The government's vote on the European Arrest Warrant this evening is becoming rather confused. The motion does not include a mention of the warrant itself, which ministers had hoped would have a psychological effect on MPs considering how to vote, as the division would not be solely about the most contentious measure. The motion is as follows:
'That the draft Criminal Justice and Data Protection (Protocol No. 36) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 3 November, be approved.'
The chairmen of three select committees last week described the voting arrangements for this evening. Keith Vaz, Home Affairs Select Committee chair, Bill Cash, chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, and Sir Alan Beith, chair of the Justice Committee, called for a vote on each issue, pointing specifically to MPs' expectation that they would get a vote on the arrest warrant. Today Jacob Rees-Mogg complained that 'we're simply not voting on it tonight' and that Commons rules may mean 'it may not even be possible to discuss the arrest warrant today'. He called it a 'very bad procedural prestidigitation' by ministers.
That they may appear to not even be voting on this measure will probably not deter those who really want to object to the European Arrest Warrant from voting, albeit in much smaller numbers than originally anticipated. Number 10 today insisted that the government was meeting its commitment for Parliament to vote on the measure, with the Prime Minister's official spokesman saying:
'They've always been as a package of 35 measures. They have been negotiated as a package. Today you have the commitment that the government made, back earlier in the year, that Parliament should vote on that package, that's being fully met.'
MPs on both sides are growing sufficiently grumpy about this that it will need to be clarified in the Commons before the debate gets underway.