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.

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Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 11:15 pm, 19th January 2011

At present, the law states that prisoners are disqualified under an Act of Parliament and, unless and until that is changed by Act of Parliament, there is no question of having to cater for them in this Bill. If and when a Bill is produced to change the 1870 Act-although I understand what the noble Lord is saying about that-it should answer the kind of questions that the noble Lord, Lord Knight, has asked. Until that happens, the law is as it has been since 1870. I am not going to deal with the merits of the issue, except to say that we believe in the rule of law, part of which is our country's subscription to the European Convention on Human Rights and obedience to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. That court has said in this case that a blanket ban is wrong, which leaves at least a certain amount of discretion to Parliament and the Government to decide what the change is to be. Until that happens, it is not for us here to speculate, because there is plenty for us to deal with in this Bill without introducing more material into a Bill that is not yet drafted.