Overseas Electors Bill: Money

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:32 pm on 16th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jo Platt Jo Platt Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 4:32 pm, 16th October 2018

I will not give way, as I want to make some progress.

Until 2015, the number of overseas voters registered to vote had never risen above 35,000. However, at the UK general election in 2017, there were a record 285,000 such voters—a jump of more than 800%—following the various overseas voter registration campaigns directed by the Government, who have clearly begun to politicise the overseas electoral mechanism. The Opposition will therefore continue to do what is right for the country by upholding the integrity of our elections. We welcome the rising levels of participation among overseas electors in recent years, but they have created heavy administrative challenges for local authorities. We have seen the failures of past Government implementations, and we do not need another Tory policy failure at the public’s expense.

The existing provisions for registering overseas electors under the 15-year rule already involve an extremely challenging and resource-intensive process for electoral registration officers. According to the Association of Electoral Administrators, significant staff resources are required to process and check whether overseas electors have been registered within a local authority area in the past 15 years. The AEA has estimated that it takes roughly two hours to register one overseas voter, and because overseas electors fall off the register after 12 months, the vast majority of registration applications occur immediately ahead of a general election, when the pressure on electoral administrators is at its most intense. We must also recognise the wider pressures facing returning officers and electoral registration officers.