May I wish you a very happy new year, Mr Benton, and offer my grateful thanks to Mr Speaker for giving me permission to lead today's debate?
May I also wish the Minister and his shadow a very happy new year? The Minister is a personal friend, and I have always had high regard for him, both before he was elected to this place and since he took up his present position in the Government. I know, therefore, that we will not fall out on a personal level over this issue, but it is my job as a humble Back Bencher to stand up and to speak up for my constituents, whose view is that this country should not give prisoners the right to vote, and is my job to hold the Government to account on that.
Here is a question for hon. Members. Who said
"Frankly, when people commit a crime and go to prison, they should lose their rights, including the right to vote"?
He also said:
"It makes me physically ill even to contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison"-[Hansard, 3 November 2010; Vol. 517, c. 921.]
The answer is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and I could not agree more with him. The vast majority of people in this country would also back him in those sentiments. One difference between the Prime Minister and myself, however, is that he is actually in a position to do something about this issue. We need some backbone-we need a hardened spine-if we are to take on the European Court of Human Rights and resist its judgment.