MP: We must ‘lay down a marker’ over prison votes

If you have committed a crime and infringed someone else's human rights, you shouldn't expect the right to vote, says Caroline Dinenage
If you have committed a crime and infringed someone else's human rights, you shouldn't expect the right to vote, says Caroline Dinenage
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A TORY MP has explained why she feels it’s time to ‘lay down a marker’ to the European Union.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage spoke out after voting to deny prisoners the vote in the UK – despite a European Court of Human Rights ruling suggesting they should.

She said: ‘We have to decide whether laws made here, or those in Strasbourg, are our priority. This was time to lay down that marker. We have to respect international law, but we also must respect victims of crime in this country, and say here is the line in the sand. Come this far, and no further.’

Ms Dinenage was one of five of The News’ region’s MPs to take part in the Parliamentary debate.

Tories George Hollingbery (Meon Valley), Steve Brine (Winchester), Damian Hinds (East Hampshire) and Lib Dem Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South), also attended.

The advisory vote will not decide UK policy, but is likely to affect the outcome of any decision by justice secretary Kenneth Clarke on whether to allow prisoners to vote.

It was won 234-22 by MPs who say rules on who can vote should be set in the UK, and no prisoners, other than those on remand, or imprisoned for contempt or default, should vote.

And Ms Dinenage said: ‘If you commit a crime and infringe someone else’s human rights, you shouldn’t expect the right to vote. Victims have human rights too. We must reel back the power the EU has over us. This government didn’t sign up to the treaties it’s in, and we have to decide whether to roll with it or put our foot down.’

The debate was called after the court found in favour of a UK prisoner who said he should have been able to vote when he was locked up.

It means the UK could pay out millions in compensation because there are more than 2,500 outstanding claims from prisoners excluded from elections in the UK.

The bill is estimated to be at least £70m.

But Mr Hancock said: ‘I don’t think prisoners should have the vote. You give up your civil rights if you are sent to prison. I also believe British parliament should decide our laws.’

Mr Hollingbery said: ‘I was uncomfortable that the vote covered both the powers of the European Court and whether prisoners should vote. It’s important to draw the line in the sand about the court. Our laws should be made here. I’m happy with the status quo on whether prisoners should vote, but I’d like to see a full debate because there are good points to be heard on both sides. I think putting the two together clouded the voting issue.’