Prisoner vote bill to be outlined


Convicted killer John Hirst, who took the government to court over the issue, spoke to the BBC in 2010

Related Stories

The government's draft bill on prisoner voting is to be outlined by the justice secretary on Thursday, the BBC understands.

Its options could include votes for those serving less than six months, or those serving less than four years.

Friday is the deadline for the UK to comply with a European ruling that a current blanket ban is unlawful.

Sources had told the BBC there would be a vote on Thursday, but a source close to the justice secretary denied this.

The source would not elaborate further on whether MPs will be given a free vote at a later date.

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said there would be a discussion looking at various options, with the aim of convincing judges in Strasbourg that the government was at least looking at the issues. The court has the power to fine the UK if it feels it is in breach of its rulings.

Our correspondent said it was likely MPs would uphold the ban on prisoner voting, where there is strong cross-party agreement on the issue.

'Clear' right

In February 2011, the Commons voted overwhelmingly against giving votes to prisoners. At present, the only prisoners allowed to vote in the UK are those on remand.

Last month Prime Minister David Cameron told the Commons: "No-one should be under any doubt - prisoners are not getting the vote under this government."

Start Quote

What they're now doing is preparing the way to give votes to prisoners”

End Quote Steve McCabe Labour MP

Mr Grayling has said Parliament has the right in law to tell the ECHR that it does not accept its ruling, but said there would be "consequences" for the UK's position in Europe if MPs chose to defy the judgement.

Conservative MP, Sir Edward Garnier, a former solicitor general, said the justice secretary was stuck between its obligations to respect the European judgement and the opposition in parliament.

"Parliament and the wider general public simply don't want to be told what to do by the European Court of Human Rights, not least in this particular regard," he said.

Flouting law

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

"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."

Labour MP Steve McCabe said the discussion marked the beginning of a climbdown by the government.

"The prime minister and the justice secretary gave us an assurance that this wouldn't happen and that they would deal with the court. What they're now doing is preparing the way to give votes to prisoners. It's just another broken promise," he said.

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?"

The ECHR ruled in 2005 it was a breach of human rights to deny prisoners a vote.

The court said it was up to individual countries to decide which inmates should be denied the right to vote from jail, but that a total ban was illegal.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman 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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    @800 - Its nothing to do with the EU. The ECtHR is not a part of the EU, and is in fact older than it.

    Thats the ECtHR we helped setup by the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    ... and one more thing. This one is for Mr Farage's fans:
    ECHR building's architect is... British.
    The Convention for Human rights was drafted back in 1948 by the British MP and lawyer Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe and was quite similar to the English Bill of Rights. Read history, read more on European affairs. Farage's speeches are formed by 40% lies and 60% populism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    What is it to do with the EU ? Why cant we tell them to mind their own business ? WE need a strong leader to kick them out of touch. I dont mean Miliband !

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    I wish they'd just get on and do whatever they're going to do because I'm ust sick of hearing about it, and I'm sick of seeing the cons trying to use it to make political capital from it and trying to use it for their political advantage. Europe made us do this, europe made us do that. Then you find out Europe demanded a bit, bu tthey then said Europe demanded extremes they actually didn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    Why is this being voted on again this is a waste of parliamentary time. Voting is not a human right it's a right for a decent human being and prisoners have proved themselves otherwise by being guilty enough to be in prison. When they are fit to join the outsie world again then they can vote again. Why don't they look at important things and stop spitting hairs.

  • Comment number 797.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    All prison should be closed with immediate effect. It is just to cruel to lock people up and I'm 100% sure that all the 'dogooders' WILL be able to look after these not so bad people. They can find the goodness in them and make them really nice and kind. Let them live FREE and give them all that everyone else hasn't! The poor darlings are missing out on so much! I am trying to hold back the tears!

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    Perhaps the only true 'right' is that we are in fact free to do whatever we like (subject to consequences)... a civilised society is not so much about the 'rights' you claim for yourself, as the ones you surrender for the benefit of all (including yourself).

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.


    I don't see what business it is of the EU! You would think they have slightly more pressing issues!!!
    The EU can get on with whatever pressing issues it has without bothering the ECHR. The EU has nothing to do with the ECHR. The ECHR was set up by Winston Churchill and others in 1959 and is independent of any state including the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    They should have let them all out to vote in the recent Police ballott. Might have taken numbers up by .25 percent. Anyway if they can get to the polling station they can vote as they are locked up they can't. We cant trust them with the vote as they got caught, so cant be to smart. We dont want that type of person to have influence over the rest of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    If we're going to stop repeat offending then prisoners must become part of normal society on release. Allowing them to take part in normal activities whilst locked up can only help in this process and voting is a small part of that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    This ECHR nonsense is just a racket for the legal profession to make an absolute fortune.
    Should be an investigation into how much human rights lawyers have financially benefitted from all this, going back to Blairs time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    Perhaps things in the country would improve if prisoners decided if MPs should be allowed to vote?!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    my response would be that voting should not be a human right at all. Of course it is a right that we have in this country and that is a great thing, but if human rights cannot be suspended, as Mr Hirst argues, then voting cannot be a right. Would he then argue that babies and children should have the vote? It is wrong that people who have committed murder etc have so much protection!

  • Comment number 788.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    This is a big fuss over nothing in a country where ever fewer people are voting. In other words a sizeable proportion of the population doesn't vote anway. Not because they're in prison, but due to the way they see politics as ever more meaningless to them. An impression reinforced because of this fuss over an issue which won't really make any difference to anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    Maybe we should let some prisoners vote, maybe we shouldn't. I don't see what business it is of the EU! You would think they have slightly more pressing issues!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    What hits me as odd is the ECHR chose to pass this ruling on us (as the case only involves the UK the other European countries with the same blanket ban can keep it) but then stated that allowing categories of prisoners not to vote is acceptable. This may sound foolish but it just sounds like the ECHR wanted to make things awkward for us a Criminal is a Criminal, Voting is a privilege not a right!

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    To deny prisoners the vote is all part of their punishment for crimes against society. The crime has to be really bad these days to get prison - and these people are there to be PUNISHED - that is the whole point. If the EC insists on this level of interference in UK life the sooner we leave them the better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    The logic in the argument, is that as a society we have decided to withdraw the franchise from those that are deemed not able to make a sound judgement on the governing of the country.Sadly, in the past this meant either your gender or class
    Someone that is aware of the consequences of there actions yet continues and is imprisoned,is in my view not of sound mind or judgement.


Page 1 of 41


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.