Conservative MPs have reacted angrily to reports that the coalition is planning legislation to give prisoners the right to vote.
According to the Guardian, ministers are preparing to launch a draft bill to comply with a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) despite Parliament voting overwhelmingly to maintain a blanket ban in February.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the idea of giving prisoners the vote made him "physically ill" but there are concerns in Government that it could face a huge compensation bill if it does not bring forward legislation before the ECHR's deadline of the end of November.
Publishing draft proposals, possibly giving the vote to those serving terms under four years, would give ministers time as there would be a significant period before anything would reach the statute books.
However, any move to grant the vote to any serving prisoners seems set to provoke outrage from many Conservative backbenchers
Nick de Bois, secretary of the influential 1922 committee, posted on Twitter after the Guardian report was published: "Sitting working with 5 other Cons MPs - if reports of prisoner voting rights are accurate then that's 6 MPs who won't vote for it."
Tory colleague Douglas Carswell added: "Make it 7."
Richmond Park MP Zac Goldmith wrote: "MPs almost unanimously rejected votes for prisoners. If it happens all the same, does that mean the UK Parl officially no longer matters?
"It's no longer a Q of whether prisoners should vote. It's a Q of whether or not the UK Parliament still has the authority to make decisions."
The ECHR admitted that it was up to national authorities to decide exactly who can vote from jail - but said denying voting rights to all inmates indiscriminately was illegal.
Government sources insisted that no decision had yet been taken.