Lord Chancellor made a Statement to the House of Commons today about the thorny issue of 'Votes for Prisoners'. He informed MPs that the Gov't intends to bring forward a bill which includes 3 options for MPs to decide on - votes for those serving less than 4 yrs, for those serving less than 6 mths, and no votes for prisoners at all. (except for those who currently qualify). Lots of us asked questions of Chris Grayling. Its a very important issue.
Its reasonably clear that when the debate takes place, MPs will vote for no extension of votes for prisoners at all. It follows that potentially, after the next election, prisoners could appeal to the European Court, and the UK could well face large fines. Of course the UK could simply refuse to pay the fines. This is what other states could do. But we are the UK - a country rightly proud of our commitment to the rule of law. Some of us are appalled at the prospect of the UK being seen to refuse to accept the law when we don't like it. Impossible to say what impact this would have on reputation.
This afternoon, I asked the Lord Chancellor to do his utmost to avoid this looming confrontation. Root of it is that Strasbourg Court is spreading its wings further, into policy that has been hitherto a matter for national courts. If this process isn't challenged, important parts of our sovereignty will continue to be transferred to the ECHR. Perhaps there would be no willingness to compromise by the Court. But it looks to me, we are heading to a standoff that could mean UK withdrawing from the European Court altogether. Personally, I would see this as a huge blow to the UK's standing in the world, but my feel is that there are a fair few MPs who do not share opinion.