David Davis cleared of contempt of Parliament over Brexit impact assessments row

Posted On: 
14th December 2017

David Davis has been cleared of contempt of Parliament after MPs complained he had misled the House over government research on the impact of Brexit.

John Bercow addressing MPs this morning
Credit: 
BBC Parliament

The Brexit Secretary revealed last week that his department had only undertaken “sectoral analyses”, but had not made any assessment of how Brexit might affect different industries.

Several MPs raised Points of Order last week to ask Commons speaker John Bercow if the Government had been in contempt by suggesting that it had conducted assessments which then turned out not to exist.

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But although Mr Bercow criticised ministers for giving unclear answers, he did not judge there had been a contempt.

“Ministers could with advantage have been considerably clearer in their statements, particularly in challenging lines of questioning in select committees which were based upon a genuine misconception,” he told MPs this morning.

“However from the evidence which 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."

In a separate ruling, he criticised Mr Davis for redacting the analysis he sent to the Brexit Select Committee last month.

Around 850 pages of analysis were handed over, 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 Commons motion demanding the material's publication.

Mr Bercow’s decision reflected a statement put out by the committee itself last week, in which it said ministers had complied with the vote, even though they had not produced any impact assessments.

He said: “While it was most regrettable that the Secretary of State – a point that I made to him privately but I now state publicly – unilaterally excised some material from the papers which 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. “