| 8.1°C Belfast

Rows overshadow EU warrant vote


Home Secretary Theresa May has spoken out in favour of the European Arrest Warrant

Home Secretary Theresa May has spoken out in favour of the European Arrest Warrant

Home Secretary Theresa May has spoken out in favour of the European Arrest Warrant

The Government tonight won overwhelming backing for opting into a package of EU measures but not without battling hours of Commons wrangling and bitter rows over the controversial European Arrest Warrant.

Debate on the Government motion - a draft of the Criminal Justice and Data Protection (Protocol No 36) Regulation - was halted after shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper sensationally moved the "question now be not put".

The procedural device called a halt to debate and was aimed at postponing debate to another day, with Ms Cooper demanding Home Secretary Theresa May come back to the Commons tomorrow for a vote covering the full package of measures, including specifically the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

Ms Cooper's move failed but was still enough to curtail debate by forcing the main vote to take place almost two hours early, despite filibustering from Tory MPs.

The highly unorthodox scenes were a final act to a dramatic series of major rows in the Commons chamber.

The clashes blew up with little warning after it emerged the Government's motion referred only to 11 of 35 measures which the Government planned to opt into, with the EAW not included in the group being voted upon.

Mrs May insisted the Government regarded the vote as the Commons verdict on the whole package, despite Speaker John Bercow ruling the EAW was not the subject of the day's debate or vote.

Prime Minister David Cameron returned early from the Lord Mayor's Banquet to take part in the divisions, which had been due at 10pm, as did Chancellor George Osborne and other MPs.

Labour's motion was defeated 272 to 229, majority 43, before the Government, with Labour support, saw its original motion carried by 464 to 38, majority 426.

There were 25 Tory backers for Ms Cooper's motion, while there were 36 Conservative rebels in the main division, plus a Tory teller.

Mrs May accused the Labour spokeswoman of "playing politics" with the issue in response to Ms Cooper's motion.

Ms Cooper earlier said the Home Secretary had presided over a "shambles" after hours of Parliamentary wrangling.

And moving her unusual Commons motion, she said: "You have effectively said ministers are just going to make it up because the Speaker has been very clear that this does not include a vote on the EAW, you are just going to reinterpret it in any way you choose.

"That is an irresponsible way to treat the House. If you brought this back tomorrow with all 35 measures in we will support it.

"If you will not do so tomorrow then you are playing fast and loose with the criminal justice system and fast and loose with this Parliament and on that basis, Mr Speaker, I think this needs further debate but we should debate now returning to this tomorrow - we have loads of time tomorrow.

"On that basis, I move that the question now be not put."

Mr Bercow said the move was an "unusual procedure" and explained how Ms Cooper's motion would halt the current debate whatever the result.

Mrs May, who spoke for almost 30 minutes as MPs and whips assembled, said : " We have debated the EAW, had you not moved your motion other members of this House would have been able to debate the EAW, but I have to say in relation to the motion you have put, I would say to MPs this is not an attempt to ensure this House has a proper debate, it is not an attempt to ensure this House takes a vote on these important measures.

"I have made clear I think we should be able to continue this debate, I think it is quite wrong for you to have called this motion in the way you have done this evening and I would hope MPs would vote against it."

Ken Clarke asked Ms Cooper to reconsider the "extraordinary step" she had made by moving the "archaic motion".

The Rushcliffe MP said the breakdown of the talks in Parliament about serious issues in an "atmosphere of such trivial argument will be a triumph for Ukip that something all of us ought to regret".

Government MPs staged a filibuster to give time for their colleagues to return to the Commons, but several spoke out against the Government and backed Ms Cooper.

They included Tory Steve Baker (Wycombe) who said he supported Labour's motion as a "motion to save our democracy" because the Government was asking the wrong questions of MPs by not including the EAW.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) also backed Ms Cooper's motion.

He said: "If we accept the motion put down by the shadow home secretary we do not forego the debate, we are allowed then to have a full debate and the Home Secretary would be able to return with a proper motion on the European Arrest Warrant."

In the day's earlier debate about the procedures followed by the Government, Mrs May said the Government was treating the vote on the group of 11 measures as the Commons verdict on the whole package of 35.

She said: "The vote on the next motion will be a vote on the regulations, which includes within it those measures a package of 35 we wish to opt back into which require to be transposed into UK legislation.

"But the Government is clear we will be bound by that vote and if this House chooses not to transpose those measures and votes against the regulation, then it will be voting against the Government opting into all of the measures, including the EAW."

In the course of that debate, Mr Bercow confirmed to MPs they were not voting on the EAW.

He blasted the Government for trying to slip out of a vote on the EAW in a move that will leave the public "contemptuous" of ministers.

He told the Commons: "I think I have given a fairly clear indication that this has been a rather sorry saga and the House should not be put in this position.

"I think most of us think a commitment made is a commitment that should be honoured and we should try to operate according to sensible standards rather than trying to slip things through through some sort of artifice.

"It may be the sort of thing that some people think is very clever, but people outside of the House expect straightforward dealing and they are frankly contemptuous, and I use the word advisedly, contemptuous of what is not straight dealing.

"Let's try to learn from this experience and do better."

The Speaker told MPs he had spoken to "disinterested experts" and studied the motion before coming to the view that the vote was not on the EAW.

Conservative Sir Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) said the Government "seemed sly" as a result of the situation.

He said: "Today we are confronted with a motion that is incomprehensible, an understand that seems sly, and is actually a means of trying to incline the public to believe otherwise than what is so.

"At the heart of this is a misconception about what this House represents... my over long time in this House of Commons has led me to understand the growth of executive arrogance is unsupportable."

European Scrutiny Committee chair Bill Cash described the situation as a trick that was "tainted with chicanery" and "completely unbelievable".

He said: "This is a disgraceful way of going about a very, very important matter. It is tainted with chicanery, it is not the way this Parliament should be treated.

"It is completely unbelievable that she should have come to the House today and presumably tried to argue... that this is about the European Arrest Warrant when it clearly is not.

"The reason that it is being done in this fashion is to avoid having a real decision taken today as was promised to us by the Prime Minister only a few weeks ago.

"This is a travesty of our parliamentary proceedings."

He added: "It is fundamentally a lack of transparency and it is a lack of honesty in going around the issues which we need to deal with.

"I'm sorry that the Home Secretary is shaking her head when I say this because she knows perfectly well that this is a trick, it is an attempt to get round the reality of what is facing us."

Home Affairs Select Committee chair Keith Vaz said: "I share all the concerns of Mr Cash.

"This is a shambolic attempt to get a vote on an issue that is of fundamental importance to the British people and I hope the motion will be withdrawn to give us an opportunity to be able to vote on these measures."