HC Deb 19 May 1975 vol 892 cc1008-9
35. Mr. Adley

asked the Lord President of the Council what further representations he has received about the voting rights of British taxpayers working abroad, not on the current United Kingdom electoral register and thus unable to vote; and if he will move to appoint a Select Committee to consider this question.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. Gerry Fowler)

Since the representations to which my right hon. Friend referred in the answer he gave to to a similar Question from the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) on 30th April, he has received a petition on behalf of some 100 British residents in Spain about voting in the referendum and one or two other separate representations. He has no plans to ask the House to appoint a Select Committee to consider this question.

Mr. Adley

Would the Minister of State mind not sounding so patronising and complacent? Could he also stop smiling for a moment? Does he or does he not accept that the criterion of "no taxation without representation" is fair? If he accepts that, will he yet again consider the position of people who are still paying British taxes while working abroad temporarily and who are, therefore, not on the register?

Will the hon. Gentleman take this question seriously since the amendments to the Referendum Bill were rejected not on principle but on the basis that there was not enough time to deal with them properly? Will he at least consider setting up a Selection Committee to consider this matter?

Mr. Fowler

I will consider the hon. Gentleman's representations about whether I should smile or not when he ceases to use fourth-form humour in this House. Liability to pay tax would not be a satisfactory basis for any extension of the franchise. Such a liability falls on aliens as well as on British subjects. It arises in a multiplicity of ways—income tax, capital gains tax, corporation tax and VAT—and it would be inappropriate as a basis for determining an entitlement to vote. As to the future, it is a matter for the Speaker's Conference when Mr. Speaker reconvenes it.

Mr. Peyton

I hope the Minister will bear in mind that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) needs no advice on how he should ask questions, certainly not from the Minister of State. Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to take this question seriously and at least take on board, if he can, the fact that there are many British subjects abroad who feel outraged at being denied the opportunity to vote which they think is part of British citizenship?

Mr. Fowler

Nor do I need advice from the right hon. Member on how to answer questions in this House. As to the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's question, he knows full well that we have debated the referendum at length in this House and that we came to a conclusion. It is now too late to change that conclusion.

Mr. Adley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

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