Prompt to register as an overseas elector

Part of Overseas Electors Bill – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 22nd March 2019.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 10:30 am, 22nd March 2019

I am going to move on now, or else we could be here all night. I shall move on to new clause 3, and I will try to crack on a bit; otherwise, we could be here forever. New clause 3 in effect requests a report on the awareness of how to participate in elections as an overseas elector. Again, I have taken this from the hon. Member for City of Chester, who mentioned it in Committee. I commend him again for doing that. When he introduced this change in Committee, he said:

“We heard in the discussion of previous clauses about the dangers of overseas electors piling in as soon as an election is called. We discussed with the Minister the importance of electors participating early by registering as early as possible. Based on the 2016 survey conducted by the Electoral Commission, it is clear that there remains widespread confusion about what it means to be an overseas voter and the eligibility criteria necessary to vote.”

This is no doubt one of the reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire brought forward the Bill in the first place. I think we can all agree that that is the case. The hon. Member for City of Chester went on to say:

“This lack of awareness has the potential to create a significant barrier to casting a ballot. The survey found that there was widespread lack of awareness about eligibility requirements, with 31% believing that eligibility required receiving a UK state pension and 22% believing that it required owning a property in the UK.”––[Official Report, Overseas Electors Public Bill Committee, 17 October 2018;
c. 67.]

Those were particularly pertinent points that he highlighted when he brought forward his new clause. We should all be concerned about the level of confusion that that survey revealed. The purpose of new clause 3 is to raise awareness among overseas voters of how they can participate in elections. Given that we are trying to get more overseas electors to participate in elections, the new clause, helpfully suggested by the hon. Member for City of Chester, would be a pretty important way to ensure we did that.