Prisoners’ Voting Rights
Asked the Prime Minister's reaction to an ECHR ruling today that murderers held in prison should be allowed to vote in elections, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that we would consider the detail of today's judgement. However, it had been the view of successive Governments that prisoners convicted of a crime serious enough to warrant imprisonment had lost the moral authority to vote. That remained our position. Asked to explain why prisoners had lost the moral authority to vote, the PMOS said that they had carried out criminal activities which had been judged to be sufficiently serious by a court to warrant imprisonment. That judgment related to how society viewed these matters. Asked if the Government would appeal against the decision, the PMOS said that we would take time to consider the detail of the judgment before announcing what we were going to do.
Questioned about the Opposition Leader's comments on immigration during his exchange with the Prime Minister in PMQs today, the PMOS said that as a Civil Servant he was unable to comment on party political matters. The Prime Minister had simply been making the point that it was important to discuss the issue of immigration rationally and calmly.
Asked when the Prime Minister would meet the families of the Lockerbie victims, the PMOS said that a meeting would be arranged once a mutually suitable date had been identified. It was unlikely to take place before Easter. He added that the Prime Minister had last met the families in December 1998.
Asked the Prime Minister's view of the way the Home Office had been conducting its affairs recently, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said the Prime Minister continued to believe that the Home Office was trying to do a very difficult job well. He hoped people would recognise that the Government, led by the Prime Minister, David Blunkett and Beverley Hughes, had taken concerted, systematic action to deal with the problems in the asylum system, which, in turn, had helped lead to the halving of the number of asylum applications. We acknowledged that there were currently problems with the immigration system. We would examine those had been highlighted and take equally systematic action to address them if it was found necessary to do so.
Higher Education Bill
Asked if the Prime Minister would be meeting backbench MPs in the run up to the vote on the Higher Education Bill later today, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would speak to whomever he thought was necessary. It was clear that the vote would be tight. Questioned further, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would continue to argue the case - a case which had reinforced by the Coalition of Mainstream Universities, which represented the majority of universities, who had said this morning that it would be disastrous for higher education as a whole, and for students from poorer backgrounds in particular, if the Bill were to be withdrawn.
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