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'Contempt motion' on publishing of legal advice

4 December 2018


The House of Commons voted in favour of a motion finding Ministers in contempt for their failure to publish full legal advice concerning the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

The House of Commons voted 311 to 293 (Division 273) to approve the motion, finding Ministers in contempt and ordering the immediate publication of the full legal advice on the Brexit deal.

MPs had previously rejected the Government's amendment to the motion by 307 votes to 311 (Division 272).

The Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom announced that the legal advice would be made available to MPs tomorrow to inform their vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday 11 December.

Motion for debate

That this House finds Ministers in contempt for their failure to comply with the requirements of the motion for return passed on 13 November 2018, to publish the final and full legal advice provided by the Attorney General to the Cabinet concerning the EU Withdrawal Agreement and the framework for the future relationship, and orders its immediate publication.


On 13 November 2018 MPs voted in favour of a motion that the Government should publish the final and full legal advice that the Attorney General provided to the Cabinet concerning the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

This motion took the form of a 'humble address' which is considered binding in terms of Parliamentary procedure.

Attorney General's statement: 3 December 2018

On Monday 3 December, the Attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, made a statement in the House of Commons on the legal position of the Withdrawal Agreement and the publication of the Legal position on the withdrawal agreement.

Contempt in Parliament

After receiving letters from six Opposition MPs relating to the failure of Ministers to comply with the terms of the motion, the Speaker, John Bercow, made a statement in the Commons on Monday 3 December stating:

"...I am satisfied that there is an arguable case that a contempt has been committed. I am therefore giving precedence to a motion to be tabled tonight before the House rises and to be taken as first business tomorrow, Tuesday."

What is contempt?

Any act or omission which obstructs the House of Commons in carrying out its duties can be seen as a contempt of Parliament.

What is 'legal advice' in this context?

The Attorney General's Office (AGO) provides legal advice and support to the Attorney General and the Solicitor General (the Law Officers) who give legal advice to government.

Image: Parliamentary Copyright

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