People have written in asking for my thoughts on the events of Monday in the Commons.
I have long made clear on this site, in the Commons, in public and in private that I had urged them to opt out and supported the opt out of all the criminal justice measures undertaken by the current government, and did not wish them to opt back in to any measure. I argued this on the simple ground of Parliamentary sovereignty.
I also made clear that I share the government’s wish to be able to bring unpleasant criminals to court if they leave the UK for a refuge elsewhere. I asked the Home Secretary to make arrangements for extradition from the rest of the EU as we do for the rest of the world, by an Extradition Treaty. This to me is preferable to placing our criminal jurisdiction under the ECJ and Brussels, and can be effective, as it is for non EU cases today.
On Monday we once again saw how Parliament cannot work well if the Opposition refuses to oppose. Labour told us endlessly that they fully supported opting back in to all the measures the government had identified, and they fully supported the regulations to bring UK law into line with this sacrifice of powers. They had no single criticism of any of it to make, no wish to see any change of words, no doubt about any of the powers being transferred. Indeed, they have been egging the government on to do so.
As a result it was always going to be the case that this opt in was carried by a very large majority of votes, as the Lib Dems were even more enthusiastic about opts in and would have liked more. The debate and vote was therefore going to lack edge, as the result was never in doubt.
The government took a legalistic approach to the debate by just tabling the regulations needed to complete the transfer of powers. Those of us who wanted a more fundamental debate on the principle of opt in and on the Arrest Warrant which does not need a new UK regulation to be effective were told that we could and should debate these matters at the same time as the regulations before the House. The government pointed out it was offering an all day debate until 10pm instead of just the usual 90 minutes for a regulation.
It stated unequivocally that if it lost the vote on the regulations it would regard that as meaning the Commons did not want the opt ins or Warrant either. The Speaker confirmed that the motion was only about the regulations, but said he would allow people to debate the opt ins and EAW more generally as that was the government’s wish.
Labour then decided to override the longer debate on the opt ins and regulations by moving a procedural motion which meant whichever way we voted on it debate would cease forthwith – at 8pm – losing us the last two hours, and taking up time to debate procedure that we could otherwise have used to discuss the major issues before us.
The Opposition thought it could do harm to the government by playing games with procedure. All it achieved by this was to deny those of us who wanted to make a fundamental case against the opt ins and the Warrant several hours of time to do so. Labour hastened the passage of measures they wanted all along by their clumsy intervention.