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tv   BBC News  BBC News  December 4, 2018 1:30pm-2:01pm GMT

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h “a fi it ‘a' “a ii if ua‘fl of not turning up the think they're going to lose. maybe the problem is they get so used to being allowed to ignoring the views and opinions of parliament that they forgot that sometimes parliament takes decisions they are not allowed to ignore. maybe that's why they are so upset how. maybe that's why they are so upset now. alongside the issues about what and what should not be made available to members of parliament and the public, maybe it is because this decision has laid bare the incompetence at the heart of a government that does not even know the basics of parliamentary procedure. i will give way.” the basics of parliamentary procedure. iwill give way. ithank the honourable gentleman for giving way. i am just wondering whether this commitment to openness means he will be asking the scottish legal officer to publish all of her advice in the scottish parliament in future. mr speaker, i have absolutely no doubt that if the parliament that represents the people of scotland gives a binding
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direction to the elected government of scotland, the elected government of scotland, the elected government of scotland, the elected government of scotland will comply with that binding direction. no such binding direction has been given but let's not try to deflect attention from the clear and blatant contempt that is being committed against this house with completely false accusations. we have a government who are behaving like a football team that does not turn up for friendlies if they think they are going to get beat. and then they discover they have missed a cup final and forfeited the tie with a notional 3—0 score. they are now not only asking to replay the final but claiming the score is void because the goals would have been offside if they had been there to defend them. we are not talking about the game of football. but not talking about the
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sanctity or non—sanctity of the confidentiality of legal advice, we are talking about the most fundamental principle... we are talking about the most fundamental principle that governs our nations. the principle that parliament can tell the government what to do, not the other way around. and this is notjust some the other way around. and this is not just some temporary aberration. it is part of a pattern of government attempts to keep parliament out of this altogether, restoring sovereignty to parliament by keeping parliament out of its own sovereignty. they went to the sea bream court to stop as having every —— any say on the figuring of article 50 and they lost. they did their damnedest to stop parliament having any with with the girl say any withdrawal agreement and they lost. they spent thousands of pounds... unilaterally revoked. and they lost. the european court,
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certainly now will find that it can be. iwant certainly now will find that it can be. i want to pay tribute to the parliamentarians from three national parliaments and five parties who brought that decision to the court. i believe what they have one will prove to be a pivotal victory but it does raise the question that is too important to be treated as rhetorical. it is highly pertinent to the substance of today's debate. what kind of government goes to court to stop its own citizens from knowing that the government has legal powers but has chosen not to use legal powers but has chosen not to use them. what legitimate reason can there be for a government to want its people to believe that something is legally impossible when the government has ignored its own legal advice telling them it is perfectly possible? mr speaker, i referto this as simply another example of this as simply another example of this government 's attitude that the path chosen unilaterally by the
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government is the only one worthy of consideration and that nobody is even allowed to know the other parts that might be possible. they have their priorities wrong. they repeatedly tell us and the leader of the house said often enough in her comments that their ultimate duty is to act in the public interest but in fa ct, to act in the public interest but in fact, we have a government that demands that parliament and the public acts at all times in the government 's interests and that is not the same thing at all. the government has taken on itself the right to decide what is in the public interest. not the parliament that hold sovereignty on behalf of the public. the government declares itself to know better than parliament what is in the public interest. the government places itself above the decisions of parliament. mr speaker, the government places itself in contempt of parliament. early next year we will see the 300 family —— 370 at anniversary of the execution just a few hundred yards up the road for
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defying the rule of a predecessor of this parliament. i don't think anyone is suggesting a similar fate for those who are funding contempt. —— found in contempt. they should be under no illusions as to how the mockery from the conservative benchesis mockery from the conservative benches is being perceived by those who believe that this parliament should actually be allowed to tell the government what to do. the elected parliaments of our four nations for all the fault on the floors and the imperfections and the outdated procedures and arcane procedures represent the rights of oui’ procedures represent the rights of our citizens. no one... no one has the right to wield power over the people without the consent of the people. in a parliamentary democracy, that content is expressed through parliament, not through the office of the prime minister of any —— orany office of the prime minister of any —— or any other older of offices of state. when parliament speaks, it
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speaks on behalf of the people and the government must listen and when parliament instructs on behalf of the people and the government must comply. mr speaker, parliament has spoken. the government must listen. parliament has instructed. it has not asked, it has not suggested, it has instructed. the government can disagree or moan or complain as much as they like. but they must comply with that instruction of parliament. instead, the government seeks to defy the instruction of parliament. they seek to defy the sovereignty of the people as expressed through their elected representatives. it is i'iow their elected representatives. it is now for parliament to take the only course of action open to us, to compel the government to back down. thank you, mr speaker. i willjust make my apologies before i start but
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i have do leave to chair the finance bill and so i have to do absent the chamber quickly. i want to begin my point, which i will make, by referring to the honourable member and comments that he made on the radio this morning when he discussed the iraq war debate and the legal advice that was issued and what is happening now and actually conflated the two. because of course the advice that was issued wrongly by the previous administration, which actually resulted in members in this house going into the lobbies misinformed and without the required information, was about a legal... the legality of the —— of the iraq war. this as was made clear yesterday is a political decision, not a legal one. i am not going to give way. i have not got time. sorry. i thank you for giving way.
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the only point i was making with the comparison above the risk of cherry picking and i don't think anyone would argue that the iraq war and the position that was set out by lord goldsmith actually cherry picked that advice to maximise the government ‘s position and to press its case. ido its case. i do believe that the two issues we re i do believe that the two issues were conflated and this was used as a basis to argue that... for the revealing of the legal information ona revealing of the legal information on a wrong predication. i also have a point about the civil servants and the legal advice. i have been in a quandary about this and about this vote today. i would like to see the full legal defence, —— evidence, as lam sure full legal defence, —— evidence, as i am sure that everyone will. there are also other things to consider. civil servants fall into that category. they serve is always true
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independence. absolute independence. and i don't know where any government ever would be in this place if we could not depend absolutely on the impartiality that we received and the legal advice that we received from those civil servants. and if this motion is passed today, this amendment is passed today, this amendment is passed today, this amendment is passed today, what legal adviser would ever want to advise any government in the future without first putting in place a filter of self—preservation, of considering that advice that they gave, who would want to do that as a civil servant? and i think although i would love to see this legal advice, we have a duty to consider others. the people who serve both the public and others. they are... i actually have 100% respect for civil servants, they work amazingly hard and are truly independent, they serve as without any political bias
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andi serve as without any political bias and i think that is something which we should absolutely be considering. in terms of the public interest and the points the attorney general made yesterday, none of us know if there are any issues apart from the attorney general and the select few, none of us know if there are any issues in that legal advice which pertain to national intelligence, national security, or any other of those issues. i only have to assume that when the attorney general spoke yesterday about public interest, he was talking in the much broader context. and this is an important issue because in the course of law, andi issue because in the course of law, and i think i'lljust quote the attorney general yesterday, there is no procedure by which this house can have reductions or entertain circumstances in which it could weigh the competing public interest against the interest of disclosure, asa against the interest of disclosure, as a judge would do. now, given what happened when the publication of the
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summary happened when the publication of the summary of the legal advice during the iraq war, this inevitability thatis the iraq war, this inevitability that is happening today should have been foreseen then because we live ina changing been foreseen then because we live in a changing world, we live in a world where people demand transparency, where they have a right to know all the full information. mr speaker, i believe that a resolution should have been passed in this house to give powers to this house because parliament is a court, to give powers and a process in this house whereby this house probably via your office, mr speaker, through the authority of your office, via the clerks, should be able to take a decision and redact matters of national intelligence and security from legal advice, so that people in this house can seek legal advice and i hope that as a result of what has happened today, and given that it will happen again in the future, the
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demands to see legal advice, that the house will now take some cognizance of this and decide to pass a resolution that will ensure that we don't find ourselves in this position again. also i would just like to go on and say, mr speaker, that we have been told the worst, as far as that we have been told the worst, as farasi that we have been told the worst, as faras i am that we have been told the worst, as far as i am concerned, the attorney general pulled no punches when he said there is nothing to see here, actually, he told us what needed to be seen and for me, i will again called his words, there is therefore no unilateral right for either party to terminate this agreement, this means that if no superseded agreement can be reached within the ink -- in agreement can be reached within the ink —— in fermentation period, the protocol would be activated and international law would exist if negotiations break down. he told us the worst. if we cannot withdraw from the backstop following the
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decision of this house, we are trapped, as somebody said, from a sedentary position yesterday. i believe that no mp with any conscience given with what the attorney general told us yesterday could actually vote for the withdrawal agreement because he told us withdrawal agreement because he told us the worst it could actually be andi us the worst it could actually be and i commend him for that and i wa nt to and i commend him for that and i want to finish because i have two, with a comment about us. i listen to the right honourable and learn a gentleman when he said those words at the dispatch box and one day, and i hope he is white in hair and long in the tooth before he gets there, but he may be the attorney general and his words may come back to haunt him at some time. and i can see, i have watched him many times and i can see that thought going through his eyes, as a legal adviser, formally, to one of the most eminent law firms in the country, he knows full well that when he stands about
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dispatch box what he is saying and what he is doing. and i hope you'll never what he is doing. and i hope you'll never find yourself in the position that you put our attorney general andi that you put our attorney general and i would like to finish, mr speaker, with this. i don't quite understand why the honourable lady thinks that someone of my limited capabilities aspires to the high office of attorney general. absolutely, mr speaker. and i should know better. i should know better. i apologise. i would like to finish with this, that we are all, before we are attorney generals, before we are, as speakers, before we are spokesman, we are, as speakers, before we are spokesman, we are are, as speakers, before we are spokesman, we are all mps and all elected members and i believe that
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both the attorney general came to this dispatch box yesterday in both honour and this dispatch box yesterday in both honourand in this dispatch box yesterday in both honour and in good faith and was honest. and the result of what will happen today if this amendment is passed, that the integrity and the reputation and the honour of a good man will be... and that'll be a disgrace of this house to do that because anyone of us may one day be in that position. thank you very much indeed, mr speaker. it is a pleasure to follow the honourable lady and i don't agree with the thrust of what she said but she did make some very, very useful and pertinent comments about what the attorney general said yesterday, in terms of the analysis of why we find ourselves. i agree
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with her and other honourable and right honourable members who have praised the attorney general and his candour and his honour and what he has brought to this house yesterday in terms of more truthfulness, if i can say, about what this deal actually means, in contrast to others who have been prepared to say things to the press and media. he came here as a member of the cabinet and told us some of the unvarnished truth about this agreement. so why do praise him for that and join with the honourable lady in what she has said because when i went to the adjectives he used in his devastating commentary yesterday, about this deal being a calculating risk, unattractive, unsatisfactory, undesirable, but it did provide no unilateral access clause for the united kingdom, it was indefinite, but he asked us to take it on trust
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that it will all never happen because believe it or not, having spent 18 months negotiating all of this, the eu won the irish government don't actually want to comment any of it. the fact is that despite all of the candour and all of what was said yesterday, the coming to this house and making yes, two and a half hours of an oral statement and ticking all the questions and providing the reason position paper does not actually fulfil the order, the motion that was passed by this house. which was for the final provided by the attorney general to the cabinet to be published. the government may not like the fact that this was passed by this house but it cannot simply wish it otherwise. during the course of the debate on the 13th of november it argued that it would do precisely what it has now done. that was rejected by the house. the house
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passed a different motion. and it is not good enough now for ministers and it is not particularly the attorney general we singled out because he said himself in his statement yesterday that he wished that he wasn't in the position that he was in. but it is the government asa he was in. but it is the government as a whole which has collectively —— is collectively responsible for deciding it would simply ignore this binding effective motion and revert to doing what it said would during the debate. quite frankly, mr speaker, that cannot be allowed to stand. we have heard a lot of talk about precedent and about conventions of this house and respect for all of that. surely, this is one area where the government must respect the will of parliament and simply cannot set it aside. the father of the house in his intervention earlier made a very interesting and i think positive contribution about a way round this
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but it is interesting that the government didn't take that up. it did not take that during the course of this debate and it has not taken it up previously. clearly the government is not interested, it appears, it certainly has not said anything publicly upto now, about taking that suggestion forward. what it has done is say, no, no, it does not matter what is said by this house,is not matter what is said by this house, is not matter what other suggestions are out there, we're going to stick to the plan, they obviously have a great summer where this is on the planned that they will publish this recent paper and have a statement and that is it. mr speaker, this house will have the final say and i hope it will reiterate what it has previously ordered on the 13th of november to be done. now, we are told this is unprecedented. it was said on the other place yesterday that in exceptional circumstances, advice like this can be published. i have also heard the argument used that
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this is privileged. but of course, privileged in the lawyer client relationship belongs to the client, not a lawyer. not the person giving the advice. the lawyer has a duty to protect the client privilege. but the reality is that if the client waives that, then the lawyer, the provider of the advice, is at liberty to disclose. his argument about privilege is a bogus argument. the attorney general says he would wish... hi wish i could comply but it is not in the national interest, the public interest. it is not the duty of thejob the public interest. it is not the duty of the job of any government minister to decide that. the house has decided what it wishes to do and it is not for a government minister to unilaterally override that. i give way to the honourable gentleman. he isa
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gentleman. he is a patriot and i know he therefore understands national security and national interests. would he agree with me however that quite probably within the legal advice that the attorney general gave to the government would have been an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the irish government ‘s position agassi agree that in fall would actually hand to the irish government an advantage in any subsequent negotiation? —— and does he agree? i am tended to say, i think the massive advantage to other governments is handed over in this withdrawal agreement, in terms of future leveraged over the negotiations. the attorney general went on record yesterday as saying that there was nothing to see, nothing to see here. there obviously is nothing of concern about national security in this. that is what he said himself. so i don't accept what he has said. the reality is that had the government... this debate was
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had on the 13th of november, the government had the choice to vote against and decided not to vote against and decided not to vote against because they feared they would lose the vote. and it cannot be the case... it cannot be the case that by abstaining from a vote on a humble address that that invalidates the motion because that would be a very, very serious precedent to set indeed. mr speaker, we have had the situation where some of this legal advice has given —— as given by the attorneyjulie advice has given —— as given by the attorney julie cabinet advice has given —— as given by the attorneyjulie cabinet and at is that advice it is crucial we must have has already been leaked by members of the cabinet to the press and media and the attorney general i think accept that. so the reality is that members of the cabinet have already grimaced some of this advice given by the attorney in terms to
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members of the press and media. i think the attorney is stopped from saying that the rest of us therefore are not entitled to have that. if some are not entitled to have that. if some members of the select media and press a re some members of the select media and press are entitled, then i think the members of this house are entitled to have this advice. i will give way to have this advice. i will give way to my right honourable friend. to have this advice. i will give way to my right honourable friendm the government and the prime minister is going around the country trying to convince the populace that this is a good deal, that this approach, this secret approach only confirms in peoples minds there is something to hide and in fact if anything, the government is scoring anything, the government is scoring an own anything, the government is scoring an own goal by refusing to publish this advice? and indeed, that very point about the government actually scoring a massive own goal in its own terms
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has been made not from these benches but by a former cabinet minister on their own side. and by many honourable members on the government benches. so the right honourable member sums it up well. what is there to hide, given that the attorney has said there is nothing to see, given the fact that we have the clear motion passed in terms by this house, it is absolutely vital now this house, it is absolutely vital now that is enforced and the bogus arguments against it are rejected. thank you, mr speaker. i am arguments against it are rejected. thank you, mr speaker. lam not arguments against it are rejected. thank you, mr speaker. i am not sure that members of the public coming in to watch our debates would necessarily appreciate our role as the high court of parliament but thatis the high court of parliament but that is what we are. and by virtue of history, we have been given a whole range of powers enjoyed normally only by others of her majesty ‘s courts, by which we both read later affairs, maintain our own
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privilege —— you regulate our affairs, and have coercive powers for dealing with those who tra nsg ress for dealing with those who transgress in front of us. that can include government ministers. the difficulty we have, i have to say, from having served on the standards and privileges committee, is that our powers are entirely archaic, almost completely unusable, and in many cases, so almost completely unusable, and in many cases, so old—fashioned and antiquated that any attempt at using them would probably run foul of most modern principles ofjustice. and i'm afraid that this situation has been allowed to prevail ford decade after decade by a mixture of a failure of the house to grip the problems it faces and of course the happy complaisance of government thatis happy complaisance of government that is known that in reality the teeth are not really present for
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this house to assert its authority. nowhere do we see this come to a head more than with this issue. it is all very well criticising the right honourable gentleman that the instrument he has used as a blunt one but there are only blunt instruments to be used. and he was fully entitled to table the motion he did and to seek from the government the documents that he wa nted government the documents that he wanted and the government chose, i have to say slightly to my surprise, mr speaker, not even to oppose the motion, even though there were compelling arguments that could be presented and indeed there could be continuing to be that the law officers advice should not be published because it undermines the ability to provide proper confidential advice to government. that said, mr speaker, the method that was adopted and it may simply have been because of the speed with which the drafting took place, was
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undoubtedly very blunt. given its ordinary meaning, the humble address, as i interpret it, extends not just to the attorney address, as i interpret it, extends notjust to the attorney general ‘s advice but to every advice that was provided to government during the course of the two and a half years of tortuous negotiations with the eu provided through the civil service at any provided through the civil service atany time provided through the civil service at any time about the development and impact of the withdrawal agreement. i have no doubt that most of that is unlikely to be of great releva nce to of that is unlikely to be of great relevance to what the house wanted to see. and moreover, some of it may undoubtedly contain confidential material which if put in the public domain could welljeopardise the national interest but i don't suppose just to take an example that this house would seriously contemplate requiring the government for example to disclose the name of agents working for m15 or m16 but agents working for m15 or mi6 but you have to face the fact that this
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house does have the coercive power to make such a request. and this highlights the nature of its sovereignty but also the extent to which it can be open to abuse. in fa ct, which it can be open to abuse. in fact, during the course of the debate, the right honourable and learn a gentleman i think became aware that the terms of the motion for the rather widely cast. he restricted them at that point of seeking the financial advice by the attorney general regarding the terms of any withdrawal agreement. i simply make this point having been a law officer. i simply have no idea if there ever was a final and four advice of the kind that was identified because in my experience, the advice provided by law officers comes in the continuous stream of dribs and drabs that by letter to
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the relevant department and to the prime minister and if necessary to the cabinet touches on the multiplicity of things without necessarily being drawn into the hall. the legal debate continuing in the house of commons. the attorney general there, we did not get to hear from general there, we did not get to hearfrom him. but dominic grieve currently continuing the contempt vote. we still don't know what time the votes will come. there will be won on a government the votes will come. there will be won on a government amendment and another on keir starmer ‘s proposal. we will take you back to the house of commons for that vote and later on we are expecting to hear from theresa may as she opens that all—important debate on her brexit deal. we will be back in just a moment. hello, you're watching afternoon live.
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i'm simon mccoy in westminster. the headlines at 2. theresa may prepares to try and sell her brexit deal to mps — the chief whip says he's confident the government will win the vote how are the numbers looking? i'm feeling very, very confident. mps are debating whether the uk government broke parliament's rules by failing to publish the full legal advice it received on the brexit plan. the government is wilfully refusing to comply with a binding order of this house, and that is contempt. it comes after the european union's top legal adviser said britain could cancel brexit without the eu's permissison by revoking article 50. elsewhere, after the worst riots in paris for decades, the french government announces a climbdown on fuel tax rises.

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