PRISONERS “damn well shouldn’t” be given the right to vote, David Cameron said yesterday as he called for the European Court of Human Rights to have its wings clipped.
The Prime Minister underlined his opposition to the bid by a group of convicts and insisted the final decision must lie with Parliament, not in Europe.
The court – which has ruled Britain’s blanket ban on votes for those behind bars is a breach of their human rights – has announced it is reopening 2,281 compensation claims by UK prisoners.
Quizzed on the matter, he said: “If Parliament decides that prisoners should not get the vote then I think they damn well shouldn’t.”
He added: “It should be a national decision taken in our Parliament.”
Mr Cameron said the court’s powers must be restricted, adding “we need to clip its wings”.
He said tougher controls on freedom of movement within the European Union will be needed in the future and suggested restrictions could be placed on new member states until they reached a similar level of wealth as the UK.
“We’re putting in very tough measures and controls but I think in the future we will need to go further,” he said.
“When other countries join the European Union we should be insisting on longer transitions and perhaps even saying until you reach a proper share of an average European Union GDP you can’t have freedom of movement.
“The reason for that is if you look at migration between Britain and Germany or France and Germany, countries of pretty even GDP, the movements are pretty much balanced.
“Its only when you have a real imbalance when you have a poor country and a much wealthier country that you get these vast movements.
“Perhaps saying until your economy, until your wealth is similar to our wealth you can’t have unrestricted movement.”
From January, Bulgarians and Romanians will gain the same rights to work in the UK as other EU citizens.
Mr Cameron said: “I know an influx of non-skilled workers is a major cause of concern.
“We belong to the European Union where there are rules saying that if you apply for a job in another country you can go and take that job.
“That enables British people to go and work in Germany, Spain or elsewhere and it enables European nationals to come and work here.
“But there are two things we’ve absolutely got to get right, firstly when a new country joins the European Union they should not have automatic access to our market.
“Poland and the other eastern European countries joined in 2004 and they were given instant access to British jobs even though Poland and those countries are much poorer than us.
“As a result the numbers that came were far bigger than anyone expected, 1.5 million came, it was one of the biggest movements in population we’ve seen in the last few decades.
“That was under the last government and it was a very bad decision and we must not make that mistake again.”
The European court ruled the ban on prisoners voting was illegal as long ago as 2005, amid calls for campaigners to relax the ban, which dates back as long as 140 years, to improve the rehabilitation of offenders.
But Ministers from all parties have opposed changing the law, putting them on collision course with European authorities.
The Government has published a Bill over the issue with three options, one of which proposes retaining the ban and defying Strasbourg, despite warnings from the Council of Europe, which oversees the court, that if the UK refused to enforce the judgment, it would weaken the court and deprive it of meaning.