The government has published draft legislation that could lead to prisoners being given the vote. Chris Ship reports on the options that will be been presented to MPs
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has set out the terms for the pre-legislative inquiry into whether prisoners should be granted to right to vote.
He said: "Parliament is sovereign in this area.
"Nobody can impose a solution on parliament but the accepted practice is that the United Kingdom observes its international obligations."
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said allowing prisoners serving less than four years to vote would lead to 30,000 inmates going to the polling stations.
Justice Minister Chris Grayling has urged the government to "accept the political cost" as it considers the next steps on prisoner voting.
He told the House of Commons:
"The government is under an international law obligation to implement the court judgement... it remains the case that Parliament is sovereign and the human rights act explicitly recognises that fact."
He added: "The constraints upon its exercise by Parliament are ultimately political not legal. But the principle of legality means parliament must squarely confront what it is doing and accept the political cost."
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said a joint Commons and Lords committee will consider proposals on prisoner voting, including the option of retaining the ban.
He said: "The leaders of both Houses are writing to the liaison committees proposing that a joint committee of both Houses be appointed to to conduct [the] pre-legislative scrutiny.
"We feel that pre-legislative scrutiny of that nature is appropriate given the significance of this issue and the strong views on both sides of the House."
The draft bill offers MPs three options: allowing prisoners sentenced to less than four years to vote; allowing prisoners sentenced to less than six months to vote; maintaining the current blanket ban.
Nick Herbert, the former minister for policing and criminal justice, has opposed prisoners getting the vote on the basis that it is a "civic right, not a fundamental human right".
In a blog for ConservativeHome, he added:
Today’s move is unlikely to solve the prisoner vote stand-off: it will merely kick the can down the street.
Theincreasing tension between the UK and Strasbourg cannot be left to fester, andthe prisoner voting issue is just one of a number that will require us to makesome hard choices.
Nick Herbert, the former minister of state for police and criminal justice, said he was "doubtful" that the three government proposals over prisoner rights will satisfy the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights.
MP @nickherbert - "Doubtful" that 3 govt proposals on prisoners' votes "will comply with what the European Court of Human Rights wants'
Also speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, leading human rights lawyer Lord Lester said the UK had an obligation under its international commitments to end the blanket ban on prisoner voting.
Lord Lester - UK obligation "not to give all prisoners voting rights" but "to introduce legislation which does not continue a blanket ban"
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has admitted that there may be a "political price to pay" if the government overrules the European Court of Human Rights over prisoner voting.
Speaking on Monday, he said: “The legal views, the legal precedents around our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights are very clear.
“The Parliament has the right to overrule the Court but the law lords who first passed that ruling were very clear that there may be a political price to pay if it chooses to overrule the court.”
Former prisoner Ben Gunn has told Daybreak that every prisoner has the right to vote.
He said: "When we spend our money, when we deal with our families, we're still members of society, a secluded part but still deeply connected to society,"
Earlier this week, Attorney General Dominic Grieve warned MPs that it would be a "serious matter" if Britain defied the European Court of Human Rights' ruling.
While Parliament was entitled to retain the current ban, he said that it could leave Britain liable to pay compensation as well as legal costs and expenses.
– Dominic Grieve, Attorney General
Parliamentary sovereignty remains, it is open to Parliament to decide not to change the law.
However if Parliament chooses not to implement the judgment this would be a serious matter because it would place the UK in breach of its international obligations to which it is a signatory.
A large amount of MPs from across the political spectrum are opposed to giving prisoners the right to vote in elections.
David Cameron said the idea made him feel sick, while in a non-binding vote in Fenruary, MPs voted overwhelmingly by 234 to 22 to maintain the blanket ban.
In its ruling in 2005, the European Court of Human Rights said denying prisoners the vote was a breach of their human rights.
While individual countries could decide which prisoners were not entitled to vote, it said a blanket ban was illegal.