MPs yesterday backed a motion aimed at forcing the government’s hand and publishing all communications linked to prorogation and documents connected to no deal Brexit planning. The motion, which was carried with 311 votes to 302 was the fifth loss in as many days for Boris Johnson. The move could see the government publishing all its international correspondence, including emails, Whatsapp and Facebook messages. But when are these documents relating to prorogation and no deal Brexit due to be released?
Boris Johnson shut down parliament amid political pandemonium in the early hours of this morning after he suffered his sixth defeat in six days.
MPs voted to block a snap election and force the publication of secret government documents and communications relating to preparations for no deal Brexit.
The motion was brought by former Conservative party MP Dominic Grieve who demanded Operation Yellowhammer documents detailing the government’s no deal Brexit plans and any messages related to the suspension of parliament sent by his senior adviser, Dominic Cummings and various other aides on WhatsApp, Facebook, other social media and both their personal and professional phones be published.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said in the Commons prior to the vote that he has already said that the government intends to plan a version of its Operation Yellowhammer report on no-deal planning.
But it is neither an impact assessment or a worst-case scenario, Gove added.
A leaked version of the Operation Yellowhammer document was published in early August, revealing possible shortages of food and medicines across the country.
Mr Grieve said he had information from public officials that the correspondences contained a “scandal”.
The motion was passed, with a majority of nine voting to support the publication of these documents and communications, exposing a virulent lack of trust between MPs and the government.
In theory, documents have to now be produced by 11pm on Wednesday.
However, it appears increasingly unlikely that will happen.
Downing Street sources have suggested Mr Johnson’s advisers would resort to legal action rather than hand over their communications.
Labour MP Stephen Doughty said he has been made aware that the government is “seeking to circumvent the terms of the resolution that the House passed earlier about the release of documents relating to prorogation and Operation Yellowhammer”.
However, any refusal to comply could put them and the government in contempt of parliament.
The aim of the Grieve motion was to underline attempts by Mr Johnson and his administration to misled MPs with their claim that proroguing parliament for five weeks was not an attempt to hinder debate about Brexit and force a no deal exit from the EU.
Mr Grieve said he had asked for the information relating to prorogation because public officials had informed him that “they believed the handling of this matter smacks of scandal”.
A Downing Street spokesman said the scope of information requested was “disproportionate and unprecedented”.
However, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said the “government must comply with the humble address … that is the reality,” even in a period of prorogation.
Parliament was prorogued in the early hours of this morning and will not reopen until October 14.