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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We're off

We're off

Nick Robinson 16:09 UK time, Tuesday, 18 January 2011

David Davis and Jack Straw have got their way. The Commons will get the chance to vote - probably in the middle of February - for a motion to defy the European Court of Human Rights on prisoner voting.

Their motion states that:

"This House... is of the opinion that A) legislative decisions of this nature should be a matter for democratically elected lawmakers and B) that on the merits of the issue the current policy... is confirmed."

I wouldn't want to be a Tory MP trying to convince backbenchers why they should not vote for that.

Straw is carrying around a speech by the former Law Lord - Lord Hoffmann in which he criticised the European Court of Human Rights.

"It has been unable to resist the temptation to aggrandise its jurisdiction and to impose uniform rules on Member States. It considers itself the equivalent of the Supreme Court of the United States, laying down a federal law of Europe."

He went on to say that:

"[I]t lacks constitutional legitimacy...this is not an expression of populist Euroscepticism. Whatever one may say about the wisdom or even correctness of decisions of the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, no one can criticise their legitimacy in laying down uniform rules for the European Union in those areas which fall within the scope of the Treaty. But the Convention does not give the Strasbourg court equivalent legitimacy."

Incidentally, the government is keen to point out that Straw's own consultation paper on this issue (when he was justice secretary) proposed enfranchising prisoners for all elections not just Westminster and European elections and granted no judicial discretion to disenfranchise individual prisoners as part of their sentence.

Update, 1616: A reminder of what David Cameron's stated views are on prisoner voting:

"It makes me physically ill even to contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison. Frankly, when people commit a crime and go to prison, they should lose their rights, including the right to vote. But we are in a situation that I am afraid we have to deal with. This is potentially costing us £160 million, so we have to come forward with proposals, because I do not want us to spend that money; it is not right. So, painful as it is, we have to sort out yet another problem that was just left to us by the last government."

Update, 1718: The prime minister welcomes the plan for the Commons to hold a debate on whether prisoners should be given the vote as demanded by the European Court of Human Rights and believes that it "could be helpful", I'm told. David Cameron is said to want as few prisoners as possible to be given the vote and is still seeking legal advice as to whether it will be possible to successfully defend a policy of giving the vote to prisoners who are serving one year or less (rather than as currently planned four years or less).

Ministers are also examining whether there could be a legal presumption against prisoners getting the vote with judges able to grant voting rights at their discretion.

One possibility is that ministers could try to use a vote in the Commons to strenghten their negotiating position with the Strasbourg court.

Comment: Nick Robinson, you are as well informed as a shelled pea!

1 comment:

bonzadog said...

I fully agree with this stance by the government, europe should stop interfering in the rights of a government to set the laws of a country. Those who choose to break the laws of a democratic society should be excluded from that society until they have proven they can participate in that society according to it's rules.