Cameron re-think on prison votes
Ministers are preparing to abandon plans to give the right to vote to thousands of prisoners serving sentences of four years or less.
The government now hopes to limit the right to vote to a much smaller group and is prepared to take the risk of being sued by prisoners who may be granted significant sums in compensation.
The prime minister recently told MPs that the idea of giving prisoners the vote made him feel "physically ill" but warned them that unless the government did do they faced paying prisoners more than £160m in compensation.
This followed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which ordered the government to change the law. John Hirst, a prisoner convicted of manslaughter, successfully argued that his human rights had been violated by the removal of his right to vote.
I understand that Mr Cameron now accepts that the Commons is unlikely to vote for a proposal which could involve granting the vote to upto 28,000 prisoners, including 6000 jailed for violent crime, more than 1,700 sex offenders, more than 4,000 burglars and 4,300 imprisoned for drug offences (the exact number is not yet known).
I understand that ministers now hope that they will be able to give the vote only to those prisoners sentenced to serve a year or less. They are aware, however, that this policy will be tested in the courts and that they might lose again.
Even this concession may not persuade many MPs who want to make a stand against the Strasbourg court. The Commons will have the opportunity to defy the court's ruling in a couple of weeks' time when the Commons debates a motion tabled by the Conservative David Davis and Labour's Jack Straw
The prime minister met the executive of the Conservative backbench 1922 committee on Tuesday and was left in no doubt about the strength of feeling on this issue.