From the Prime Minister’s spokesperson on: UK-France Summit and prisoner voting.
Asked overall how much money would be saved as a result of the defence and security treaty signed today, the PMS said that the treaty was long term and set out areas where we would cooperate. Many of the details would be worked through over the next year so we didn’t currently have an estimate.
Asked about the bi-laterals taking place today, the PMS said that there would be some more detail on how we were working together on immigration issues. The focus of the economic discussion would be a look ahead to the G20 meeting.
Asked why the Prime Minister asked why the Prime Minister was not standing up to Europe regarding allowing prisoners to vote, the PMS said that we had been considering this issue for some time. There were a number of court cases underway at the moment, which we needed to take account of as we considered the issue. It was an unfortunate position, which people would find difficult to understand but we had to take account of the court cases. It was worth bearing in mind that this went back quite a few years; in March 2004 the UK’s blanket ban on prisoner voting was declared unlawful as a result of a successful challenge by a prisoner called John Hirst. After that judgement the Government undertook a two stage consultation. The first stage ran from December 2006 to March 2007, which looked at the principles of prisoner enfranchisement and the options available for implementing the judgement. The second stage ran from April to September 2009 and explored options franchising prisoners based on sentence length and how the arrangements could work in practice. That process had not concluded by May 2010.
Asked when a decision would be made, the PMS said that we would have to take account of the court process which would affect the timing. Another point worth noting was that the Committee of Ministers supervised the execution of judgements by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). At its last meeting on 14/15th September we indicated that we planned to update that committee in time for its next meeting scheduled to start on 30th November.
Asked if we could take any legal action or withdraw from sections of the ECHR, the PMS said that the Government’s position on the Human Rights Act was set out in the Coalition Agreement; we would establish a commission to investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporated and built upon all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.