Clause 11 - Voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens

Part of Elections Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 21st October 2021.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North 12:30 pm, 21st October 2021

It is regrettable that the Government have had to table such a substantial number of technical and drafting amendments. It goes back to the point that we made yesterday about what could have been achieved had there been a comprehensive programme of prelegislative scrutiny and a bit more preparation before we launched this parliamentary phase of scrutiny of the Bill, but there we go. I agree with the Labour Front-Bench spokesperson that the Government could have applied a far more generous approach to the franchise here—the approach being taken in Scotland to next year’s local elections. It is in line with the basic principle that was articulated: if someone lives in an area, is affected by the decisions made by the local authority, and is legally resident, by and large they will have a vote.

Some of that is reflected in the new clauses that we have tabled on UK parliamentary elections, but the Scottish National party has not tabled amendments to the provisions we are considering, because we recognise that they affect local elections in England and Northern Ireland. We respect the devolution settlement. Just as we would not expect the UK Parliament to legislate on matters that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, though it increasingly does, we do not seek to amend this part of the Bill, because it affects local elections. We are, however, disappointed that the more generous and wider application of the principle of franchise has not been applied. It will be a loss to democracy in this part of the world, and to residents who will be affected by decisions over which they will have no say.