The Government is to hold a consultation on the right of prisoners to vote, it was announced yesterday.
The move, following legal action by a Midland prisoner, comes after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in October that the British law banning internees from taking part in elections was a human rights violation.
In a written statement, Constitutional Affairs Minister Harriet Harman said the ruling had raised "a number of difficult and complex issues which need careful consideration".
"The ECtHR indicated that there should be proper debate about those issues and I have therefore concluded that the best way forward would be to embark on a full public consultation in which all the options can be examined and which will give everyone the opportunity to have their say," she said.
The legal challenge was mounted by John Hirst while he was serving a life sentence in Rye Hill prison, Warwickshire, for manslaughter.
Hirst (54), who has now been released, was jailed after admitting killing his landlady Bronia Burton with an axe in 1979.
He pleaded guilty on February 11, 1980, to a charge of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was sentenced to "discretionary life imprisonment".
Shadow Constitutional Affairs Secretary Oliver Heald, speaking outside the chamber, said: "Conservatives believe that a jail sentence, by definition a serious punishment, inherently should involve a loss of citizenship rights - including the right to free movement and the right to vote.
"People will find it dis-tasteful that distant and unaccountable European institutions are trying to force Britain to give the likes of convicted muggers, burglars and murderers the same democratic say as victims and law-abiding citizens."