Ministers refuse to publish Brexit impact papers amid Commons confusion

Ministers are standing firm on their refusal to release the full Brexit impact assessments, amid confusion as to whether MPs can force them to act.

Robin Walker said the Government would not oppose Labour's motion which seeks to compel the Government to provide to the Exiting the European Union Committee the 58 studies showing the potential impact of Brexit on different industrial sectors.

But the Brexit minister argued there is a "clear obligation" not to release information which is not in the public or national interest, adding the Government will "take note" of whatever MPs decide.

Labour is using an arcane parliamentary procedure in an attempt to secure the release of the documents.

It has tabled a "humble address" which requests the Queen to direct Brexit Secretary David Davis to undertake such action.

Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing faced several points of order over whether backing the vote would force the Government's hand.

She said: "At this stage I would say only that a motion of this kind has in the past been seen as effective or binding.

"That does not mean that I am making a ruling at this point about the nature of a motion before us today.

"I will reiterate what I said before, that while it is correct for the chair to make a ruling on what happens here in the chamber, it is for the Government to decide how the Government will proceed, having considered the opinions of the House.

"It would of course be quite wrong for the Government not to pay any attention to a decision taken by this House, but the way in which the minister interprets what he and his colleagues should do after the House has expressed an opinion is a matter not for the chair, but for the minister."

Senior Tories appeared to back Labour's motion, with former minister Anna Soubry indicating she would vote in favour of it.

She told MPs: "I agree with him and the Opposition that these impact assessments should be disclosed - they can be redacted."

Sarah Wollaston, Tory chairwoman of the Health Select Committee, also asked for other "relevant" select committees to receive the documents.

But DUP MP Ian Paisley (North Antrim) accused Labour of drawing up a "wheeze" to get the documents out.

Mr Walker, for the Government, said: "Ministers do have a clear obligation not to disclose information when doing so would not be in the public interest, in this case the public interest is also the national interest.

"The key national interest is ensuring the best possible outcome from our negotiations with the EU.

"And as he himself accepted in his speech earlier putting all the information in the public domain could undermine our negotiating position."

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