The issue of whether or not prisoners should have the right to vote is highly contentious and the previous and the present Government would rather the issue had not arisen. Given the continuing pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, the Government have produced a draft Voter Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill, which is being considered by a Joint Committee. As regular readers will know, I serve on the committee. I have variously reported on our activities, including the visit to two prisons. The week before last, we took evidence from the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. On Wednesday of last week, we had our final evidence-taking session, when we heard from the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling. Anyone interested in the session can watch the proceedings here. The opening shots give some indication of how ministers usually turn up with a retinue of officials. The minister’s answers, or in some cases non-answers, reveal the conundrum he faces.
As we have completed taking evidence, our task now is to prepare and agree a report. We have until 18 December to do so. Given the contentious nature of the issue, and the fact that our members are drawn from different viewpoints, it is going to be an interesting exercise.