Skip to main content

Voting (Overseas UK Citizens)

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 9 July 2013

3. What consideration he has given to changing the regulations concerning voting by UK citizens living overseas. (163790)

UK citizens resident overseas can register to vote in UK and European parliamentary elections provided that they have been registered in the UK in the past 15 years. We are extending the electoral timetable for UK parliamentary elections, which will make it easier for people overseas to use their postal votes, and the Government are also removing the requirement for an initial application as an overseas elector to be attested by another British citizen abroad.

I am grateful for that answer. As we know, many UK citizens living overseas are eligible to vote but are not registered. What steps can we take to ensure that British people living overseas are enfranchised?

The Government will certainly explore all possible ways, in discussion with the Electoral Commission and other interested parties, to encourage registration among overseas electors, as we do, of course, for any eligible elector who seeks to be registered. As I say, the measures that we are taking in the context of moving towards individual electoral registration will help. I urge the hon. Lady and all those here in the House to take this issue very seriously, because very many more overseas electors ought to be registered.

Does the Minister agree that, given the importance she puts on this, the immediate priority must be the 6 million people in this country who are already eligible to vote but are missing from the register? What is she going to do about that?

I have an entire programme of activities on individual electoral registration, about which I have always been happy to brief the House; in fact, I will do so again shortly by invitation to all right hon. and hon. Members. When it comes to deciding which voters are more important than others, all voters are equally important.

Is consideration being given to the possibility that residents of the Falkland Islands will be given the right to vote in British elections in the same way as the French give people living on the island of Réunion the right to vote in French elections?

There are various categories of eligibility depending on the status of the country in question—for example, the rules that relate to Commonwealth voters who are resident in this country. I would be happy to take a further look into that question in the light of any changes that my right hon. Friend might be referring to.

Does the Minister have any concern that a number of local authorities are cutting the money that is dedicated to electoral registration? If so, what is she going to do about it?

The hon. Gentleman will have been eagle-eyed and read my written ministerial statement last week announcing £4.2 million to deal with exactly that.