HL Deb 20 December 1984 vol 458 cc723-4
Lord Gridley

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many British citizens resident abroad will benefit from the extension of the franchise under forthcoming legislation.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

About 600,000, my Lords.

Lord Gridley

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend the Minister for that Answer and while accepting that due to the speed of air travel people overseas are being brought into ever closer contact with the United Kingdom, I should like to ask him from what country overseas the largest number of votes are likely to be cast in respect of overseas voters and holidaymakers? Has my noble friend any knowledge of the number of bona fide holidaymakers who will be casting their votes?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I think that my noble friend has asked me to use my crystal ball beyond its capacity. I can give no accurate estimate about from which countries the largest number of votes are likely to be cast. But, according to the time of year, the United Kingdom is likely to be high on the list.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord the Minister to look into his crystal ball because undoubtedly while there will be a number of those 600,000 persons who will be temporarily abroad for business purposes and who will intend to come back, will he hazard a guess at how many of those 600,000 show their loyalty to this country by being tax exiles with no intention whatever of returning to this country? Also, how many will be persons who have lost all contact with the constituency in which they will be voting up to a period of seven years after leaving?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the qualifications in the Bill which we shall be discussing are residential and do not relate to the motives of the person when he chooses where to reside.

Baroness Vickers

My Lords, when voting took place in 1945 members of the services were given 14 days, I think, between the allocation of their votes and the date when the votes had to be in. Will there again be a period of time for that to happen, and will there be notice of where the applications for votes are to be sent?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I believe that there will be an extension of the period of a general election, but I would advise your Lordships to reserve questions of detail on the Bill until the Bill arrives in this House.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, with regard to the reply which the noble Lord gave to my noble friend, is he aware that a vast number of people have now bought villas around the Mediterranean and that they have retained their British citizenship but pay no taxes to this country and have no intention of returning? Is it fair, is it constitutionally proper, that these lotus eaters should have a vote in this country?

Lord Elton

My Lords, that is a question to which we shall return when the noble Lord takes part in the proceedings on the Bill.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, would the noble Lord care to hazard a guess at which political party will benefit most?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I would care to do so, but I shall not.

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