16:47 GMT +315 December 2018
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    'Gov't Stuck 2 Fingers to Parliament': Contempt Case Overshadows Brexit Debate

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    Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, told the UK parliament on Tuesday the issue before the MPs was simple and questioned the decision of Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, to not publish his full Brexit legal advice.

    "The government knew very well what was being asked for, the Attorney General must have known what was being debated and voted on. Yet, it appears he wasn't asked before that vote for his views on the wisdom of not voting against the order, nor did he offer any advice directly or indirectly."

    Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom responded to Starmer, defending the Attorney General, noting the contempt of parliamentary procedure was "arcane," and appealing to MPs to continue the debate away from the "heat" of the Brexit debate. 

    British PM Theresa May is set to open five days of Brexit debate in the House of Commons. Prior to the debate, ministers faced a contempt-of-Parliament challenge over their decision not to release the full legal advice on her Brexit deal.

    Labour MP Anna Turley said she was in the House, "quietly and ruthlessly destroying the government for their contempt of parliament."

    Another opposition MP, Hugh Gaffney, criticized the government for disregarding the "will of our sovereign national Parliament."

    "And it is a disgrace," he said. "I will be voting for Keir Starmer's motion and against Tory amendment." 

    A cross-party motion was filed by group of MPs, which launched the legal proceedings of contempt over ministers providing only an outline of the legal basis for the government's Brexit deal after parliament voted last month to force it to make public the full advice.

    READ MORE: UK Gov't Discloses Brexit Legal Advice as PM May Faces Battle in Parliament

    The official definition of the contempt of parliament reads: "Any act, or failure to act, that may prevent or hinder the work of either House of Parliament."

    Giving false evidence through a parliamentary committee or threatening an MP. Anyone found guilty could be suspended or permanently excluded from the House of Commons. If the motion was passed, it would be the first time in modern history that government ministers are guilty of contempt.

    Last expulsion was the Labour MP Garry Allighan in 1947, who was expelled for contempt after writing a news article that wrongly claimed other MPs took bribes in exchange for information. 

    Related:

    UK Gov't Discloses Brexit Legal Advice as PM May Faces Battle in Parliament
    UK Opposition Warns PM of 'Historic Constitutional Row' Over Brexit Legal Advice
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