Archive for the ‘Why Peers Cannot Vote’ Category

EU Referendum Bill: Lord Lexden Supports Amendment to include all UK Citizens in other EU Member States

mardi, novembre 3rd, 2015

This is the speech made by Alistair Lexden in the Lord?s yesterday (2nd November, 2015) afternoon in support of an amendment to the European Referendum Bill seeking to give the right to vote in the referendum to all UK citizens living in other EU member states.

Lord Lexden (Con): My Lords, the noble Lords who have tabled these amendments have performed a most valuable service which has wider international dimensions, as my noble friend Lord Flight and others have pointed out. I have strongly and consistently supported the removal of the arbitrary 15-year limit on the right of our fellow countrymen and women living overseas to vote in our parliamentary elections?a right first conferred by Margaret Thatcher?s Government. I urged its removal in my first speech in this Chamber in early 2011. I tabled amendments to the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill in 2013 in order to press the case for change. I took part in subsequent discussions on overseas voting arrangements in a cross-party group chaired by my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth?a group in which my noble friend Lord Tyler played a conspicuous part.

I was delighted when my party included an unambiguous commitment in its recent general election manifesto to sweep away the iniquitous 15-year bar. Swift implementation of that commitment would have dealt with all the aspects of this issue, both as regards the parliamentary franchise and, as a direct consequence, the forthcoming EU referendum. However, the Bill to give effect to the unambiguous Tory commitment has not even been published. I was greatly taken aback to be told, in answer to an Oral Question in July, that there was no certainty whatever that the Bill would reach the statute book before the referendum took place?and it has become even less certain since then. This is deeply disappointing. Nothing could have been more precisely predictable than the emergence of the huge problem with which we are now confronted if swift and early action was not taken.

It is extremely unfortunate, to put it mildly, that work was not set in hand at the earliest opportunity. The Tory pledge was made in September last year. A branch of the Conservative Party?s organisation with which I am closely connected, Conservatives Abroad, has two outstanding experts on all the issues involved in extending the right to vote to all British citizens living overseas. They could have helped prepare the way for the Bill, which, if it were now before Parliament, would have prevented the wholly foreseeable problem that the amendments seek to address; unresolved, it will inflict great injustice on a significant number of our fellow countrymen and countrywomen overseas.

It simply cannot be right to hold a referendum in which some British citizens living in another EU member state or elsewhere in the world are able to take part, while others are excluded because they happen to have been absent from our shores for more than 15 years. The outcome within the EU will affect them all equally and profoundly. It will surely be incomprehensible to our fellow citizens living abroad that an election manifesto commitment cannot be implemented by one means or another in time for them to participate in a vote of such overwhelming importance for the nation to which they belong.

We need to imagine ourselves in the shoes of Harry Shindler, to whom the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, paid tribute, and our other fellow countrymen and countrywomen who have been living overseas for over 15 years and have retained a strong sense of British identity. How would we feel about being excluded from this momentous referendum while those who have not reached the 15-year limit can take part? The Bill should be returned to the other place and amended in order to include British citizens who have been living overseas for more than 15 years. In that way, we would uphold the principle enshrined in the Conservative election manifesto.

Why Peers Cannot Vote In General Elections

dimanche, juin 10th, 2012

English Common law has long provided that Peers in the House of Lords cannot vote at Parliamentary elections. Since 1999 (and the House of Lords Act) it is the fact of being a member of the second chamber that actually prevents Peer from voting. However, Hereditary Peers who are excluded from membership of the House of Lords are able to vote, under the terms of the 1999 Act. Members of the House of Lords can vote in all other elections (European, local, referenda etc.).
Matthew Purvis, House of Lords Research Clerk, has provided (via his Twitter account @mtthwprvs) a link to Library Note LLN 2012/022 ? Members of the House of Lords: Voting at Parliamentary Elections ? which provides the background information.
From the voting rights standpoint and according to Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, with regard to this incapacity to vote at general elections, and particularly how it relates to the European Convention on Human Rights:
?Parliament consists of the three estates of the Sovereign, the Lords and the Commons. The Lords sit in their own right. The Commons are elected by the remainder of the estate of commoners to represent them in Parliament. There was therefore no case for the Lords to vote to elect representatives, since they were able to sit in Parliament anyway.?
In terms of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), he added that:
?Article 3 Protocol 1 of the ECHR provides for a requirement to hold regular, free and fair elections, and the Strasbourg courts have taken this to include the individual right to vote. However that right to vote is not absolute and limitations may be imposed on it. The fact that Members of the House of Lords have a voice in Parliament makes it legitimate to deprive them of a right to have their voice also heard through their elected representative in the Commons.?

The above ruling by the ECHR could be viewed as a favourable legal precedent for old soldier Harry Shindler, who currently has his voting rights case before this Strasbourg court, having lost his right to vote after 15 years overseas and, therefore, the right to have his voice heard through his elected representative in the Commons.