I do not have strong views on votes for prisoners. I have received practically no comments on the subject from my constituents. I do want more civil liberties restored, but votes for prisoners was not on my list.
I do have very strong views on the need for Parliament to re establish its sovereignty. The government’s EU Bill to reassert Parliament’s ultimate right to decide on behalf of the British people will only have meaning if Parliament does assert its rights in defined cases where others seek to limit its jurisdiction or constrain its decisions. I have been waiting for a long time for there to be a Parliamentary majority to assert a different view from that of an unelected international institution, as these international agreements and institutions increasingly govern us.
Ideally the first reassertion of sovereignty would have come in a dispute with the EU. Instead, today, it comes in the form of a likely conflict between the majority view of Parliament, and the view of the European Court of Human Rights, a body established under a non EU Treaty. I have to make decisions based on the world as it turns out, not as I would like it to be. I will therefore vote against the decision of the ECHR.
Cabinet Ministers and Shadow Cabinet Ministers will abstain. They believe the UK has to meet its legal obligations under the Treaty, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights. Parliament is likely to say it wishes to interpret the human rights UK citizens should enjoy, and to do so in a different way from the Court. If the ECHR does not like our decision, so be it. If Parliament cannot decide these matters for itself, then it is no longer sovereign.
I have also supported an amendment to the motion which makes clear that UK courts should not award compensation to prisoners for their loss of voting rights. I hope this amendment is called, and recommend to colleagues they should vote for that as well as the main motion.