UK Politics

Labour: MPs will vote on the European Arrest Warrant

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Media captionSpeaker John Bercow oversaw angry scenes in the Commons, reports Ben Wright

Labour plans to use an opposition day debate next week to allow MPs to vote on the European Arrest Warrant.

The debate will be called after the government won its bid to re-sign the UK to 35 EU justice measures, including the controversial arrest warrant.

Some Labour and Tory backbenchers were angry that MPs were not given a vote on the warrant itself.

But David Cameron said he was "satisfied" by the vote and wanted to "move on".

Amid angry scenes in the Commons, critics including Conservative MPs accused the government of breaking a promise to let parliament decide on the warrant.

'Move on'

But the prime minister has defended the decision to restrict the vote to a package of measures which included the warrant, rather than just on the warrant.

"There was a vote on whether you want to be in some of these measures like the European Arrest Warrant that will help to keep us safe, or whether you want to be out of them," Mr Cameron said.

"The government won the vote and I am satisfied by that, and now we can move on."

Labour, however, has said it will use an opposition day debate on 19 November to discuss and vote signing back up to the European Arrest Warrant.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said this would put the UK's continued use of the warrant "beyond legal doubt" in the event of future court challenges.

Ms Cooper told the BBC that judges "take account of things said in Parliament", so a further vote was needed to allow the Commons to demonstrate its "overwhelming support" for the warrant.

But Downing Street sources accused Labour of a "political stunt" over Monday's vote.

Drama in the Commons

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption David Cameron, pictured conversing with an aide, left the Lord Mayor's Banquet to vote
  • Clashes start after it emerges the government's motion does not include the European Arrest Warrant
  • Labour's Yvette Cooper puts forward her own motion calling for a postponement of the vote
  • Facing potential defeat, Conservative backbenchers seek to delay the Labour motion by filibustering to allow Tory MPs to return to the Commons
  • PM David Cameron returns early from the Lord Mayor's Banquet to take part in the divisions dressed in a white dress tie
  • Chancellor George Osborne and other MPs also rush to Parliament for the vote
  • The Labour motion is defeated by 272 votes to 229 - a majority of 43
  • The government sees its original motion carried in a vote two hours ahead of schedule, by 464 to 38.

The row comes after the government opted out of all 133 EU police and criminal justice measures in 2013, a decision that will take effect on 1 December.

However, ministers plan to rejoin 35 of the measures, including the European Arrest Warrant, before that deadline.

Supporters, including the government and law enforcement agencies, say the warrant is a vital tool to protect the UK and bring criminals to justice across EU borders.

However, critics - including some Conservative MPs - say it is overused and a threat to the liberties of Britons and the sovereignty of the UK.

Commons clashes erupted on Monday after Speaker John Bercow ruled the debate and vote on the measures would not cover the arrest warrant.

Mrs May said only 11 of the EU justice measures needed to be voted on and "transposed" into UK law.

She told MPs that the Commons' verdict on the 11 measures would be treated as a vote on the whole package of 35.

But the debate came to an abrupt end when shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper invoked a rare procedure, calling for Mrs May to come back with a motion that specifically included the warrant.

European Arrest Warrant: Commons timeline

29 October During Prime Minister's Questions, when asked about the European Arrest Warrant, David Cameron says: "I am not delaying having a vote on it. There will be a vote on it... we are going to have it before the Rochester by-election."

9 November In a carefully worded Sunday Telegraph article, Home Secretary Theresa May urges MPs to back the European Arrest Warrant, but makes clear they are voting on a package of measures. "As MPs consider how to vote, they will be thinking in particular about the European Arrest Warrant," she wrote

10 November It emerges that the government's motion does not include the European Arrest Warrant. Speaker John Bercow says "Members can interpret all they like, but there will not today be a vote on the specific matter of membership of the European Arrest Warrant. That is the reality". MPs from across the parties attack the Home Secretary. Tory backbencher Bill Cash calls the decision "a travesty of our parliamentary proceedings". Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper says the government is playing "fast and loose" with the criminal justice system.

11 November Labour announce they will force a vote on the EAW after an Opposition Day debate on 19 November, the eve of the Rochester by-election.

Faced with a potential backbench rebellion, Prime Minister David Cameron returned early from the Lord Mayor's Banquet dressed in a white dress tie, while other Tories were urgently rushed back to Parliament to take part in the vote.

After Mrs Cooper's motion was defeated by 272 to 229 - a majority of just 43 - the vote on the EU justice measures took place immediately - something backed by Labour - with MPs voting in favour by 464 to 38.

The government's approach was criticised by Mr Bercow who said he himself had expected a vote on the warrant - branding the situation a "sorry saga".

"A commitment is a commitment to be honoured," he said, "rather than trying to slip things through some sort of artifice".

He said people would be "contemptuous" of the government's tactics.

European Arrest Warrants

  • The European Arrest Warrant operates EU-wide and replaced separate extradition arrangements between the EU member states
  • It was introduced in January 2004, and was prompted by the international anti-terror drive after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States
  • A national judicial authority, such as a court, can issue an EU warrant to get a suspect extradited
  • For a warrant to be valid, the suspect must be accused of an offence incurring a maximum penalty of at least a year in prison, or must have been already sentenced to at least four months in prison

Q&A: European Arrest Warrant

Conservative MP Sir Richard Shepherd said the government's behaviour had been "sly", while fellow Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg called it "underhand".

Tory MP Bill Cash, who chairs the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, said it was 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," he added.

Image caption Theresa May said the government had not been required to hold a vote on the measures

Mrs May said the government was not legally required to bring the measures to the House. Transposing some into UK law would usually be done through a special committee of MPs, she said.

Speaking during the main debate, she said she understood concerns over the warrant but told the House she had legislated to make it "better and safer".

But Ms Cooper, who said she supported the European Arrest Warrant, nonetheless said Mrs May had presided over a Parliamentary "shambles".

She defended Labour's actions in curtailing the debate, saying the government was "faffing around" and trying to appease critics of the warrant at the same time as telling them that it would continue to apply in the UK.

"David Cameron and Theresa May were trying to say two different things to two different groups of people," she told Radio 4's Today programme.

"That is not being straight with people. They should stop running scared of eurosceptics and have a vote and let us all support it."

Labour is planning to stage the warrant vote on the day before the Rochester and Strood by-election, where the Conservatives are facing a challenge from UKIP, although the outcome will not be binding on the government.

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