Overseas Electors Bill: Money

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:50 pm on 16th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip 4:50 pm, 16th October 2018

When I was elected to this place, I did not think that I would take such a keen interest in money resolutions and the private Members’ Bills process, but it is with a degree of trepidation that I have found myself down the rabbit warren of parliamentary procedure. I speak specifically about my experience serving on the Public Bill Committee for the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill.

It was with a degree of surprise that I saw on today’s Order Paper that the House was to be asked to agree to a money resolution given that two other Members—namely, Afzal Khan and my hon. Friend Angus Brendan MacNeil—have introduced private Members’ Bills that the House has voted democratically to give a Second Reading, but the Government have chosen, in an abuse of their Executive power, not to grant money resolutions on those Bills. As a result, the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill Committee, on which I serve, is currently in parliamentary purgatory. We have met in excess of 12 or 13 times on a Wednesday morning to consider a motion to adjourn. Because we do not have a money resolution, we cannot consider the Bill clause by clause and line by line, nor can we consider any amendments.

There is certainly a case of double standards here. It is inherently unfair that the Government are abusing their Executive power to stonewall private Members’ Bills, but Glyn Davies has brought forward his Bill—which is further down the queue than the Bills of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton and of my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar—and it will progress on the back of the money resolution provided by the Government today.

The nature of this Parliament means that numbers are tight. The Government would do well to reflect on the tight parliamentary arithmetic. Their colleagues in the Democratic Unionist party currently seem to be holding a gun to their head and refusing to join them in the Lobbies. When the House divides in a few moments, we will see whether colleagues from Northern Ireland will join the Government in the Lobby.

Let me turn to the Bill. The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy and no politician should get in the way of the public exercising that right, but I find myself somewhat in disagreement with the proposal from the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire. To be consistent, I take the view that the voting franchise should generally be as we had it in the 2014 independence referendum in Scotland: anyone living in the country should be able to vote. There should obviously be exemptions for those who work overseas, but the fundamental point remains that those who have the greatest stake in the nation’s future should be able to vote. In my view, that means that everyone over the age of 16 who lives in the country should be allowed to vote. In Scotland, we have extended the right to vote to 16 and 17-year-olds and I shall vocally press the UK Government to do likewise.

If the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire and the Conservative party as a whole wish to extend democracy, I politely suggest that they should start elsewhere. They should start by abolishing the House of Lords and introducing votes at 16.