Votes for (some) prisoners to get a vote in Parliament

The BBC’s Nick Robinson reports:

David Davis and Jack Straw have got their way. The Commons will get the chance to vote – probably in the middle of February – for a motion to defy the European Court of Human Rights on prisoner voting…

The prime minister welcomes the plan for the Commons to hold a debate on whether prisoners should be given the vote as demanded by the European Court of Human Rights and believes that it “could be helpful”, I’m told. David Cameron is said to want as few prisoners as possible to be given the vote and is still seeking legal advice as to whether it will be possible to successfully defend a policy of giving the vote to prisoners who are serving one year or less (rather than as currently planned four years or less).

Ministers are also examining whether there could be a legal presumption against prisoners getting the vote with judges able to grant voting rights at their discretion.

One possibility is that ministers could try to use a vote in the Commons to strenghten their negotiating position with the Strasbourg court.

You can read the full story here.

One point to note about this: whatever you think of the merits of this issue, the fact a vote is taking place is a welcome example of a new procedure being put to use which gives non-frontbenchers more of a say over what Parliamentary time is spent on.

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9 Comments

  • As long as people are happy to accept the cost elsewhere from the price of defying the ECHR, then by all means let us vote to defy.

  • This isn’t about this issue, it’s about breaking the role of the ECHR.

    Nice to see 2 old reactionaries working together for the good of, err, themselves ?

  • paul barker 18th Jan '11 - 9:25pm

    This story is a wonderful illustration of why I loathe Labour.

  • TheContinentalOp 18th Jan '11 - 10:56pm

    Typical reactionary nonsense from Jack Straw. Ed Milliband will have to seriously reel in the likes of Straw to maintain any pretence that Labour have a real intent to change from the dangerous shambles they became.

  • Here was me thinking David Davis was “okay for a Tory”. All respect for the man officially gone (Jack Straw lost it with the racist rapist thing).

  • richard heathcote 19th Jan '11 - 7:11am

    why are you so keen to give conficted criminals a vote? im quite happy the parties will have a vote on this issue. im also not sure why a motion started by a member from both the tory and labour party is an additional reason to loathe labour.

    i really didnt reaslise that the lib dem posters here had such a hatred of all things labour, it certainly isnt how you campaign around the north west when asking for votes.

  • @paul barker

    Loathe Labour but not the Tories – says it all methinks.

    Personally I would give them the vote not on any Civil Rights issue but purely because the vast majority is likely to have no interest in voting.

    I would also say their vote should be cast by post for their ‘home’ constituency and not for the prison constituency. Perhaps doing this might engender some thoughts and concern for the community and people that so many of them attempt to destroy when they ain’t behind bars.

  • I loathe the illiberal views of both the other parties.

    But the reason we support giving some prisoners the vote is because it is a guard against the tyranny of the majority and an explicit protection of the individual against the state. Suppose Labour had made ID Cards compulsory?

  • I really lost respect for David Cameron when I read about the abhorrence he’s expressed for criminals voting. Quite apart from the violation of human rights I believe it represents, surely depriving prisoners of the vote only alienates them further from a society in which they’re suffering considerable alienation.

    (Frankly, I consider voting a responsibility rather than a right, and would go the way of the Australians and make it compulsory. But that’s an argument for another day, methinks.)

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