ECHR 'should respect jail vote ban'
The European Court of Human Rights should respect Britain's "sensible and proportionate" ban on prisoners voting, Labour said as the Government prepared to offer Parliament a fresh say on the issue.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is to publish draft legislation on Thursday setting out three options, including a retention of the outright ban ruled illegal by the court in 2005. That is a day before the deadline to comply with the ruling set by officials at the ECHR in Strasbourg, which has the power to issue fines for any breach.
Last February, the Commons called by an overwhelming margin of 234 to 22 for the blanket ban to be maintained and David Cameron has flatly ruled-out defying parliamentary opinion.
The Prime Minister told MPs last month that he was happy to introduce legislation to "help put the legal position beyond doubt", adding: "But no-one should be in any doubt: prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government."
Mr Grayling insists Parliament can reject the ECHR's ruling - despite concerns raised by Attorney General Dominic Grieve that Britain is under an international legal obligation. But he admits there would be "consequences" for the UK.
The draft legislation - which will not be voted on this week - is expected to offer three options: votes for prisoners who have been imprisoned for up to four years, for up to six months or the status quo.
Tory MP Peter Bone welcomed what he said was "the Government for the first time... saying Parliament's decisions will overrule the European Court".
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said a vote on legislation would strengthen the UK's argument that it should retain its ban - which is backed by Labour.
"You have to keep going back to the European Court on this because I think the job of the European Court is to look at what is proportionate, what is responsible," she told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme. "We haven't passed laws on this before, even though we have passed motions, and I think when we do so, the European Court should look at it again."
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "The Government is considering how best to proceed following the judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. An announcement will be made to Parliament shortly."
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