HC Deb 05 June 1980 vol 985 cc1668-70
15. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his latest estimate of the number of Irish citizens resident in the United Kingdom and entitled to vote in the United Kingdom elections.

Mr. Brittan

I understand that the labour force survey taken in 1979 suggests that there may be close to half a million citizens of the Irish Republic aged 18 and over resident in the United Kingdom. Those whose names appear in an electoral register would be entitled to vote at all elections in Great Britain and at parliamentary and European Parliament elections in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am grateful for that reply. In the light of those figures can my hon. and learned Friend give the House three convincing reasons—or even one or two—why his Department appears to be so reluctant to terminate this totally unreciprocated anomaly?

Mr. Brittan

The anomaly to which my hon. Friend refers must be considered in the light of the history of relations between the two countries and of the efforts that the two Governments are making to improve co-operation on security matters affecting Northern Ireland. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), the Government do not at present have proposals to change the position.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

If the estimates are based in whole or in part upon the forms completed by electors for registration, is it possible for the Government to publish in the Official Report or elsewhere estimates for the respective constituencies in Great Britain?

Mr. Brittan

The estimates are not derived from that source but from the labour force survey.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Approximately how many British citizens whose domicile is in the Irish Republic are not entitled to vote for the Dail Eireann? Is there any truth in the reports that the present Dublin Government intend to accord reciprocity?

Mr. Brittan

I do not have the figures, but I shall see whether I can obtain them for my hon. Friend. We do not have the details of proposals made by the Prime Minister of the Republic, but obviously we shall consider any proposals that are made.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that Irish citizens in this country, many of whom have lived here for many years—including citizens from the North and the South and two Members of Parliament—play a most important part in the life of the country, in spite of murmurs from the Government side of the House?

Mr. Brittan

There is no doubt that Irish citizens play an important part in the country, but whether they should have the right to vote is another question.