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House of Commons Hansard
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Speaker's Statement
14 December 2017
Volume 633

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In view of the interest in the House, and outside, I wish, as an exception to the general rule, to make a statement about the replies I have sent today to those hon. Members who have written to me recently asking me to grant precedence to matters of privilege, relating to the motion agreed by the House on 1 November covering Brexit impact assessments.

Several Members have sought precedence to raise an alleged contempt in relation to the accounts that Ministers have given over the past 15 months of the sectoral analysis and assessment work undertaken by Departments in preparation for Brexit. I have carefully considered the representations made to me, as well as discussing the issue and the practice of the House with the Clerk of the House. I have to judge only whether to give precedence to a motion on the Floor of the House. Ministers could, with advantage, have been considerably clearer in their statements, particularly in challenging lines of questioning in Select Committees that were based on a genuine misconception. However, from the evidence I have seen to date, I have concluded that the test which I am bound to apply—that there is an arguable case that there has on this matter been a contempt of the House—has not been met in this case.

Other Members have written to me seeking precedence to raise an alleged contempt in relation to the response by the Secretary of State to the motion for an address agreed on 1 November. I have carefully considered the representations made to me, as well as discussing the issue and the practice of the House with the Clerk of the House. I have to judge only whether to give precedence to a motion on the Floor of the House. While it was most regrettable that the Secretary of State—this is a point that I made to him privately, but now state publicly—unilaterally excised some material from the papers he provided, and that it took so long to provide the papers, I also feel bound to pay due attention to the formally recorded view of the Committee that the Secretary of State had complied with the order of 1 November. I have concluded, from the evidence I have seen to date, that the test which I am bound to apply—that there is an arguable case that there has on this matter been a contempt of the House—has not been met in this case.

I do not judge that points of order can arise from these rulings.