Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker. I only want to add a few brief words to this debate today, to offer my support for this bill.
I strongly support the removal of the arbitrary 15 year time limit on the right to vote for UK citizens living abroad. The current system fails to appreciate the strength of our nationality and the mentality of our people. Expats do usually retain strong links with the UK – they have families and friends here plus in our global world with more affordable and modern transport, Britain is always only a few hours away.
The 15 years rule is really quite odd if we are honest, is someone somehow less British after 15 years than 14? Does someone one day wake up and care less about their country and its’ future? The answer Madam Deputy Speaker is NO
Being British has no expiry date – it is for life and we should be proud of that and send that message around the world.
This year marks a 100 years since women were enfranchised and I am delighted that this bill will finally enfranchise all British citizens who were previously residents or registered to vote in the UK. This means enfranchising over five million Britons living overseas
I am proud to support this bill which will strengthen our democracy and honour a manifesto pledge
One of my constituents who has been living abroad for over 15 years summed up the current situation well when she said:
“I have no vote anywhere, no representation, no MP, nothing. The 15-year-rule annuls us completely.”
In fact currently any British citizen who was a resident of the UK and over 18 when they left but was not previously registered to vote anywhere in the UK is completely unable to apply to register as an overseas elector. This is not exactly encouraging people to participate in democracy!
Madam Deputy Speaker – democracy only works when people exercise their right to vote – but for too long we have removed that right from our own citizens.
This bill will mark an end of the disenfranchisement of millions of our own citizens after an arbitrary 15 years living abroad. It will make our system more democratic and inclusive, sending a strong message globally that we recognise what makes Britain great is our people and that our people are proud of their country feeling invested and engaged for their entire lives.