Committee (11th Day) (Continued)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 11:15 pm on 19th January 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Knight of Weymouth Lord Knight of Weymouth Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 11:15 pm, 19th January 2011

My noble friend can help me in a moment, once I have had a chance to help myself. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, raises a question that is right at the heart of the legal case as I understand it and as interpreted by the BBC. John Hirst, who took the case to the European Court said:

"I'd read books that said if you want to change something you start up a pressure group, and then you put pressure on MPs and then you get things changed in parliament. Well that's alright if you've got the vote and you've got some clout behind you. When you're a prisoner, the only thing you can do if you want to complain and no-one listens is riot and lift the roof off-which isn't the best way of going about things. Because we didn't have a vote, there was no will in parliament to change anything".

That is at the root of why he brought the case and, I guess, why he won it.

If a prisoner who had been a constituent of mine, or whose address was in my constituency, had written to me with a case when I was a Member of Parliament, I would have taken it up on their behalf, but I was unwilling to do so for people who happened to be resident in my constituency at Her Majesty's pleasure. That was most difficult in respect of the large number of foreign nationals who were in Verne prison in my constituency. It was very difficult for them to get anyone to listen to them. It would have been a significant resourcing issue for me if word had got around the prison that they had a local MP who was willing to do all their legal work for them.