishart has accused David Davis of contempt

The Department for Exiting the EU (Dexeu) says the full information could not be disclosed because of its commercial sensitivity and potential to undermine talks in Brussels, and Mr Davis was backed by Number 10.

MPs reacted with anger when junior Brexit department minister Robin Walker was sent to respond to an urgent question yesterday from shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer. There were cries of “Where is he?” as Mr Walker rose to speak.

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Sir Keir 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.”

Brexit select committee chairman Hilary Benn said the decision to redact material was “contrary to the instruction given to the government” in a motion that passed unopposed by the government.

Mr Walker claimed the Brexit committee had not offered assurances that the unredacted analysis would not be published in full, promting Mr Benn to respond: “I do object to any suggestion that the select committee or I as chair cannot be trusted to do our job.”

Arrangements are being made to set up a reading room for all MPs to examine the documents. Ministers have insisted that the information did not exist as 58 separate impact assessments as requested by Parliament, despite Mr Davis previously telling MPs the analysis was underway.

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Sir Keir said he was concerned that UK’s Brexit analysis could be “squeezed into two lever-arch files,” although Dexeu officials claim that further work is being done.

The government also came under pressure from its own MPs, with prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg telling ministers to bring forward a new parliamentary motion if it does not fully comply with the previous request.

Mr Wishart said: “David Davis campaigned for parliamentary accountability and taking back control during the EU referendum - yet today we find the Brexit Secretary and the UK Government doing everything they can to make sure MPs are unable to scrutinise the Government’s Brexit plans.

“I have written to the Speaker once again to raise a privilege complaint over this Government’s shambolic handling of the latest episode in their Brexit breakdown.”

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