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Thursday, January 27, 2011



Daily Express, Thursday January 27,2011

By Martyn Brown

MEDDLING Eurocrats sniped at Britain yesterday for “delaying” a controversial ruling to give ­prisoners the right to vote.

And they warned that any attempt by David Cameron to restrict votes to inmates serving less than a year was not ­acceptable to them.

But last night outraged MPs hit back over the pressure being put on the Government by the Euro fanatics.

Tory MP Priti Patel said the row over prisoners’ votes emanating from the “bullies” in Europe had now become an issue of “who governs Britain”.

She said: “Our sovereign parliament has decided that convicted criminals in prison should not be granted the right to vote.

“This issue has now become a question of who governs Britain, and the Government and Parliament must not stand by and allow Europe to bully our country into changing our laws.”

The European Court of Human Rights has already ruled that the UK’s blanket ban on prisoners voting is illegal.

But yesterday a report by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe blasted the UK for not implementing the ECHR judgment.

It claimed that Britain has “substantial implementation problems” and demanded the UK stopped dragging its heels on the issue. The report said: “The United Kingdom must put to an end the practice of delaying full implementation of Court judgments with respect to politically sensitive issues, such as prisoners’ voting rights.”

Ms Patel said: “Parliament urgently needs to pass another Bill to redress this ­matter.

“It needs to ensure that the decision over prisoner voting rights remains one that only the UK department can determine without pressure or interference or threats from Europe.”

Fellow Tory MP Claire Perry said: “The way this judgment is being applied by the European Court of Human Rights is unconstitutional and silly.

“We need to resist the encroachment of Europe on this issue as it is a sovereign matter. The European Council is being very mischievous and straying into that remit.”

A UK delegation of peers and MPs, including former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and ex-Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, was expected to vote on the issue in Strasbourg last night.

Failure to comply could cost the UK tens of millions of pounds in legal costs and compensation, ministers have warned.

Around 2,500 inmates already have cases in motion to challenge any block on their “right” to vote.

But many Tory MPs are furious the coalition government has appeared to be surrendering to the ECHR over its ruling that the 140-year-old blanket ban was illegal. Any concession to grant the vote to more than 28,000 inmates – including those convicted of extreme violence, sex attacks and robbery – in national elections would almost certainly spark a backbench revolt in the Commons.

It is for this reason Mr Cameron has asked officials to look at a proposal to give the vote to only those prisoners serving 12 months or less.

The Prime Minister has admitted to MPs that the thought of prisoners getting the vote made him “physically ill”.

Meanwhile, MPs will have a chance to vote on any proposals in a few weeks’ time.

This is another issue that highlights why thousands of readers have already voiced their backing for the Daily Express crusade to pull Britain out of the EU.

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