Page last updated at 12:51 GMT, Thursday, 22 November 2012

Government outlines prisoner vote options

The government has brought forward draft legislation on whether prisoners should be allowed the vote, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a blanket ban was unlawful.

In a statement to MPs on 22 November 2012 Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said a joint committee of both Houses would scrutinise the draft bill containing three different approaches.

These include retaining the ban, extending the franchise to prisoners sentenced to six months or less, or to those serving less than four years.

At the moment, only prisoners on remand are entitled to vote.

The ECHR ruled in 2005 it was a breach of human rights to deny prisoners a vote and called on the UK government to introduce legislation to amend the law.

Minister were given until 16:00 GMT on 23 November to indicate how it intends to comply with the court's ruling.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said he took his obligation to "uphold the rule of law very seriously".

The proposals would apply to England and Wales only but Mr Grayling said the government would engage with Scotland and Northern Ireland on the matter.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said allowing inmates serving less than four years to vote would see some 30,000 prisoners go to the polling stations.

'Out of step'

Former Labour justice secretary Jack Straw said the Strasbourg court had "extended its jurisdiction" from "fundamental human rights into social and civic rights, for which we have not signed up".

Senior Conservative David Davis, a former home secretary, welcomed the government's approach to "hand the decision back to Parliament".

He said it was a "parliamentary issue" which would set a precedent for every time the ECHR "extends beyond its remit".

MPs voted in February to uphold the ban, and David Cameron has said his government will not extend the vote.

However, Labour MP Paul Flynn said it would send a signal for other countries to do the same in defence of their own traditions, "and those traditions are to oppress their prisoners and to ignore human rights".

Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert quoted a former president of the Prisoner Governor's Association who said a blanket ban was "out of step in a modern prison service and runs counter to resettlement work".

Mr Grayling said this was "one example" of the kind of views he expected to be submitted to the joint committee considering the bill.

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