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UK Citizens (Voting Abroad)

Volume 519: debated on Tuesday 30 November 2010

6. What discussions the Electoral Commission has had with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on allowing UK citizens resident abroad to vote at UK embassies and consulates. (27051)

The Electoral Commission discussed that issue as part of a round table event with Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence officials in 2008, but the then Government failed to introduce the comprehensive strategy that the commission sought. The commission, however, has recently repeated its recommendations that the UK Government should introduce proposals for a comprehensive electoral modernisation strategy, including to address how it intends to improve voting opportunities for overseas electors.

I am sure that overseas electors will be delighted to hear that progress is being made. My hon. Friend will recall that I asked him a similar question last time round, after which I was inundated with e-mails from British ex-pats. One said:

“I have been abroad for 10 years now (ironically, working for the British Government) and have not once received our ballot papers in time to vote”.

Another says:

“As a result of poor planning on the Electoral Commission’s part, I was denied my vote.”

Will my hon. Friend agree that now is the time to consider having British subjects abroad voting in embassies and consulates, at least perhaps on a pilot basis?

My hon. Friend is a tireless campaigner on behalf of overseas voters. There is no question but that the cumbersome nature of registration requirements and the tight time scales for getting postal votes to and from overseas voters are part of the reason why so few register and vote overseas. As I mentioned earlier, the Electoral Commission has made radical recommendations to the Government about streamlining the procedures, and it is very much to be hoped that the Government will take those on board.