Overseas Electors Bill: Money

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:14 pm on 16th October 2018.

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Photo of Chloe Smith Chloe Smith The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, Assistant Whip 4:14 pm, 16th October 2018

I suspect that question has almost nothing to do with the Bill and very little to do with this money resolution to it, but what I would say is this: now is the time, as we change our relationships in this world, to speak loudly and proudly about Britain around the world. Now is the time that we should reach out to our citizens—our people around the world—and say, “You are British, and we are proud that you are British and we welcome you into our democracy.” That is what this Bill is doing; that is the principle that we on the Conservative Benches stand for. I look forward to hearing what those on the other side of the House stand for.

Let me give the House another important figure for context. The cost of putting this measure in place is £1 million, and the amendment suggests that that should be reduced to £10,000. For context, allow me to mention the cost of running a whole parliamentary election in the UK. We do not yet have the cost of the 2017 election, because not all claims have yet been settled, but the 2015 election cost almost £115 million, the 2010 general election cost £104.5 million and the one before that cost £71 million. The cost of parliamentary elections is increasing for other reasons, including more people choosing to vote by post.

Let us return to principle. What we are talking about here is a Bill that puts right an injustice, and that injustice is this: we think British citizens should not be abruptly disfranchised after they have lived for an arbitrary amount of time overseas. The amendment to the money resolution is no more than a shameful wrecking amendment that aims to stop people voting and stop people being enfranchised in this country, and would cause chaos to the new scheme that the Bill aims to put in place.

We have set out in our impact assessment the costs that accrue to this policy in an entirely reasonable and justifiable manner. This amendment is neither of those things. I commend the money resolution to the House.