UK: MPs support ban on prisoners’ vote
MPs have tonight overwhelmingly backed a Commons motion to continue denying prisoners the right to vote in defiance of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
The House of Commons voted by 234 to 22 – a majority of 212 in favour of the motion tabled by senior Tory David Davis and Labour former justice secretary Jack Straw.
Mr Davis said convicted prisoners had “broken their contract with society” and Mr Straw accused the ECHR of going beyond its remit.
The Government has announced proposals which would allow some 28,000 inmates serving less than four years to be given the vote, fearing compensation claims running to millions of pounds if it maintains the blanket ban ruled in breach of human rights by the ECHR.
During tonight’s debate, Attorney General Dominic Grieve said “quite a drawn-out dialogue” on the issue was anticipated between the Government and the court.
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The vote does not tie the Government’s hands, but will put enormous pressure on ministers to water down their proposals.
The Commons debate followed a campaign by axe killer John Hirst who successfully argued in the ECHR that he was entitled to vote.
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But former shadow home secretary Mr Davis said: “The general point is very clear in this country – that is that it takes a pretty serious crime to get yourself sent to prison. And as a result you have broken the contract with society to such a serious extent that you have lost all of those rights – your liberty and your right to vote.”
But Lib Dem Tom Brake said: “What is the logic behind this ban? We do not remove prisoners’ access to healthcare or we don’t stop them practising their religion, so why should we impose a blanket ban on a prisoner’s right to vote?”
His party colleague Lorely Burt said: “If we don’t want them to leave prison and re-offend, if we want them to rejoin society as citizens who will work, pay taxes and become full members of our society, I think we have got to wake up to the idea that depriving them of their dignity and identity, as well as their liberty, is not the way to go about it.”