Sir David Davis seeks legal advice for war votes


As reported by the Press Association:

“If MPs are to have the final say on military action in all future conflicts, they need access to either the Attorney General’s legal opinion or be given alternative independent advice, a top Tory rebel said today.

David Davis, the former leadership contender, said while it was usually sensible for the Attorney General’s full advice to ministers to be kept confidential, the convention was not appropriate if the Commons is to properly fulfil new duties on determining whether Britain’s should enter conflict.
The Haltemprice and Howden MP said he felt last week’s defeat of the Government over military intervention in Syria set in place a new constitutional convention for the Commons to have a veto on issues of war and peace.

Raising a point of order, Mr Davis said: “The events of last week have created an historic constitutional precedent that future decisions on war and peace will be subject to the decision of this House.

“That has implications for other constitutional conventions, one of them being the tradition the Government does not reveal its legal advice in these matters.

“That’s normally a very sensible convention but under the circumstances where the Attorney General is the advisor to the Government and the advisor to the House of Commons, it creates a problem in giving independent advice to this House.”

Mr Davis appealed to Speaker John Bercow for a resolution to the constitutional conflict.

He added: “Can we either obtain independent advice in future occasions like this, or approach the Government to change their convention?”

Speaker Bercow replied: “You raise an interesting constitutional point I readily accept it is worthy of further reflection and consideration.

“My best advice is if you wish to pursue the matter and for the House to have an opportunity to reach a judgment about it, you should in the first instance approach the chair of the political and constitutional reform committee (Graham Allen), with a view to that committee undertaking a study and making recommendations in relation to the issue.

“There should then be an opportunity for the House, before too long, to come to a view about it.”