Parliament to consider prison votes

Maldon and Burnham Standard: MPs are to vote again on whether to give prisoners the vote MPs are to vote again on whether to give prisoners the vote

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, telling 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."

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Is it wise for the Government to flout international law, face a substantial fine and millions in mounting compensation claims, ignore the advice of its Attorney General, prison governors, bishops to, and inspectors of, prison, and take up Parliamentary time and taxpayers' money in order to stop sentenced prisoners from acting responsibly by voting in democratic elections?"

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said a vote on legislation would strengthen the UK's argument that it should retain its ban - which is backed by Labour.

"You have to keep going back to the European Court on this because I think the job of the European Court is to look at what is proportionate, what is responsible," she told the BBC's Sunday Politics. "We haven't passed laws on this before, even though we have passed motions, and I think when we do so, the European Court should look at it again."

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "The Government is considering how best to proceed following the judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Scoppola. An announcement will be made to Parliament shortly."

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