Labour joins fight against prisoners' votes

The Coalition Government could be forced to water down controversial plans to allow prisoners to vote in elections as Conservative MPs prepare to join forces with Labour to sabotage the proposal.

The threat of a Tory rebellion grew as ministers disclosed that 28,770 prisoners would be entitled to vote under their plans – including 5,991 convicted of violence against the person, 1,753 of sexual offences, 2,486 of robbery and 4,188 of burglary.

Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, ministers propose to lift the ban on votes for prisoners for those serving jail sentences of up to four years. Although David Cameron stressed he was doing so reluctantly, the Liberal Democrats have long argued that prisoners should not be denied the right to vote.

Labour delayed a decision on implementing the Court's ruling before last May's election but is now ready to form an unlikely alliance with Tory MPs in an attempt to force a U-turn. More than 40 Tories are said to oppose the Government's plan – potentially enough to defeat it with the backing of the Labour Opposition.

Labour wants the right to vote limited to inmates serving up to one year in jail. That would restrict the number to 8,096 of the 83,000 people in Britain's jails – including 1,761 people convicted of violent offences, 212 of sexual offences, 143 of robbery and 507 of burglary. The figures emerged in a written Commons reply by Crispin Blunt, the Prisons minister. Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary, expressed concern that more than 28,000 inmates would be allowed the vote under the Coalition's proposals.

He said: "This is a slap in the face for victims of crime. We have already seen the Conservative-led government break their promise on knife crime. Now they are also giving thousands of offenders the vote. MPs on all sides of the House and the public are right to be angry about this decision."

He accused the Government of "sneaking out" the figures last month on the day the Commons began its Christmas break. Tory MPs also reacted angrily to the disclosure and signalled their willingness to work with Labour on the issue. Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said: "I have yet to find anyone on our benches who agrees with it. It is totally unacceptable to allow prisoners the vote. The whole point of going to prison is that you lose your liberty; one of your liberties is the freedom to vote."

Mr Davies said he would vote against legislation permitting any prisoners to vote but would also back a Labour amendment restricting the right to criminals serving up to one year in jail. "I will vote with anyone who believes the same," he said.

The Tory MP blamed the Coalition's decision on the influence of the Liberal Democrats. "It seems to be a case of the tail wagging the dog to help Nick Clegg," he said. "The Liberal Democrats are struggling in the polls. If they try to explain this to the public, it will kill them off altogether."

Labour sources said the party had never been happy about the Court's ruling and believed that a one-year limit would be more acceptable to the public as it would stop thousands of robbers and sex offenders getting the vote.

It is unclear when MPs will vote on the Government's proposal, but the threat of a revolt could force ministers to backtrack rather than risk a defeat. Last month, the Coalition backed down over plans to end ring-fenced budgets for sport in schools and to cut the Bookstart scheme which provides free books to young children.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back