Parliament has voted to force the Government’s top advisers to publish messages about the controversial suspension of parliament. The move was backed a majority of 9, with 311 votes for and 302 votes against.
MPs kicked out of the Conservative Party by Boris Johnson last week joined opposition parties in backing the move, known as a ‘humble address’, which means the Queen will order the release of the material by Wednesday.
The motivation for MPs demanding the information is to reveal how the Prime Minister came to decide on the five week prorogation period.
The case made by Dominic Grieve
Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general and prominent critic of Brexit, questioned the Government’s claims that it was in order to prepare for a new Queen’s Speech, saying that he believes it was in fact a way for the Government to limit the opportunity for MPs to obstruct a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Grieve claimed that lawyers from the government could not find officials who were willing to back up the arguments made in court when the prorogation case happened in Scotland.
He said that “I started to be given information from public officials informing me that they believed that the handling of this matters smacked of scandal. There’s no other way to describe it.
“I can only say that I believe those sources to be reliable and also in my experience extraordinarily unusual that I should get such approaches with individuals expressing their disquiet about the handling of this matter and some of the underlying issues to which it could give rise.”
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw tweeted that this revelation implied that the Prime Minister had misled the monarch.
Dominic Grieve tells Parliament he has received information from inside Government, the implication of which, is that Boris Johnson misled the Queen about his reasons for requesting the prorogation of Parliament 🔥🔥🔥
— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) September 9, 2019
Conservative Brexiter, Owen Paterson called the process a “witch hunt,” while Labour’s Keir Stamer confirmed they would support the motion, citing a growing lack of trust among MPs. Joanna Cherry, the QC and SNP MP who backed the case in Scotland, said that even the “dogs in the street” know the actual reasons for prorogation, and also said that the government has a reputation for being economical with the truth.
Among Mr Johnson’s top advisers who could have to reveal messages are Dominic Cummings, former head of Vote Leave, Lee Cain, director of communications and Nikki da Costa, director of legislative affairs.
Mr Grieve said one of the nine officials named in his motion who would have to share communications was a civil servant, but all the rest were political advisers.
The motion detailed that email, text and WhatsApp messages, alongside interactions on Facebook and apps like Telegram and Signal would be included in the order. Messages exchanged from “private email accounts both encrypted and unencrypted” are affected, too.
Mr Cummings has reportedly claimed sharing the information would not be legal under EU law.
The Government will also be forced to publish details of its no-deal Brexit planning document, Operation Yellowhammer, which was partially leaked last month.
Leaked details from the Yellowhammer dossier were drawn up as an assessment of what the Government expected was most likely to happen, rather than the worst-case scenario. It was dated 1 August.
Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal planning, said the documents were out of date and were no longer relevant to the Government’s basic planning assumptions because significant steps had been taken to prepare for no deal.
Mr Gove tweeted: “We don’t normally comment on leaks – but a few facts – Yellowhammer is a worst case scenario – v significant steps have been taken in the last three weeks to accelerate Brexit planning – and Black Swan is not an HMG doc but a film about a ballet dancer…”