ROGER GALE is Conservative MP for Thanet North and has sent British expatriates demanding their voting rights, the following message:
I have received a number of recent communications relating to progress – or lack of it
– towards either extending the duration of time within which ex-pat UK citizens may vote in UK general elections or granting the vote for life.
The thesis appears to be as follows: it is recognised that while the ex-pat (European) community is generally able to vote in local and EU elections, those who have been resident outside the UK for more than 15 years are denied the right to vote in a national election unless, of course, they have adopted another nationality. It is also clearly understood that most European Union and some other States grant ex-pat voting rights in perpetuity.
The government feels obliged to contest the “Harry Shindler Case” under UK law as it stands. As HMG is considering amending the law (an amendment that will have to
be agreed between the coalition partners in order to gain the necessary majority
in the House) this might seem perverse but the convention is clear: we implement
UK law as it is and not as we would wish it to be or as it might become.
Looking forward, the Registration Bill, due to be introduced in January, provides a
realistic vehicle for a change if the Government is minded to extend voting
While I appreciate – and share – the sense of frustration felt by those who want to “get
a move on” I now propose to use my best efforts to calmly and courteously seek
to press the case for change. It would be helpful if those ex-pats with an interest in the subject (and it has been pointed out by others that the level of pro-active support is lamentable in some areas) were to write to /e-mail their own MPs** seeking support for legislation through representations to the Cabinet Office.
I remain convinced that Mark Harper, as the junior Cabinet Office Minister, genuinely
wants to help but this, clearly, will be a Coalition Cabinet decision and it is, therefore, important that Liberal Democrat as well as Tory MPs understand the sense of injustice that is felt throughout an ex-pat community that has worked for, supported, paid taxes in and sometimes fought for the United Kingdom.