Tory manoeuvrings

It looks as if some of the Tory troops don't trust their leadership on prisoner voting.

Following the European Court of Human Rights' ruling that the current blanket ban on prisoners voting in UK elections is illegal, a draft bill to remedy the situation is due to be considered by a joint committee of MPs and peers.

All pretty routine, and a routine motion setting up the Commons end of the committee, and naming the MPs who should serve on the committee, has gone down on the Order Paper.

In the normal course of events, the motion would be nodded through in the dead of night - but not this time. A group of Tory backbenchers has put down an amendment calling for each party to elect its members of the committee through their normal democratic processes, rather than just accepting the names put forward by the party whips.

This is a pretty rare event. Membership of most Public Bill Committees and ad hoc committees of this kind is normally decided by an outfit called the Committee of Selection, which is essentially a clearing house for lists drawn up by the various whips offices. The names chose were ex-ministers Crispin Blunt and Nick Gibb; and Steve Brine for the Conservatives, Sir Alan Meale and Derek Twigg for Labour, and Lorely Burt for the Lib Dems. (And they would serve alongside a selection of peers chosen by the inscrutable processes of the House of Lords.)

The amendment calling for elections is signed by Tory awkward squaddies Christopher Chope, David Nuttall, Edward Leigh, Peter Bone and Jacob Rees-Mogg, plus heavyweight ex-ministers David Davis and John Redwood and 1922 Committee grandees Graham Brady and Charles Walker.

The issue will now have to be debated…and pretty soon if the scrutiny process is to be kept on schedule; but the clear implication is that the backers of the amendment want to be sure their views are represented on the committee, which in turn implies that they fear a fudge or sell-out on an issue which infuriates the party grass roots.

Watch this space.

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