Asked if one of the options the Government was considering was not allowing any prisoners to vote, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that we were looking at the options and it was not right to speculate about what we may or may not do before that work had been completed. There had been a European Court judgement in a particular case and that judgement said that the current position (the Representation of the People Act 1983), which imposed a blanket ban was not consistent with the Human Rights Act. However, it also said that states signed up to the convention had a wide margin of appreciation in deciding such restrictions. They also gave guidance on how those restrictions should be imposed and that they should contribute to preventing crime, and respect the rule of law. We had to respond to the court judgement and we would also take into account the views of Parliament.
The PMS went on to say that this would ultimately be a legal judgement. We were currently considering our advice in this area, but it was not possible to ignore the judgement of a court without cost or consequence.
Asked what had to be done next, the PMS said that the court had said that we had nine months in which to introduce legislation to implement the judgement.
Asked if the Government could voluntarily withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights as we had voluntarily signed up to it, the PMS said that that was not Government policy. The Government policy was that we would establish a Commission to look at the whole issue of the convention, including the option of a British Bill of Rights.
Asked if the Government was still monitoring events in Egypt, the PMS said yes. The continuing protests were now larger than ever and it was our conclusion that more change was required urgently.
Asked what kind of change was required, the PMS said that it needed to be an Egyptian-led process. We thought that there should be a clear timetable and roadmap set out for elections and constitutional reform. We had also talked about transition to a broad-based government and the process around that, but ultimately it would be a decision for the Egyptian people.