David Davis has been told off by Commons Speaker John Bercow after MPs accused him of misleading parliament.
However the Brexit secretary has managed to escape facing a contempt of parliament vote.
Last week Davis provoked outrage after he revealed the government had not conducted impact assessments on the economic impact of Brexit.
Many MPs believed Davis’ previous comments had confirmed impact assessments had been carried out.
Bercow told the Brexit secretary in the Commons on Thursday morning: “Ministers could with advantage have been considerably clearer in their statements particularly in challenging lines of questioning in select committees which were based upon on a genuine misconception.”
The belief that impact assessments had been carried out was in part based on this exchange in the Brexit select committee in October in which Davis failed to challenge the notion they existed.
Seema Malhotra: Could I ask you another question? You have answered that question; that was very helpful. Has the Prime Minister seen the impact assessments that have been published, yes or no? Davis: The details of them? Sorry, did you say “have been published”? Malhotra: Sorry, I am just asking whether she has seen the impact assessments. A yes or no answer is fine. Davis: Which ones? I will give a proper answer; I do not give yes/no answers. Malhotra: I mean the impact assessments that you have not published. Davis: That we have not published? Malhotra: Yes. Davis: She will know the summary outcomes of them. She will not necessarily have read every single one. They are in excruciating detail. Malhotra: Has the Cabinet seen the analyses? Davis: No, they will not have. They will have seen the summary outcomes. That is all. Malhotra: I imagine there may have been interest expressed if they covered the areas of other Secretaries of State. Davis: They would have elements of their own departments. Of course they will have a view of anything their own department is responsible for, yes.
Davis has said the government has conducted “sectoral analysis” on areas of the economy – not formal “impact assessments” which are are formal Whitehall documents.
However the explanation did not impress many MPs. Labour’s David Lammy says Davis was “mendacious, conceited, vain, duplicitous, wholly unfit for office” and should resign.
Lib Dem MP Vera Hobhouse said Davis’ comments revealed the government had “no idea what their Brexit plans will do to the country”.
“Whether it’s through incompetence or insincerity, David Davis has been misleading Parliament from the start,” she said.
However the Brexit committee decided not to accuses Davis of being in contempt of parliament.
The ten Conservative MPs and one DUP MP on the committee voted not to censure the Brexit secretary.
Making his ruling today, Bercow said he had to consider how the committee voted when deciding whether or not to hold a contempt vote.
“I have concluded from the evidence which I have seen to date, the test which I am bound to apply, that there is an arguable case that there has been on this matter, contempt of the House, has not been met,” he said.
The decision came after Theresa May and Davis suffered a humiliating defeat in the Commons over their Brexit legislation thanks to a backbench Tory rebellion.