Voting Rights

Justice written question – answered on 15th July 2008.

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Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government), Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what plans he has to extend voting rights to sentenced prisoners in England and Wales.

Photo of Bridget Prentice Bridget Prentice Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice

Following the European Court of Human Rights' judgment in the case of Hirst v. UK requires the Government to reconsider their policy of a blanket ban on the voting rights of convicted prisoners. That requirement is a consequence of a judgment in the European Court of Human Rights and is something that would need to be implemented in the UK even if the Human Rights Act was not in place.

In response, we undertook a first stage consultation which concluded in March 2007. However, since that point the context for the debate about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and in particular the exercise of the franchise, in the United Kingdom has changed significantly following the launch of the Governance of Britain Green Paper and publication of the Goldsmith Review.

I can confirm that the Government remain committed to carrying out a second, more detailed public consultation on how voting rights might be granted to serving prisoners, and how far those rights should be extended. But we consider it essential that any changes to the law to extend the franchise to those held in custody are considered in the context of the wider development of policy on the franchise and the rights that attach to British citizenship.

During April 2008 we provided the Committee of Ministers with a detailed note about implementing the Hirst judgment and we have undertaken to submit further information in due course on the form and timing of a further consultation in the light of the wider debate which is now taking place. Following consideration of the outcome of consultation, legislation to implement the Government's final approach will be brought forward as soon as parliamentary time allows.

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