VOTES FOR IMPRISONED CRIMINALS – 11 January 2011

Dr Julian Lewis: The contribution made by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab) was so excellent that I would happily have given up the two minutes remaining to me to hear even more from him. This is the situation in which we find ourselves: a democratic Parliament in a democratic country is being told that we are not allowed to decide primarily moral issues, by unelected judges in a court set up to deal with the trashing of human rights by dictators and by countries very different from ours. Winston Churchill was quoted earlier. He was a great war leader, but he was not famed for consistency in domestic politics. His twice crossing the Floor of the House is evidence enough of that. Were he here today, and had we a vote on the matter, I venture to suggest that he would not vote to give convicted prisoners the vote.

People do not go to prison for light offences these days, but because they have done something seriously wrong. The real problem that we face is that judges all too often assert rights that really ought to be qualified rights as absolute rights. Even the right to life is not absolute, because it is infringed when countries legitimately go to war. Where the line is drawn should be a matter for democratic politicians, not unelected judges.

To conclude my remarks in the all too brief time that those of us who are against giving prisoners the right to vote have been allowed by those who spoke earlier and who are in favour of giving prisoners that right, I ask the Minister this: when the time comes, if the Government feel that they cannot draw the line in the sand, which I would love them to do, will they at least do the absolute bare minimum to comply with the judgment, because that is certainly not what they are proposing to do at the moment?