Committee (11th Day) (Continued)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 11:30 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of Lord McNally Lord McNally Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 11:30 pm, 19th January 2011

My Lords, this has been an extremely interesting debate. Whether it is within the scope of the Bill is very debatable indeed. Nevertheless, a number of very valuable contributions have been made, not the least the fact that the noble Lords, Lord Corbett and Lord Knight, disagree about whether prisoners should have the vote. That is part of the dilemma that we have in Parliament. When I have answered Questions at this Dispatch Box as a Ministry of Justice Minister, it has been very clear that there are strong opinions on both sides. I have never concealed my view that, like the noble Baroness, I believe that giving certain prisoners the vote would be a very useful part of rehabilitation. The prospect of being-did the noble Baroness not say that? Sorry, I thought she had. For some prisoners who have perhaps never participated in any aspect of what my noble friend Lord Phillips referred to as civic life, it might be the thing that gets them thinking about their role in society when they leave prison. I have never found the concept of prisoner voting so horrific.

Although my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay sits where a PPS usually sits, he is not my Parliamentary Private Secretary although, my God, I wish he was because he comes in with a number of interventions that are genuinely to the benefit of the whole House, if occasionally to the discomfort of the Minister at the Dispatch Box at the time.

To take the last intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, the numbers we are dealing with will be small. If you gave every prisoner the vote, you would be talking about 85,000, so you would be talking about a much smaller number spread across the whole of the country because, to clarify, the Government have already indicated that when they bring forward their proposals they will be on the basis of prisoners being able to vote in their home constituency. The issues that were raised about proxy and postal voting and the other matters relating to this could, with great value, be looked at by the Electoral Commission. I know that it is looking very closely-