Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is facing possible suspension from Parliament after refusing to publish full legal guidance on Brexit.
The Torridge and West Devon MP, along with the government, will face a vote in the Commons today (Monday) to decide if they are in contempt of Parliament.
Labour, the DUP and four other opposition parties complained yesterday (Monday) that the legal advice released by the Government did not comply with a Commons resolution passed in November.
Commons Speaker John Bercow said there had been an ‘arguable case that a contempt has been committed’ and ruled MPs should debate the issue today (Tuesday).
Mr Cox was repeatedly challenged about the issue in the Commons on Monday but insisted it was in the public interest for the advice he gave to ministers to remain confidential.
“The House has at its disposal the means by which to enforce its will,” he acknowledged.
“It can bring a motion of contempt and seek to have that motion passed and seek to impose through the committee, or whichever way it is appropriately done, to impose a sanction. I fully accept that.
“I don’t set myself up contrary to the House, I simply say that I cannot compromise the public interest.”
Since the Commons debate, Lib Dem spokesman Tom Brake said Mr Cox should be suspended if he is found in contempt of Parliament.
Mr Brake told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Clearly the Attorney General is the one who came to present the government’s case for not releasing this and I suppose he is in line for being in contempt, and I think the house should consider suspending him for that action.”
Asked whether any suspension should be immediate, he added: “I know the government would prefer to refer it to the privileges committee but I think that just kicks it into the long grass.
“We are going to have the debate to day and we are going to have to wait and see. But I think unless the Attorney General does a U-turn, I’m afraid that he is very much in the firing line.”
But Transport Secretary Chris Grayling defended the decision not to release the full legal advice.
He also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The reality is that the position of the legal advice is a very straightforward and a very longstanding one.
“I’m a former Lord Chancellor, it is a central part of the principles of our legal system that the advice provided from a lawyer to their client is treated as confidential, it’s privileged information.
“Government has always behaved in that way and actually if Government starts to have to publish every bit of legal advice it gets that is going to put us at a serious disadvantage when it comes, for example, to dealing with court cases with third parties.
“What we saw yesterday was the Attorney General, for the first time in a quarter of a century and more, coming to the Commons, taking detailed questions about the legal position, being very open about the legal position and providing Parliament with the information it needs.
“I think that is the right approach.”