The 23rd of January, Lord Lexden returned with some success to the Overseas Voting Rights question, at the House of Lords Committee report stage of the Electoral Registration & Administration Bill (ERA). There is final recognition that this issue is now firmly on the political agenda and should be pursued via an all-party inquiry.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire in responding on behalf of the government and encouraging Lord Lexden to withdraw his amendment:
- Thanked Lord Lexden “for ensuring that the government will take a more active approach to this consideration [of British citizens living abroad] from now on”.
- Recognised “that he [Lord Lexden] has made his mark on the government”.
- Suggested that Lord Lexden “should pursue the question of an all-party inquiry into the rather neglected area [of our overseas citizens], not leaving everything to the government here”.
In withdrawing his amendment, Lord Lexden was “extremely interested in that suggestion [of an all-party inquiry] ……[and] I will seek a meeting with him [Lord Wallace] about how that might proceed. On the face of it, an all-party inquiry is extremely attractive”.
“Many in this House will share my strong hope that many more expatriates eligible to register under the existing 15-year-rule will exercise their right, as consideration continues to be given to the removal of that rule [since] the issues are firmly on the political agenda”.
(To find out more about registering, you can go to www.aboutmyvote.co.uk )
For the Opposition, Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town once again resorted to the party political funding issue by citing the still-not-in-force, Political Parties and Elections Act 2009, Section 10 of the Act which:
“prohibits a registered party from accepting a donation of more than £7,500 in any year from a UK national living abroad and on the electoral register, unless they become resident in the UK and pay UK income tax……..Therefore, if overseas electors were able to stay on the register for longer than 15 years, they would remain permissable donors for as long as their wealth held out. For this reason – if for no other – we could not support the amendment”.
You can also increase the visible number of expatriates supporting removal of the 15-year-rule by adding your vote here in our on-line poll.