Committee (11th Day) (Continued)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 11:00 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Labour 11:00 pm, 19th January 2011

My noble friend has reminded me of a point that I meant to make. At the moment there are 2,500 outstanding claims of compensation by prisoners being denied the vote, which, if they were proceeded with and accepted, would cost the taxpayer £100 million to meet.

This is not the time or place to debate at length the merits of votes for prisoners, but surely it is time that this outdated sentence of civic death upon prisoners was removed. It was imposed under the Forfeiture Act 1870, although in my opinion it should never have been, and it has lingered for far too long. As I said earlier, the European Court decided in 2004 that the blanket ban on the ability of convicted prisoners to vote was unlawful and should be removed. I much regret that the previous Government did not obey that judgment, and welcome the fact that this Government plan to do so.

It is all about enabling prisoners to take civic responsibility, which chimes in well with the extra emphasis by the Secretary of State for Justice on better attempts at rehabilitation to reduce the expensive and alarming rates of reconviction. Up to 70 per cent of prisoners are reconvicted within two years of release, surely the most enormous waste of taxpayers' money going.

It is time for change and time to ensure that the number of prisoners anticipated under the proposed government legislation be entitled to vote, and those prisoners on remand from wherever they are on the electoral roll should not be overlooked when the maths is being done by the Electoral Commission to determine the new constituency boundaries.