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David Cameron denies disagreement with Beaconsfield MP Dominic Grieve
9:41am Thursday 25th October 2012 in News
ATTORNEY General and Beaconsfield MP Dominic Grieve appeared to be at loggerheads with David Cameron yesterday after the prime minister flatly ruled out giving prisoners the vote.
Cameron moved to clarify his position yesterday amid speculation the coalition was preparing legislation on the controversial issue.
Giving evidence to MPs, Mr Grieve had said a European Court of Human Rights ruling against the blanket ban "imposes an international legal obligation on us".
The government’s chief law officer warned Britain was obliged to obey the judgment and could face huge damages claims from prisoners.
"The issue, it seems to me, is whether the United Kingdom wishes to be in breach of its international obligations and what that does reputationally for the United Kingdom," he said.
"This is not a matter where there's not parliamentary sovereignty. There clearly is. Parliament gives and Parliament can take away.
"Governments can leave the Council of Europe if they choose to do so, but all I'm saying is it is quite clear, and I think accepted by the Government, it is accepted that, in so far as the Scopola judgment is concerned, it imposes an international legal obligation on us."
He added: "Exactly what the United Kingdom should do is not specified and indeed it's quite clear there is going to be, or is, a great deal of latitude in what the United Kingdom can do."
But Mr Cameron told the Commons yesterday: "No one should be in any doubt. Prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government."
He pointed out that last year that the House called by an overwhelming margin of 234 to 22 for the blanket ban to be maintained rather than eased in line with the ECHR judgment.
That motion was not binding on the Government, but Mr Cameron signalled that he was ready to hold another vote "to put the legal position beyond doubt".
Speaking at the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session, he said: "The House of Commons has voted against prisoners having the vote.
"I don't want prisoners to have the vote, and they should not have the vote.
"If it helps by having another vote in Parliament on another resolution to make absolutely clear, to help put the legal position beyond doubt, I am very happy to do that."
Tory MPs had reacted with fury to reports that the Government was preparing a draft Bill to comply with the ECHR's so-called Scopola ruling.
The claims prompted speculation that the coalition was backing down in the long-running battle with Strasbourg.
Mr Cameron's official spokesman has denied the PM was in disagreement with his Attorney General.
"There is a single Government view on this issue, and that is that prisoners should not get the vote," said the spokesman.