David Davis set to face Commons committee over release of Brexit papers

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David Davis has been called in to face a Commons committee which has demanded his department release papers detailing the impact of Brexit on the economy.

The Brexit Secretary was asked to attend a hearing after his department withheld some elements of the analysis which the Government claims are commercially sensitive or could harm the UK in withdrawal talks.

The handover of the documents to the Commons Committee on Exiting the EU, chaired by ex-Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, came after Labour won a vote in Parliament forcing the Government to transfer them.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer now claims the Government could be in contempt of Parliament if it refuses to release all parts of the analysis contained in the documentation. 

Mr Benn’s committee said in a statement on Tuesday: “[We are] asking the Secretary of State to attend an evidence session as a matter of urgency in order to confirm the process behind the Department’s actions.

“The Committee will then move into private session to discuss the matter further.”

The cross-party group of MPs is currently trawling through 850 pages of documentation to decide if the Government has complied with their request and also whether to release any of it to the wider public. 

On 1 November, Labour tabled a “humble address” to the Queen asking for what it termed the “impact assessments” of Brexit to be provided to the Commons committee.

Labour’s motion demanding the release of 58 impact assessments once alluded to by Brexit Secretary David Davis, was passed without a vote earlier this month after ministers indicated the Government would not oppose it.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said at the time that the arcane parliamentary procedure of a humble address used by Labour has “traditionally been regarded as binding or effective”, and said he would be willing to consider an accusation of contempt if the Government failed to respond.

The Department for Exiting the EU (Dexeu) stressed that ministers had a responsibility, endorsed by Parliament, not to release information that would undermine the UK’s negotiating position.

A spokesman said: “The Government has satisfied the motion, providing the House of Commons Exiting the EU Committee with information covering 58 sectors of the economy.”