UK: Theresa May’s government has been found in contempt of Parliament

“We have listened carefully and in light of the expressed will of the House, we will publish the final and full advice provided by the Attorney General to Cabinet. But recognising the very serious constitutional issues this raises, I’ve referred the matter to the privileges committee to consider the implications of the humble address.”

The motion, passed on Tuesday evening, did not name any individual minister.

However, if May’s government had continued to refuse to comply with the demands to release the legal advice in full then the Attorney General or other ministers could have faced suspension from Parliament.

It is a long-standing constitutional convention in the UK that Parliament is sovereign and the executive must be subject to its will. However, the government had argued that a separate convention against revealing confidential legal advice supplied to ministers had precedence.

MPs today rejected that position, as well as a separate motion to have the matter decided by a committee of MPs at a later date. The latter amendment was narrowly rejected by 311 votes to 307.

The decision, which was backed by a number of Conservative MPs as well as the Democratic Unionist Party which has propped up her government, spells trouble for May’s government as it approaches the crucial vote on the prime minister’s Brexit deal due to take place next Tuesday.

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