Tag Archives: criminal justice

Bercow bemoans ‘sorry saga’ of European Arrest Warrant

Perfect timing: Chief Whip Michael Gove arrives in the Commons chamber just as Speaker John Bercow is finishing his attack on the government's handling of the proposed debate and vote on the European Arrest Warrant. The blame for the fiasco has been laid on the government's whips.

Perfect timing: Chief Whip Michael Gove arrives in the Commons chamber just as Speaker John Bercow is finishing his attack on the government’s handling of the proposed debate and vote on the European Arrest Warrant. The blame for the fiasco has been laid on the government’s whips.

John Bercow is a Conservative – although, for much of the time, it’s hard to tell what planet he’s on, let alone whose side.

As Speaker of the House of Commons he is supposed to be impartial but he seems to find it hard to maintain this stance, with his own party bearing the brunt of his displeasure more often than not.

Today has been a prime example. The government had scheduled a debate over the European Arrest Warrant but there was confusion over whether a vote would take place.

It had been promised by the Home Secretary, Theresa May.

But the matter had been complicated when some MPs tried to turn it into an issue about the European Union, rather than justice.

The motion today followed a decision last year to opt out of 133 EU police and criminal justice measures, including the European Arrest Warrant – and was expected to be about rejoining 35 of those measures, including the EAW.

But at the start of the debate, Mr Bercow had to tell MPs that the vote would be on only 10 of the regulations. It seems the government was hoping to slip the EAW through ‘by proxy’. Perhaps the hope was that this would avoid a possible schism in the Conservative Party over the EU.

Former Tory – now UKIP – MP Douglas Carswell tweeted his opinion of this behaviour: “Devious and underhand tactics by govt whips have reduced Commons to a farce.”

The BBC has reported that Mr Bercow said he had expected a vote on the warrant, condemned the situation as a “sorry saga” and added that “the House should not be put in that position”.

He said: “A commitment is a commitment to be honoured, rather than trying to slip things through [by] some sort of artifice.

He said the public expected “straightforward dealing and they are frankly contemptuous… of what is not straightforward dealing”.

That discussion took place between 4.30 and 5pm and at the time of writing – 7.30pm – MPs remain undecided about what they are debating.

You see, it gets worse. After the Speaker savaged the situation, InJustice Secretary Chris Grayling got up and said the vote would be on all 35 measures the government wants to bring back in – directly contradicting Mr Bercow. That got shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper up on her hind legs to deliver the damning verdict: “What a shambles; what complete chaos.”

It is.

It is another example of the low regard Conservative ministers have for Parliamentary procedure and the rule of law.

If they want to push a measure through, then they will descend to any depth in order to achieve it. In this case, it seems they wanted to avoid giving Eurosceptic Tories a chance to rebel against the government, so the Chief Whip (Michael Gove), the Justice Secretary (Chris Grayling) and the Home Secretary (Theresa May) seem to have cooked up a fudge, with a vote on only 10 measures but the decision expected to count on the EAW as well.

That is “not straightforward dealing”. It is “trying to slip things through [by] some sort of artifice”.

It is not statesmanlike.

It certainly isn’t honest.

It is the behaviour of people who clearly do not deserve to be ministers in the UK government.

But then, the Coalition has made a mockery of Parliament ever since May 2010.

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Failings over race earn Theresa May a figurative rap on the knuckles – twice!

Bad taste in the mouth, Theresa? Not nearly as bad as the flavour that faced British citizens, wrongly accused of being illegal immigrants because of your race vans.

Bad taste in the mouth, Theresa? Not nearly as bad as the flavour that faced British citizens, wrongly accused of being illegal immigrants because of your race vans.

Anyone with an ounce of brain in their head knew the Home Office was going to be banned from using its advertising vans again – the ones telling illegal immigrants to “go home”, in the language of “knuckle-dragging racists”, as Owen Jones so memorably phrased it.

That is, anyone except everyone working at the Home Office, including the Secretary of State – Theresa May.

The Advertising Standards Authority ordered the Home Secretary not to put the vans on the streets again, saying the phrase “go home” was indeed a reminder of a racist slogan and “clearly carries baggage”.

The authority also said the posters on the vans referred to inaccurate arrest statistics, claiming there had been 106 arrests in the area in the past week. The ASA said this was misleading as it did not relate to accurate arrest statistics for the specific areas where people would have seen the vans.

They were out in Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Hounslow – areas the Home Office believe many illegal immigrants live and work.

The report stated: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told the Home Office to ensure that in future they held adequate substantiation for their advertising claims and that qualifications were presented clearly.”

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The ASA had received 224 complaints about the vans from individuals, campaign groups, legal academics and the Labour peer Lord Lipsey, who is from Vox Political‘s home constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire, we’re proud to say.

But in an impressive display of tightrope-walking the ASA said the van campaign was not offensive or irresponsible. While the “Go home” slogan had been used in the past to attack immigrants, its report said, the Home Office was now using it in a different context.

Oh! Well, that makes it perfectly acceptable, doesn’t it? Never mind the possibility that nobody seeing those vans in the street was ever likely to consider such a nuance, it was “unlikely to incite or exacerbate racial hatred and tensions in multi-cultural communities” because the intention was different!

What about the message implied by these vans – a message that was clearly pointed out by commentators at the time – that Conservative-leaning voters should treat with hatred, suspicion and contempt anybody who is not a white, Anglo-Saxon protestant?

What about the way they encouraged suspicion that another person may be an illegal immigrant?

What about the way the Home Office Twitter account spent the week-long pilot period in which the vans were traipsing round London tweeting messages about the number of illegal immigrants it wanted us to believe had been detected or turned themselves in? Can we believe those figures, if the number on the vans themselves was fake?

What about the photographs transmitted by the same Twitter account, of suspects who had been arrested, before they had been charged? Does anybody remember if any of these people were the white Anglo Saxons mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago?

What about the spot-checks at railway stations, where anybody who was not clearly white could be stopped by immigration officers wearing stab vests who demanded to see identification proving they were in the UK legally? How galling was it for British citizens – people who were born and raised in this country – to be faced by a flak-jacketed fiend who (it is claimed) became unreasonably aggressive when challenged over their right to behave in this manner without direct cause for suspicion?

What about the fact that the Home Office undermined its own arguments by being unable to reveal the different ethnicities of the people who were stopped – information that was vital in determining whether they had been breaking the law?

What about the fact that all of this effort was hugely out of proportion when considering the number of illegal immigrants it was likely to net? Forget forced labourers who are brought into the country but kept hidden by criminal organisations – these are not responsible for what happened to them and their cases are likely to be part of criminal investigations into the people holding them captive. Who does that leave?

And what about the possibility that this was not about illegal immigrants at all, but a sop to all those people – many of them Daily Mail readers, we expect – who believe that immigration of any kind is out of control? These are people who need to get to grips with the facts. As reported by this blog and others back in August, the UK has a lower immigrant population than almost any ‘developed’ nation; they are assessed via a points-based system, only seven per cent are asylum-seekers and only a third of asylum claims are accepted. They do not have access to most of the benefits available to UK citizens and what they do receive are nowhere near the same value. They are one-third less likely to claim those benefits, meagre as they are, than UK citizens.

The Unite union has been seeking legal advice over this matter, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has also been investigating this. It will be interesting to see what they say.

But a rap on the knuckles over bad information is a good start. Naughty, naughty, Theresa May!

On the same day, the Home Secretary – along with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling – faced questions from two Lords committees on the UK’s 2014 opt-out from EU police and criminal justice measures, as part of a reopened inquiry.

If this opt-out is exercised, the Coalition government has listed 35 measures that it would seek to rejoin, and it is these that prompted the Lords to reopen their inquiries.

Parliament’s own website said they were likely to face questions on how they defined the national interest in selecting the 35 measures the UK would seek to rejoin, and whether the changes will break the UK’s obligations to European arrest treaties.

And there were questions to be answered on whether non-participation on measures dealing with xenophobia and racism (the issues at the heart of the matter with the advertising vans) sent an “unfortunate” signal to other EU member states that the UK, under a Conservative-led government, no longer regards those issues as important.

Fortunately for Theresa May, these proceedings do not appear to have been made public.