Jo Cox stood for the best of Labour

Jo Cox was a unique Labour MP whose approach to politics, international development and her family marked her out as compassionate and clever. Her work in Westminster and life outside Parliament were cruelly cut short in an act of senseless barbarity in Birstall, West Yorkshire, 16 June 2016.

MPs, activists and the wider Labour movement are grieving today while the deepest pain is borne by her husband and their two children.

See tributes to Jo Cox in LabourList [Here]

EU referendum voting – British Embassy Press release

EU referendum – Press release from British Embassy in Paris.

The British Embassy in Paris has launched a seven-day countdown campaign and competition to raise awareness of Overseas Voter Registration Day (OVRD) on 4th February among expatriates in France.

The press release is available [Here]

THE LABOUR PARTY STATEMENT ON OVERSEAS VOTING

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.

The statement:

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, ed.miliband.mp@parliament.uk

Zero UK Tax Allowance for Expats

The following is the text of an e-mail from the Branch Secretary published on this site recently:

From: Richard Smith
Subject: UK TAX ALLOWANCES
Hello All,
I am sure that, by now, you will be aware that the UK government is proposing to remove the tax allowances for UK citizens that are resident abroad. This will affect all those that have taxable income in the UK such as Government Pensions (retired Teachers, Nurses, Policemen, Firemen, Military personnel and other public servants) that are covered by the Double Taxation Treaty between the UK and France. It will also include those people with UK property that is rented out – tax payable in the UK.
The current allowance is £10,000 rising to £10,500 later this year – the UK government is proposing to reduce this to zero. This means that you will pay UK tax on every penny of your pension or rental income.
The government is consulting on this proposal The– see link below – which closes on October 9th. Section 7 contains a number of questions and you can reply to as many as are relevant to you.

Unfortunately the consultation period has now ended. However, you can find out the outcome of the public feedback by visiting the Government web page – <HERE>.

We will post helpful comments on the Goverment decision as soon as we know and this will be one of the items on our next branch meeting agenda.

European Commission Meeting – Voting Rights

Delegation meets with European Commission Vice-president

Brux-delegation0913On 5th September, at the invitation of Harry Shindler, I attended a meeting in Brussels at the European Commission representing Labour International. The meeting was with the vice-president of the Commission, Mme Viviane Reding, and her officials to discuss the problem of the disenfranchisement of citizens of some EU member states – principally the UK, but a total of 8 countries that deny their citizens the right to vote in national elections once they live outside their home country. There were also representatives of other political parties and interest groups present, including Brian Cave of Pensioners Debout, and at Harry’s invitation our delegation was fronted by Roger Gale MP (Con).

Mme Reding was very encouraging in her support and her team are investigating what action the EC might take to rectify the situation. She did, however, warn that the EC could not issue a Directive or take legal action unless given the competence by member states – usually in the form of a Treaty. She didn’t rule out the possibility of action through the European Court of Justice if there is a case to be brought on the grounds of restriction to the free movement Article. After she left the meeting we continued in discussion with her officials and legal team for a further hour, making points for them to investigate and answering technical questions posed by us.

She listened carefully to the arguments we put forward but said that we could not leave the matter totally in the hands of the Commission. As national elections currently remain in the competence of member states, it is up to the citizens of those states to bring pressure on their home governments. Our campaign must continue to persuade all parliamentary groups and political parties to change their attitude to expat voters in the hope of getting the 15-year cut-off removed from legislation and ultimately to get proper parliamentary representation.

The meeting concluded with lunch in the Commission restaurant where we discussed what further steps might be taken by the various groups to both assist the Commission and to increase pressure on the UK government. There was total unanimity amongst all present to change the Representation of the People Act amended as soon as possible.

Dick Smith
LICC member

Meeting with Electoral Commission

Overseas Voting

 

Electoral-Commission-6Aug131-260x260Labour International Coordinating Committee (LICC) meeting with the Electoral Commission, 6 August 2013.
 
LICC members held a meeting at the Electroral Commission to discuss issues pertaining to expatriate voting in UK elections. See the full report on Labour International web site – <click here>.
 
LICC members present at the meeting were (from the left) Dick Smith, Lorraine Hardy, and Dalvir Singh.

Withdrawal of WFA

The withdrawal of Winter Fuel Allowance has angered many people who have retired to live in a European country which may be warmer in summer, but is often colder in the winter than the South West area of England and has prompted I.L. North West France branch members, Dorothy Green and Eric Green to send an e-mail to HM Treasury for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.  The e-mail and the Treasury reply are posted below :

From: Eric Laurence Green
Sent: 01 July 2013 16:11
To: ROBERTSON, Jane
Subject: Winter Fuel Payment

Dear Chancellor of the Exchequer,
Did you study Geography when in your school days ? Have you any conception of the size of France and the variation of winter temperatures across this huge country. We live in the Charente where the winter climate is generally very cold in the winter….ice, snow, gales…..that sort of thing. We do not live in the south on the Mediterranean coast sipping champagne as you like to characterise us. Certainly it is often much colder at that time of the year than in most of England.

If you think the correct criterion for WFP is temperature then you must insist on (continuing) that payment to us. You clearly have little regard, if any, for British citizens living in France and we must say it is very sad too to see how happy you are to cloud important issues with outrageous propaganda rather than speak the truth……reminds us of a gentleman by the name of Adolf……but then you’re too young to remember ! Perhaps you missed out on History as well as Geography.

Yours faithfully,

Eric L Green B.Sc.(London)
Dorothy S Green M.A.(Oxon)

Treasury reply :

From: Enquiries, CEU – HMT [Restricted]
Sent: Tuesday, July 02, 2013 11:05 AM
To: ericlgreen
Subject: [UNCLASSIFIED] RE: Winter Fuel Payment

Dear Mr Eric L. Green and Mrs Dorothy S. Green,
I am writing on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government to thank you for your email of 1 July.

Ministers are always keen to receive feedback from people up and down the country, so it is very good of you to take the time to write and to let them have your views. Please rest assured that the contents of your letter have been registered by the Treasury.

Thank you, once again, for taking the trouble to write to us with your views.

Regards,
Graham

 

Parliamentary Representation for UK Citizens living Abroad

Aside

The recent attempts in the House of Lords to get the 15-year limit on electoral registration lifted were thwarted in the debate in Committee. The Amendments to the Electoral Registration Bill proposed by Lord Lexden were eventually withdrawn after some extraordinary speeches by some Lords. Lord Lexden withdrew his amendment after being offered an inquiry into political representation of expat citizens.

Lord Lexden will chair an Inquiry into the whole question of Representation including establishing Members of Parliament to be elected by expat UK citizens in a similar manner to the French system. This promises to be a good solution to our political isolation from UK parliament. This is important because so much of our lives as expats is decided and controlled by the UK parliament. For UK pensioners, public service pensioners and others who pay tax in the UK; for UK passport holders; for UK citizens whose health care and social welfare is the responsibility of the UK government, this will give some leverage when problems arise and policies are being discussed. It may also give us an opportunity to participate in crucial debates and referendums on our future within the EU.

 

The campaign for MPs to represent us has started.

 

Letter to Sky News

 

You aptly reported all day on the 400,000 thousand French citizens living in the UK for whom 30 polling stations were open to cast their votes in the French Presidential election. In London, the 6th French city in the world, you showed thousands queuing up to vote and interviewed the French Ambassador to the UK. He underscored that the million French diaspora citizens are close to France, sharing the same tough issues as those living in France. They are also interested in schools, the international role of France, and ‘like everyone else in my country’ their concerns are roughly the same – unemployment and current crises, Does not the same apply to the millions of British expats who lose the vote after 15 years’ abroad?
The Home Office’s argument that after 15 years’ away, they are deemed not be connected to the UK and could change nationality, over-rides their human and civil rights in which the UK is out of step with its peers and out of conformity with international obligations. That right to vote is a fundamental tenet of the British Constitution. The right to vote without time restrictions is wholly consistent with relevant international instruments.  However, unlike many other countries, the UK is one of the most restrictive in depriving its expatriates of these democratic rights. British expats are also part of our community representing a core value of globalisation. They share their cultural heritage with others and constitute a rich, global network of resources and new energy to tap. Surely they deserve the same consideration as French citizens abroad?

Check out www.votes-for-expat-brits.com

Kind regards,
Dr Sylvia Moore (M.Litt Oxon)
British global professional, resident in France