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Sat, 4 July 2020

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The House Live All
By Andrew McQuillan
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MPs back moves forcing Number 10 officials to hand over messages on Parliament shutdown

MPs back moves forcing Number 10 officials to hand over messages on Parliament shutdown
2 min read

Number 10 officials could be forced to hand over details of their private discussions on the reasons behind the decision to suspend Parliament.


MPs voted 311 to 302 in favour of a so-called "humble address" compelling senior advisers to the Prime Minister to reveal the discussions they had via text messages, WhatsApp, Facebook, email, Telegram and Signal.

They include Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's most senior aide, and Nikki da Costa, the PM's top expert on parliamentary procedure.

The move came just hours before Parliament prorogues for five weeks ahead of a Queen's Speech on 14 October.

Downing Street has repeatedly denied opposition claims that the controversial move was aimed at limiting the amount of time MPs had to debate Brexit ahead of the 31 October deadline.

Instead, they have claimed prorogation is normal practice before the start of a new parliamentary session.

But kicking off the Commons debate on the issue, former Tory attorney general Dominic Grieve said he believed the secret messages would show that was false if they were released.

He claimed that he had received information which suggested the Prime Minister had misled the Queen over the true reasons for the prerogation.

Mr Grieve also claimed that under Mr Johnson, Number 10 was riding roughshod over civil service conventions.

"My concern is there is increasing and compelling evidence this trust is breaking down and there is cause to be concerned whether conventions are being maintained," he said.

Responding for the Government, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove described Mr Grieve's move as a "fishing expedition" and insisted civil servants' advice should remain private.

"This convention that advice should be private has applied to governments of all parties throughout the history of the civil service," he said.

Among those who voted either against the Government or abstained were the 21 Tory MPs sacked by the PM last week for backing moves to block a no-deal Brexit.

Best for Britain chief executive Naomi Smith said: "This is yet another humiliating defeat for Boris Johnson.

"Parliament will not let him and his government get away with keeping the public in the dark over Brexit. The Government is well aware of the damage a no-deal Brexit would cause, and has actively been trying to hide it. 

"But sunshine is the best disinfectant, and the Government now has no choice but to show people the pain and suffering that will be caused by its flagship policy."

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