Minister defiant on prisoner voting

Chris Grayling says a committee will consider proposals for allowing convicted prisoners to take part in elections

Chris Grayling says a committee will consider proposals for allowing convicted prisoners to take part in elections

First published in National News © by

Parliament is on a collision course with European judges over prisoner voting again after Justice Secretary Chris Grayling insisted it had the power to maintain a ban.

Mr Grayling said a joint committee of both Houses would consider proposals for allowing convicts sentenced to less than four years or less than six months to participate in elections.

But the draft legislation will also feature a proposal for retaining the blanket ban - which would contradict rulings by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Mr Grayling said Parliament could defy the judgment, but had to "confront" the political consequences of such a move.

His statement to MPs came on the eve of a deadline for complying with the ECHR's ruling - part of an eight-year legal battle. He said the Government had an "obligation" under international law to bring forward proposals to obey the judgement.

But he pointed to David Cameron's previous comments that the idea of giving prisoners the vote made him feel "physically ill".

"The Prime Minister has made clear on the record his personal view on this subject. I have done the same and those views have not changed," he said. "The current law passed by parliament remains in force unless and until parliament decides to change it."

The Ministry of Justice published the three options that will be looked at by the parliamentary committee. The first would allow those sentenced to less than four years to vote while the second would set the limit at six months.

The third option is to re-enact the existing ban with "minor changes", so anyone serving a custodial sentence would be unable to vote.

The committee will also have the power to examine the potential political fallout from defying Strasbourg and whether "approaches beyond these should also be considered".

"When the Joint Committee has finished its scrutiny, the Government will reflect on its recommendations. It will continue the legislative process by introducing a Bill for debate and scrutiny as soon as possible thereafter," said the MoJ.

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