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 Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke Labour 11:15 pm, 19th January 2011

My Lords, I had not intended to speak on this amendment. I have to be absolutely honest and say that I have not followed in great detail the question of prisoners and voting, although the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, very succinctly put the issues into context. I should say that I have a bit of an interest, having been a former non-executive director of the Scottish Prison Service and having a major prison with a secure unit in my constituency. I suppose that I have also just spent almost five years in a form of penal colony, so these are issues in which I tend to take an interest.

However, there is a very specific point to be made on where the vote of a prisoner is held. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, does not know that one of the most heinous crimes that a Member of Parliament can commit is to take up an issue for someone who is the constituent of another Member of Parliament. It is a problem that Ministers in particular face. I do not know what other former Members of the other place did. I had a sign in my office, and I know that many Members of Parliament have an attachment to their e-mail saying that they cannot take up the issue of someone who is a constituent of another Member of Parliament. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord McNally, would address the consequences of an increased number of people on the electoral register from prisons. Presumably they would have postal votes. If their prison is within a particular constituency, what would be the impact of that on the overall size of the constituency? There should be clarity for Members of Parliament who wish to know whether they are taking up an issue for someone from another constituency.