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Monday, September 20, 2010

Cameron slaps down Clegg over prisoners' right to vote as No10 brand the plan 'unfortunate'

Cameron slaps down Clegg over prisoners' right to vote as No10 brand the plan 'unfortunate'

By Gerri Peev

David Cameron today overruled Nick Clegg over the controversial suggestion that prisoners could be given the right to vote under human rights laws.

Aides close to the Deputy Prime Minister had claimed the current situation where prisoners are denied the vote could be changed.

European judges have already ruled in favour of a number of inmates who have challenged their exclusion from elections.

The Government has also been ordered to pay them £750 in compensation.

An official source said the rulings might make it impossible to keep the ban in place.

However, Downing Street condemned the idea today, saying it would be 'unfortunate' if the blanket ban was lifted entirely.

No10 said the Government would have to take into account ongoing court cases on the issue but suggested it would oppose any radical moves.

Asked if David Cameron felt it was a 'moral imperative' to change the current system, a spokesman said: 'I think we would consider this an unfortunate position.

'I think he would think that a lot of people in the country would find this difficult to understand, but obviously we will have to take into account what the courts say.'

He added: 'When I say it's unfortunate I'm talking about the idea of all prisoners having a vote.'

'There are a number of court cases under way on this issue and there is one currently being considered by the European Court of Human Rights, so we will have to take into account what the court says as we consider this issue.'

Mr Clegg has taken over the issue from Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, under his constitutional reform remit.

In opposition, his Lib Dem party argued for all but the most serious offenders to be given the right to vote - a policy that would anger their Tory coalition allies.

A source close to Mr Clegg said: ‘There have been a number of court cases in Europe and the Government has for some time known that something needs to be done about it.

‘However this is not a shift in position and it is something which the last government had to face. No decisions have been made.’

Mr Clegg is reportedly looking at deciding which criminals would be allowed the right to vote.

A spokesman said: ‘There needs to be a change to the current situation in the light of the court cases but we don’t support the blanket rights for prisoners to vote.’

Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said: ‘General Elections are about forming a government which is going to pass laws.

‘If people have committed serious offences, and are in prison, they forfeit the right to make laws of the land. So why should they get the right to vote?’

But the liberal policy will appeal to Mr Clegg’s grassroots activists, who will also be pleased by the proposal for more aid money for Pakistan.

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