BOLTON MP Yasmin Qureshi has defended her decision to vote in favour of giving prisoners the right to vote.

The barrister was one of only 22 MPs to vote against a motion to continue denying prisoners the right to vote in defiance of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The Commons debate follows a lengthy campaign by convicted killer John Hirst, who successfully argued in the ECHR that he was entitled to vote.

MPs voted by 234 to 22 in favour of the motion tabled by David Davis and Labour former justice secretary, and Blackburn MP, Jack Straw.

The Government had put forward proposals which would allow around 28,000 inmates serving less than four years to be given the vote.

Ms Qureshi, the MP for Bolton South East who also spent many years as a Crown prosecutor, said: “When you lock someone up, you take away their main right, that of freedom.

Nowadays, prison is made up of three parts, punishment, retribution and rehabilitation and I see this as part of the rehabilitation. Most prisoners probably will not even exercise the right to vote.”

The vote, which took place on Thursday, does not tie the Government's hands, but will put pressure on ministers to water down proposals.

She said: “It was done under a one-line whip which means a lot of MPs did not bother to turn up.

Bolton North East MP David Crausby voted in favour of the motion while Bolton West MP Julie Hilling was absent from the debate and vote.

Cllr Andy Morgan, the Conservative group’s spokesman on community safety, said: “I respect Yasmin Qureshi’s personal view but she is there to represent the people of her constituency, the majority of whom have expressed a view that prisoners should not be allowed to vote.”