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Elections: Armed Forces

Volume 502: debated on Thursday 10 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what arrangements have been made to enable members of the armed forces to participate in the 2010 general election through (a) campaign contact by candidates (i) in person and (ii) through literature and (b) voting in (A) the UK, (B) other European Union member states and (C) overseas beyond the EU; and if he will make a statement. (306053)

With respect to campaign contact by candidates, the Queen’s Regulations prohibit all forms of political activity, including political meetings and speeches, in service establishments. Canvassers may visit at the discretion of the commanding officer, but no material issued by or on behalf of a political party may be distributed in service institutions. There is good internet access in service establishments, including those overseas, and personnel may access campaign information in this way. They may also access television election broadcasts. Campaign literature may be sent to those electors who have a UK address on the electoral register.

The Government are committed to supporting electoral participation by service personnel and their families. Service personnel may vote in person, by post or by proxy. The declaration period for service voters is to be extended from three years to five as soon as parliamentary time allows, which will increase convenience for these voters. However, service voters face unique challenges in exercising their vote. I recently met armed forces families’ representatives and MPs to discuss service voting and a range of suggestions were made to further assist service personnel and their families. I have also set up a working group to consider possible improvements to the current system for this election and to identify a more comprehensive solution to be taken forward in the next Parliament.