Peer backs expats in vote debate

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The campaign for the voting rights of UK expats received a boost from a Conservative peer recently.

Under current UK legislation, British expatriates living elsewhere than in the UK lose their right to vote on UK matters after 15 years.

In a recent speech in the House of Lords, Conservative peer, Lord Lexden, stated that, according to Electoral Commission estimates, 5.6 million British citizens are resident in other countries and “just 30,000 of them are registered to vote alongside their fellow citizens in the country to which they belong”. Lord Lexden goes on to say: “Sadly, however, for many expatriates a feeling of attachment to Britain cannot gain the full expression that it naturally seeks. After 15 years’ absence, the right to vote ends. No one has ever argued that a sense of belonging to our country dies after 15 years’ absence from it. The withdrawal of voting rights after a decade and a half rests on no clear, settled principle.”

Pointing out that the USA, France, Italy and the Netherlands, among others, all provide lifelong voting rights for their nationals living in other countries, Lord Lexden adds: “… no other leading democracy takes as restrictive an approach as our country. It is high time that the United Kingdom joined the international consensus… The unjustifiable time limit on the right to vote abroad should be swept away completely, bringing us into line with the United States, France and other countries.”

The backing of Lord Lexden will be welcomed by the expat lobby. French Property News has previously been told by a Cabinet Office spokesperson that: “The Government is considering whether the 15-year time limit remains appropriate,” while Labour’s Lord Lipsey told Justin Webb on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme in December that any change to the legislation was unlikely.

www.publications.parliament.uk

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