THE LABOUR PARTY STATEMENT ON OVERSEAS VOTING
After much lobbying and cajoling by Labour International, Ed Miliband’s office has issued the following statement to Brian Cave of Pensioners Debout http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.fr
Not as positive as we might have wished but at least an acknowledgement of the issue. Mention of the Ten-Minute Rule Bill suggest that Labour MPs might not vote against it. However, it is number 15 on the list of Bills and may well not be debated. If my understanding is correct it will go through ‘on the nod’ unless one single MP voices an objection and then it will fall.
As you know, British expats who have been resident and registered to vote in the fifteen years prior to an election are eligible to vote in elections for the UK Parliament and the European Parliament as long as they are registered as an overseas voter.
We appreciate that there have been calls for this 15-year rule to be relaxed or abolished in Britain and that this is supported by some expats who are currently unable to vote in UK elections or are at risk of losing their right to vote in upcoming elections. We also recognise that a number of other countries do allow permanent voting rights for expats.
The voting rights of British citizens is, of course, an extremely important issue and we agree this should be looked at carefully. As you say in your letter, a Ten Minute Rule Bill – the UK Overseas Voters (15 Year Rule) Bill – has been introduced to Parliament and proposes to legislate for permanent voting rights for British expats. The Bill is now scheduled to receive its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 6th March.
Labour hopes this Bill will provide an opportunity for the House of Commons to debate this issue and consider the merits and demerits of the current 15-year rule.
We also believe we need to do more to encourage all citizens – expats and those registered in the UK – to register to vote. It is welcome that the Electoral Commission has set a target of getting 100,000 more overseas voters registered before the next General Election. The introduction of online registration also means it is now easier than ever for Brits abroad to register to vote. It remains important, though, that the Government continue to look into other ways of engaging British citizens abroad to register and participate in elections.
Authorship email: A Williams, office of Ed Miliband, firstname.lastname@example.org