Tory 'free vote' on prisoner polls

Conservative MPs look set to be given a free vote on a Commons motion opposing votes for prisoners, it emerged today.







The motion, tabled by Tory former shadow home secretary David Davis and Labour's former Justice Secretary Jack Straw, is due for debate next Thursday and is expected to receive support from MPs of all parties.



If he attempts to impose a whip on Tory backbenchers, David Cameron may face his biggest rebellion since becoming Prime Minister.



Asked today whether the PM would instead allow backbenchers to vote according to their consciences, Mr Cameron's spokesman told reporters: "That would certainly be consistent with what we have been saying about the House expressing a view and us listening to that view. We will take that into account when we think about what we do next."



The Government is currently proposing to allow the vote to all inmates serving less than four years, in response to a European Court of Human Rights ruling which could otherwise open up the floodgates to compensation claims totalling millions of pounds.



But the move - which Mr Cameron said made him feel "physically ill" - has been met by stiff opposition from some MPs, and there have been indications that the vote may be restricted to those serving a year or less.



The motion tabled by Mr Davis and Mr Straw states that the decision on prisoners' votes should be one for democratically elected lawmakers and states that "no sentenced prisoner" should be granted the vote except those jailed for debt default or contempt of court.



The result of next Thursday's division will not tie the Government's hands.



But victory for the Davis-Straw motion would put enormous pressure on ministers to water down their proposals, which are expected to be put to the Commons before the summer recess.















The Government insisted it would extend voting rights only to general elections and those for the European Parliament despite warnings from a senior lawyer that Scottish and Welsh devolved polls and May's voting reform referendum could also be covered by the ruling.



Prisoner rights expert barrister Aidan O'Neill QC told MPs the Government was open to legal challenge from convicts if it did not allow them to participate in May 5 votes for the devolved administrations.



The referendum on switching from first-past-the-post to the alternative vote (AV) system for Westminster elections "may well be" covered as well, he told the Commons political and constitutional reform committee.



In response, a Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: "The Government has proposed that the right to vote will be restricted to UK Westminster Parliamentary and European Parliament elections only as that is the minimum currently required by law."



She added: "Removing the blanket ban on prisoners voting is not a choice, but a legal obligation as a result of a court ruling.



"Failure to implement the ruling would not only put the Government in breach of its international obligations but risk paying out taxpayers' money in compensation claims.



"The Government will do the absolute minimum to meet its obligations and will ensure that the most serious offenders are barred from voting."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003