David Davis hauled before MPs as row erupts over publication of Brexit impact studies
David Davis has been ordered to appear before a powerful committee of MPs as he came under fire from senior Tories over the Government’s publication of the Brexit impact papers.
Around 850 pages of analysis have finally been handed over to the Brexit select committee - but with key information left out amid claims it could be commercially sensitive or undermine negotiations with Brussels.
Committee chair Hilary Benn said by omitting the material, ministers may have breached parliamentary privilege by snubbing the terms of a motion demanding the material's publication which was passed by the Commons earlier this month.
In a letter to Mr Davis, Mr Benn said he should appear before the committee "as a matter of urgency" - possibly as soon as next Monday.
His request was repeated by the Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, who told MPs that Mr Davis should address the committee "very soon indeed" to clarify the Government’s position.
In the Commons, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said Parliament had made clear that ministers must hand over the “full reports” without any editing or redaction.
“The Government accepted that the motion was binding. It is simply not open to the Secretary of State to choose to ignore it and to pass to the select committee the documents that he chooses,” Mr Starmer said.
“Whether he’s in contempt of Parliament is a matter we’ll come to at some later date, but he’s certainly treating Parliament with contempt.”
'NOT EDITED OR REDACTED'
Brexit minister Robin Walker said his department had been clear from the outset that reports were not available “in the form requested” in that Commons vote.
However it was Mr Davis himself who told MPs at the end of last year that DExEU had conducted “about 57…sectoral analyses, each of which as implication for individual parts of 85% of the economy”.
Mr Walker also insisted the Government had not “edited or redacted reports” but had instead “collated information in a way which doesn’t include some sensitive material”.
"The material we have provided to the select committee is very substantial," he told the Commons.
"It is bizarre for the Right Honourable Gentleman [Mr Starmer] to dismiss it without having yet seen it and when committee members have had an opportunity to consider it fully and reflect on it I think they will reasonably conclude that the Government has fully discharged the terms of the motion."
Several Tory MPs suggested the Government could deal with the current impasse by passing a new motion making clear that ministers can withhold information that could damage the UK's negotiating stance.
"I do understand there is a dilemma for the Government," said veteran eurosceptic Peter Bone.
"There is one recent motion that clearly says all documents should be delivered. There’s a previous motion in this House that says the government should not produce anything that damages our negotiations. I do think those motions are not clear so would it not be an idea for the Government to come back with another motion clarifying the situation."
Another Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said it was up to the Government "either to meet the terms of the motion in full or to seek to put down a new motion".