"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Prisoners' Votes 2 + Updates

The debate began at half past twelve with thinly-populated government benches and even sparser attendance from the Opposition.  David Davis opened the proceedings with a five-minute speech - giving way many times - and he was followed by Jack Straw.

Of those who spoke, the majority were in favour of the motion and stressed that the debate was essentially about two matters: prisoners' voting rights and the supremacy of the EHCR.  A small number of MPs were in favour of resiling from the ECHR altogether but most preferred to confront it on an as and when basis.  Denis McShane (former Minister for Europe in the Labour govt) was the odd man out - he alone spoke in favour of giving prisoners the vote although lefty Jeremy Corbyn intervened on Chris Bryant to accuse the govt of having an ulterior motive and secretly wanting to leave the ECHR completely (much finger-wagging).  In his twenty-minute speech the Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, had already made it clear that the government's position was to remain a signatory to the ECHR and not to withdraw.

One MP (sorry - no name) created a stir when he suggested that Legal Aid should be denied to criminals suing the government for compensation and that the no-win, no-fee route should also be blocked off.  He was cheered by some sections of the Chamber but almost hissedf and booed by another.  John Hirst, the convicted axeman murderer who began all this, was funded by Legal Aid.

So far there have been many comparisons with other countries and a great deal of referring back to history - eg Hartley Shawcross, Winston Churchill, the 1689 Bill of Rights.

Here's an article written by David Davis, which explains what the motion is all about.

More later probably ... possibly.

UPDATE:  Philip Hollobone is making an absolutely stonking speech at the moment (14.54) - well worth catching up with in Hansard if you like this sort of thing.   The grand old Parliamentarian, Richard Shepherd, has intervened a few times, as has John Redwood - I think their presence indicates an understanding that more is at stake in the ECHR judgement than votes for prisoners.

Part 3/Final

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