Parliament to consider giving prisoners votes as European ruling deadline looms
Sunday 18 November 2012
Parliament will be given another say on whether to give prisoners the vote as the deadline for Britain to comply with a European ruling on the controversial issue looms, according to reports.
The UK's current blanket ban on prisoners voting has been judged as unlawful by The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and officials in Strasbourg have given the Government until Friday to comply with the ruling.
Last February, the Commons called by an overwhelming margin of 234 to 22 for the blanket ban to be maintained, while David Cameron has flatly ruled-out the option of handing criminals back their democratic rights.
MPs will this week be given a fresh chance to vote on the issue when the Government introduces a draft bill.
The bill, to be published on Thursday, will give MPs three options, according to The Daily Telegraph.
They will be votes for prisoners who have been imprisoned for four years or less, votes for prisoners who have been imprisoned for six months or less, or no votes for prisoners at all.
There is a risk that this week's Commons vote could set up another clash with the ECHR, who could fine the Government if it does not comply with its ruling.
Attorney General Dominic Grieve has warned against defying the Strasbourg court, saying it's ruling imposes an international legal obligation on the UK.
But the Prime Minister has made it clear he would not be letting prisoners get the vote.
He said told the Commons last month: "I do not want prisoners to have the vote, and they should not get the vote - I am very clear about that.
"If it helps to have another vote in Parliament on another resolution to make it absolutely clear and help put the legal position beyond doubt, I am happy to do that.
"But no one should be in any doubt: prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government."
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said Parliament has the right in law to tell the ECHR that it does not accept its ruling.
But added there would be "consequences" for the UK's position in Europe if MPs do chose to defy the judgment.
In 2005, the ECRH said it was up to individual countries to decide which prisoners should be denied the right to vote from jail, but that a total ban was illegal.
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