Committee (11th Day) (Continued)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 11:45 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 11:45 pm, 19th January 2011

Now that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, is safely out of the way, I am able to say that I hope some of the people below the Bar are keeping careful note, because some really good advice is being given here. It illustrates a point that was made earlier: that different Members of Parliament face different problems. Surely the Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight will have a caseload that reflects the existence of major prisons on the island.

The boundary review will be based on the register as of 1 December 2010, which will be before any legislation concerning prisoner voting rights is in place. We have determined that we will deal with this matter. I am not in the habit of scoring cheap party political points-your Lordships know that it is not my style-but in less than eight months we have addressed a problem that the previous Government sat on for six years. It will require careful study. I hope that the Electoral Commission will look at some of the issues that have been raised. I do not believe that this amendment is the place to deal with them. There will be a full and final statement of the Government's intention in these matters. However, I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, and others, and underlined by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, that we are accepting the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. To continue to defy it exposes us possibly to being sued on quite a grand scale and to enormous cost to the taxpayer. Even those who grit their teeth at the thought of giving prisoners voting rights might like to put that in their calculations. However, it cannot be in the current calculations of this Bill. It is an important matter to raise and it will be drawn to the attention of the Electoral Commission. I hope that, before they have their debate down the corridor, members of all parties will read the contributions that have been made this evening, because they will be a valuable contribution to the debate that Mr Jack Straw and Mr Davis are planning in Westminster Hall. In the mean time, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Corbett, to withdraw his amendment.