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 Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 11:15 pm, 19th January 2011

My Lords, I should perhaps say that I am president of the Citizenship Foundation, although I do not speak for it. Surely we could deal with the point raised in this amendment by an amendment to the Bill that says simply that prisoners serving a term of four years or less shall be entitled to vote. That would take care of the point that the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, seeks to address in this amendment. I should be interested to know whether the Minister would be amenable to that being brought forward at the next stage of the Bill.

This is a very important issue. For years we have put off grappling with the question of the prisoner vote. I think we would all say that one of the main badges of citizenship is the right to vote. We in this House all agree that rehabilitation is essential and that we do it rather badly in this country. To that extent-I shall finish on this point-we talk about punishing prisoners by denying them the vote, but I think that we punish ourselves much more by, in effect, outlawing prisoners from normal citizenship and thus, in my view, destroying any real prospect of any effective rehabilitation. Therefore, I hope that something can be done about this and that it can be done in time for it to be part of the Bill.