UK & World News
Prisoner Votes: PM Defiant Blanket Ban Will Stay
David Cameron has flatly ruled out giving prisoners the vote after Conservative MPs reacted angrily to speculation that the coalition was planning legislation on the controversial issue.
The Prime Minister moved to clarify his position and told the Commons: "No one should be in any doubt. Prisoners are not getting the vote under this government."
However, his comments appeared to contradict those of his Attorney General, who earlier suggested that the UK would have to accept a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and fulfil its international obligations.
Dominic Grieve said the UK could ultimately decide to ignore the European court.
"Parliament is sovereign in this area. Nobody can impose a solution on Parliament," he told the Commons justice committee.
But he warned Britain's reputation would suffer if it ignored the ruling, and he insisted the UK had "a great deal of latitude" in how it complies with the judgment.
Ministers are preparing to launch a draft bill to comply with ruling, according to The Guardian.
This is despite Parliament voting overwhelmingly to maintain a blanket ban in February.
Mr Cameron has said the idea of giving prisoners the vote made him "physically ill".
Speaking at the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session, he signalled that he was ready to hold another vote "to put the legal position beyond doubt".
But there are reportedly concerns in the Government that it could face a huge compensation bill if it does not bring forward legislation before the ECHR's deadline of the end of November.
Publishing draft proposals, possibly giving the vote to those serving terms under four years, would give ministers time as there would be a significant period before anything would reach the statute books.
However, any move to grant the vote to any serving prisoners seems set to provoke outrage from many Conservative backbenchers.
Nick de Bois, secretary of the influential 1922 committee, posted on Twitter after the Guardian report was published.
He tweeted: "Sitting working with 5 other Cons MPs - if reports of prisoner voting rights are accurate then that's 6 MPs who won't vote for it."
Tory colleague Douglas Carswell added: "Make it 7."
Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith wrote: "MPs almost unanimously rejected votes for prisoners. If it happens all the same, does that mean the UK Parl officially no longer matters?
"It's no longer a Q of whether prisoners should vote. It's a Q of whether or not the UK Parliament still has the authority to make decisions."
The ECHR admitted that it was up to national authorities to decide exactly who can vote from jail - but said denying voting rights to all inmates indiscriminately was illegal.
Mr Cameron's official spokesman denied the PM was at loggerheads with Mr Grieve on the issue.
"There is a single Government view on this issue, and that is that prisoners should not get the vote," he said.
"As the Attorney General said earlier, Parliament is sovereign in these matters."