What is going on in the House?
Points of order are flying, the Home Secretary is speaking in disjointed hesitations and Labour sense a chance to escape a torrid news cycle.
The furore is over what exactly parliament are debating, and whether the government is trying to use tonight’s vote to pass measures they haven’t give the House a chance to debate.
The issue at hand is a package of European crime measures. The government opted out 110 of the measures last year but are now partially opting back into 35 of them.
These include a contentious measure know as the European Arrest Warrant. It is opposed by dozens of backbench Tory MPs and Ukip (who protested against it outside the House today).
The debate this evening was meant to be on only 10 of the EU crime measures, and not the EAW. Except Theresa May and the government tried – and still appear to be trying – to suggest that a vote for those measures would also given them approval to opt into the EAW.
In winning approval in this way, it was hoped the government would escape a fight with its backbenchers, who would not approve the EAW in a clearly stated debate.
The problem for the government is the Speaker, John Bercow, suggested members would have some “latitude” to discuss the measures the government has excluded from tonight’s motion, but is planning to opt-into.
During the debate, that “latitude” turned into a scarcely veiled criticism by Bercow that “Most of us think a commitment made is a commitment that should be honoured”.
He was referring to David Cameron’s promise to hold a vote on EAW before next week’s Rochester by-election. There ensued a farce where David Davis summed up the mood of the House by telling Bercow “We are debating we know not what”.
Continued calls were made for May to clarify whether the House was actually debating the EAW, and whether the government would take a vote tonight as a vote for EAW.
Bercow clarified that “the vote is on the regulations, not the European Arrest Warrant”, and then the House divided for a vote on whether to extend the current non-debate of the EAW, or have a longer debate which would, presumably, have involved a more direct debate on the EAW.
After reportedly rushing Tories MPs to the House – including the Prime Minister himself – the government passed the motion to continue their shorter debate by just nine votes. 35 Tory MPs rebelled against the motion, seeking a fuller debate on the EAW.
It remains unclear whether May will try to use tonight’s vote as an endorsement for the EAW. Labour’s Chris Bryant has asked whether she will permit a direct vote in the next week, but has so far received no answer.