This afternoon, and further to our recent article, I voted to support this motion on votes for prisoners:

That this House notes the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Hirst v the United Kingdom in which it held that there had been no substantive debate by members of the legislature on the continued justification for maintaining a general restriction on the right of prisoners to vote; acknowledges the treaty obligations of the UK; is of the opinion that legislative decisions of this nature should be a matter for democratically-elected lawmakers; and supports the current situation in which no prisoner is able to vote except those imprisoned for contempt, default or on remand.

The debate was of a high standard and members who wish to give prisoners the vote were able to make a strong case. I did not agree: I believe that it is reasonable for a person to lose the right to vote along with their liberty on conviction. The motion was carried convincingly.

I have repeatedly heard the argument that giving prisoners the vote should be part of a package of penal reform. I am all for penal reform, but I am not persuaded that it is necessary to give prisoners the vote in order to achieve a high quality of reform: there is much else to do if offenders are to be helped to make a positive contribution to society.

The Government will now, I understand, have to find another way forward.

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