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Article 50

Volume 623: debated on Thursday 16 March 2017

6. What the legal and administrative costs incurred by the Government were of the Supreme Court appeal on article 50. (909277)

The article 50 litigation concerned an important constitutional issue that it was right for the Supreme Court to consider. The Court considered both the Government’s appeal in England and Wales proceedings and five devolution questions referred by the courts in Northern Ireland after a judgment favourable to the Government. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has committed to publishing the total cost figures in due course.

The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU has praised the article 50 debate as among the best he has heard in the Chamber. Will the Attorney General attest whether the cost to the public purse of preventing this House from having a meaningful and democratic debate was well spent or a waste of public money?

It is not a waste of public money to explore an issue of this constitutional significance in the highest court in the land, and that is what happened. Of course, if the hon. Lady were right that this was a complete waste of money, three Supreme Court Justices would not have found in favour of the Government’s arguments. She will also be aware—I must gently point this out to her—that some of the money spent by the Government was spent on responding to arguments made by the Scottish Government that were rejected unanimously by the Supreme Court.

I think that just proves that you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t with the Scottish National party. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, ultimately, we cannot put a cost on defending democratic principles such as this?

My hon. Friend is right. Again, I think there is merit in ensuring that the highest court in the land has the chance to consider a very significant set of constitutional questions. It has done that and produced its judgment. The Government have complied with that judgment, and the House of Commons and the House of Lords have passed a Bill accordingly.