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Dr Catherine Haddon @cath_haddon
, 10 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
Ok, Contempt of Parliament, here we go.
Contempt is something that interferes with Parliament or obstructs it, or a member of either House, from performing their duties. It is loosely defined, and Parliament decides whether something is or is not contempt.
It has in the past includes things including criminal acts, misleading the House, financial misconduct, leaking parliamentary proceedings. It can also include obstruction, such as not obeying a direct command by the House.
When contempt is raised, usual practice is for a member to raise the issue with the Speaker. They might ask that it be referred to the Committee of Privileges or Committee on Standards
In this case, Labour have put it down as a motion and Speaker has allowed it. But Leadsom is keen for it to go to Committee on Privileges.
What happens next is tricky. If the motion passes then it is yet again ordering the government to do something. Even more explicitly than last time. So very hard for government to ignore.
Parliament’s powers to punish contempt are quite weak. It used to be able to imprison or fine perpetrators, as a court of law, but these powers have lapsed. The last time Parliament fined someone was in 1666. The last time it imprisoned anyone was in 1880 (in the Clock Tower).
But that isn't really the goal here. It is to force the government to release the advice. A continued stand-off could ensue. Parliament is usually reluctant to punish severely for contempt by members that relate to privilege. More so for misconducts.
*Technically* Parliament can punish members in different ways for contempt. This can be reprimand, suspension (banning them from Parliament for a period of time) or in most extreme cases expulsion. The last MP to be expelled for contempt was in 1954.
A member of the government has never been found in contempt of parliament IN MODERN TIMES*

* by which we are defining as no-one can yet find an example from last few centuries but i am waiting to hear from the medievalists....
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