Parliament has the right in law to tell the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that it does not accept its ruling on votes for prisoners, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says.
David Cameron made clear in the House of Commons earlier this week that he has no intention of complying with the ruling, telling MPs: "No one should be in any doubt. Prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government."
His emphatic declaration appeared at odds with Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who said the ECHR ruling against the blanket ban on votes for prisoners "imposes an international legal obligation on us".
But Mr Grayling insisted there was no split within the Government. There were precedents elsewhere in Europe for signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights defying the Court, but ministers had to be "very careful" in devising a response which reflects the consensus in Parliament while not destabilising the observance of human rights, he said.
Mr Grayling declined to say whether he could contemplate the UK withdrawing from the Convention, but confirmed that he was preparing proposals for reform which will feature in the Conservative manifesto for the 2015 general election.
"It is very clear that most people in the political world in the UK don't want to give votes to prisoners," the Justice Secretary told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.
"What Dominic Grieve was arguing was that we have to be very careful about how we approach the issue. I have to be very careful in my role as Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor.
"The reality is that we are signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. If we therefore choose to disagree with a ruling from that court, we have to understand that we are taking a significant step outside that international commitment.
"I am thinking very carefully about how we do the right thing for the UK."
Mr Grayling rejected the argument that the ECHR has the final say on whether prisoners should be given the vote.