North Wales Assembly Member and Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, Mark Isherwood AM, has condemned Labour and Plaid Cymru for supporting proposals for legislation to give Welsh prisoners the right to vote.
Speaking in a debate on the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee report Voting Rights for Prisoners, Mr Isherwood (pictured) referred to the fact that only 9% of people in Wales said that all prisoners should be allowed to vote in a 2017 YouGov survey.
He said “The fact that Labour and Plaid Cymru are supporting this further evidences the growing gap between the expressed will of the people of Wales and their elected so-called representatives.
“Rights go with responsibilities, and not voting is just one of the facts of life arising from being in prison, reflecting a decision by the community that the person concerned is not suitable to participate in the decision-making process of a community.
“Some 17% of prisoners are already eligible to vote - prisoners in the community on temporary licence can now vote, and both un-convicted prisoners being held on remand and civil prisoners jailed for offences such as contempt of court also already have the right to vote, although very few do.
“The UK Government has also said that it should be made more clear to people given prison sentences that they will not have the right to vote while in prison."
He added: “It is concerning that some Committee members believed in the principle of votes for all prisoners.
“Despite this, the Committee report only recommended that the Welsh Government and National Assembly legislate to give Welsh prisoners serving custodial sentences of less than four years the right to vote in devolved elections.
“For the reasons already outlined, Mohammad Asghar AM and I could not agree with this recommendation.
“Responding to this report, the Welsh Government stated that it “will work to introduce legislation in this Assembly to enable prisoners from Wales serving a custodial sentence of less than four years to vote in devolved local government elections”.
“Responding on behalf of the Assembly Commission, the Llywydd stated that it “does not consider that amendments should be introduced to the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill to address this issue”.
“In a letter to the Committee Chair last week, the Welsh Government added that it is committed to the principle of prisoner voting in all local elections and that it will seek an appropriate legislative vehicle at the earliest opportunity, to enable prisoners from Wales to vote in Assembly elections on the same terms as will apply for local government elections.
“To be clear, according to the Law Pages, giving the vote to prisoners serving a custodial sentence of less than 4 years will include those convicted of: Having a blade or sharp point in a public place; Racially aggravated common assault; Racially aggravated criminal damage; Procurement of a woman by threats; Attempted incest by a man with a girl over 13; Abduction of an unmarried girl; Causing prostitution of women ;Soliciting by men; Ill-treatment of patients; Assault with intent to resist arrest, and procuring others to commit homosexual acts.“It is this that Labour and Plaid Cymru are supporting, further evidencing the growing gap between the expressed will of the people of Wales and their elected so-called representatives here."