'Out of sight, out of mind' - Peers debate voting rights and registration of UK expats.
As New Europeans made clear to the Commons Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform, there is a job of work to be done to register the UK expat vote.
Read our evidence to the Committee HERE.
Of 5.5 m British expats worldwide, only 15,848 are currently registered to vote in the UK. This issue has been addressed by an informal cross-party parliamentary group which reported last year.
Read more about the parliamentary report HERE.
On 25 November, there was a further debate in the House of Lords, introduced by Lord Norton of Lough, a Conservative peer and champion of voting rights for UK expats.
Graham Richards, Votes for Expat Brits, commented...
"It is encouraging that this normally overlooked and important issue of voter registration of UK expats is getting some much needed time in both Houses of Parliament. Next Monday´s press conference in the House of Commons at which Harry Shindler MBE will be speaking (1 December) and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP's Ten minute rule bill on Tuesday will be further opportunities to raise the issue, particularly with regard to the 15 year rule which Votes for Expat Brits would like to see abolished."
Lord Tyler spoke for the Liberal Democrats, mainly to reiterate his opposition to changes to the 15 year rule which bars UK expat voters from registering to vote in the UK if they have been overseas fro longer than 15 years.
Lord Kennedy (Labour) took part in the debate as Chair of the All-party group on Voter registration. He stressed the role of civil society organisations like in boosting voter registration. He also said he thought the 15 year rule was "about right"!
Lord Wallace , the Cabinet office minister, replied for the government and made clear that there is little prospect of a change to the 15 year rule before the General election. He hoped to see an increase in voter registration even to 30,000 for the general election.
The Electoral Commission has a target of 100,000 new registrations by the May 2015.
Speaking in London after the debate, Roger Casale, Chair of New Europeans, said...
"Despite the best efforts of Lord Norton, neither the minister nor many others taking part in the debate were able to quote the correct number of UK citizens currently registered to vote overseas. Nor could they offer much in the way of encouragement as to what could be done to raise the level from 15,848 (the current figure), towards 5.5 m - the estimated total number of UK expats overeas.
Once again, the impression was given that UK expat voters are 'out of sight and out of mind'. That in itself should be a strong motivator to UK expats to register to vote and to make their voices heard."
New Europeans will continue to campaign for the abolition of the 15 year rule.
CLICK HERE for Online registration for UK expats. Time is running out!