Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

MPs back ban on prisoner votes

Former shadow home secretary David Davis
Former justice secretary Jack Straw

Pressure on the Government to defy a court's ruling against the UK blanket ban on prisoners voting has intensified after MPs overwhelmingly backed the status quo.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve promised to reflect the 234 to 22 decision in what he said would be "a drawn-out dialogue" with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Despite Prime Minister David Cameron declaring that the idea makes him "sick", fears of compensation claims running into millions of pounds have prompted reform plans.

They would see some 28,000 inmates serving less than four years being given the vote, although there have been signs that ministers could row back from that position.

Senior Tory MP David Davis - one of the leaders of the Commons debate - called on the Government to tell the ECHR it cannot "supplant" the role of Parliament.

"It is a brilliant result," the former shadow home secretary said. "A 99% majority, which we believe also reflects the view in the country that prisoners should not be given the vote.

"The ball is now in the Government's court to go back to the ECHR and tell them that they cannot supplant the role of Parliament." Mr Davis secured the debate along with Labour ex-home secretary Jack Straw, who accused the ECHR of going beyond its remit.

Responding to the vote, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: "We have been very clear that it is not Labour policy to give prisoners the vote. Despite several attempts to glean information from the Tory-led Government by me, and the lively debate in the House today, they have yet to explain how they intend to satisfy the European Court of Human Right's ruling.

"The Government must, as a matter of urgency, bring forward their draft legislation so Parliament and the public are clear about where they stand on this important issue."

But prison campaigners accused MPs of sending out a "poor" message about their commitment to rehabilitating offenders.

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