The UK government is changing rules on foreign-resident voting rights.

03-05-2009

Sir Roger Gale, Conservative MP for North Thanet, is a champion of the rights of British foreign residents. Among other things, he has been campaigning for "Votes for Life" for foreign residents. This morning, he welcomed the renewed commitment made by the Cabinet Office to deliver the necessary legislation in time for "the next scheduled General Election".

Speaking at Cabinet Office questions the minister, Chris Skidmore, confirmed that following the policy statement issued on 7 October indicating how the change in policy would be implemented, there is a determination that "people like Harry Shindler", the nonagenarian Anzio veteran living in Italy, will be able to exercise their right to vote in Britain in future.

The minister also confirmed that the requirement for foreign residents to have been registered previously in the UK in order to register as an overseas voter will be scrapped under the proposed legislation.

Speaking later, Sir Roger said: "It is iniquitous that those who have in many cases paid UK taxes and lived in or served their country throughout their working lives should, after fifteen years, still lose their right to vote in the land that they recognise as ‘home’. That restriction denied the opportunity to tens of thousands of UK citizens to vote in the recent referendum that will affect the whole future of the United Kingdom.

"This Government clearly intends to honour its election pledge to extend the franchise to all UK citizens of voting age, wherever they may currently reside in the world and in perpetuity. That is in line with the practice followed in most developed democracies, and I hope very much that the relevant bill will be included in the next Queen’s Speech"

Sir Roger had been campaigning hard for the legislation to have been brought before the referendum. Despite promises and support from sections of the government, it failed to transpire. However, the Conservative Party did include scrapping the 15-year rule in their election manifesto and it appears that finally, after much campaigning and pressure from foreign resident organisations, the law is going to be changed.

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