Overseas Electors Bill: Money

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:54 pm on 16th October 2018.

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Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet 4:54 pm, 16th October 2018

Madam Deputy Speaker, I understand entirely that this debate is about the money resolution and the amendment, but you will forgive me if I say that much of the Opposition Front-Bench spokeswoman’s speech was devoted to the political implications of the extension of the vote to expat UK citizens. Such a device has not been used since 1912, and it is being used quite cynically by the Leader of the Opposition as a backdoor way of trying to kill a piece of legislation that some of us have been working on for a very long time, and I make no apology for referring back to the case of Harry Shindler.

Harry and I have been working on this project for more years than I care to remember. Harry is 97. He is about as British as anybody possibly could be. He happens to live in Italy, where some of his family live. He fought at Anzio. He came back to the United Kingdom. He worked and he paid his taxes. He then went back to Italy, where he continues to spend his retirement working in the interests of his fallen comrades to ensure that their graves are properly looked after and that memorials are erected. Harry also happens to be literally the longest-serving member of the Labour party, but that does not stop us being good friends. It does not prevent us from making common cause, because Harry believes, as I believe, that people who are UK citizens, who have paid their taxes throughout their working lives, and who are receiving pensions, albeit while living in other countries, should have the right to vote.

Jo Platt said that we are proud to be one of the oldest democracies in the world. We are, but we also happen to be one of the oldest democracies in the developed world that does not give lifelong voting rights to its expat citizens, which cannot be right. I oppose the Opposition amendment simply on the grounds that this has nothing to do with democracy or with resources. If it had anything to do with resources—this comes back to the money—and if we were so concerned about the financing of the proposals, why are the Opposition proposing to give votes to 16 to 18-year-olds, who have mostly never paid a dime in taxation in their lives, while seeking to continue to deny the voting rights of expat UK citizens who have paid their way throughout their working lives?