Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Lock them in the clock tower!

Three weeks ago, the UK parliament voted unanimously to order the government to release its full legal advice on Brexit, so that it would be available to them ahead of their "meaningful vote". The government subsequently refused to obey, providing only a summary and a Q&A session with the attorney-general. And so parliament is now moving to punish them for contempt:

A cabinet minister is at risk of being suspended from parliament and missing next week’s crunch Commons vote after Labour and the DUP accused ministers of holding parliament in contempt for failing to publish the full Brexit legal advice on Monday.

The fate of the minister – likely to be either David Lidington or Geoffrey Cox – will be in the hands of MPs after John Bercow, the Speaker, declared there was “an arguable case that a contempt has been committed”.

Bercow said he would accept a contempt motion from Labour, the Democratic Unionist party and four other opposition parties, allowing MPs to debate the matter on Tuesday before the beginning of the five-day debate on whether to endorse the Brexit deal.

But suspension isn't enough. This is a deliberate and pre-meditated refusal to deliver information in response to a parliamentary command. The obedience of the executive to the legislature is the fundamental bedrock of the Westminster system, and the government's refusal to obey is a direct attack on the UK's constitution. The Minister should be imprisoned until they produce the information, just like any other person guilty of a similar contempt of court. Lock them in the clock tower!