All David Linden contributions to the Overseas Electors Bill 2017-19

Tue 16th October 2018
9 interactions (733 words)

Overseas Electors Bill: Money

(Money resolution: House of Commons)
David Linden Excerpts
Tuesday 16th October 2018

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Cabinet Office
Glyn Davies Portrait Glyn Davies
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16 Oct 2018, 4:50 p.m.

I certainly do. That is an example of why the Bill is important.

I know that others wish to speak, so I shall finish by saying that a detailed impact assessment has been submitted alongside the Bill. I refer right hon. and hon. Members to that impact assessment for a full overview of the costings.

David Linden Portrait David Linden (Glasgow East) (SNP)
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16 Oct 2018, 4:51 p.m.

When I was elected to this place, I did not think that I would take such a keen interest in money resolutions and the private Members’ Bills process, but it is with a degree of trepidation that I have found myself down the rabbit warren of parliamentary procedure. I speak specifically about my experience serving on the Public Bill Committee for the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill.

It was with a degree of surprise that I saw on today’s Order Paper that the House was to be asked to agree to a money resolution given that two other Members—namely, the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Afzal Khan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil)—have introduced private Members’ Bills that the House has voted democratically to give a Second Reading, but the Government have chosen, in an abuse of their Executive power, not to grant money resolutions on those Bills. As a result, the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill Committee, on which I serve, is currently in parliamentary purgatory. We have met in excess of 12 or 13 times on a Wednesday morning to consider a motion to adjourn. Because we do not have a money resolution, we cannot consider the Bill clause by clause and line by line, nor can we consider any amendments.

There is certainly a case of double standards here. It is inherently unfair that the Government are abusing their Executive power to stonewall private Members’ Bills, but the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) has brought forward his Bill—which is further down the queue than the Bills of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton and of my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar—and it will progress on the back of the money resolution provided by the Government today.

The nature of this Parliament means that numbers are tight. The Government would do well to reflect on the tight parliamentary arithmetic. Their colleagues in the Democratic Unionist party currently seem to be holding a gun to their head and refusing to join them in the Lobbies. When the House divides in a few moments, we will see whether colleagues from Northern Ireland will join the Government in the Lobby.

Let me turn to the Bill. The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy and no politician should get in the way of the public exercising that right, but I find myself somewhat in disagreement with the proposal from the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire. To be consistent, I take the view that the voting franchise should generally be as we had it in the 2014 independence referendum in Scotland: anyone living in the country should be able to vote. There should obviously be exemptions for those who work overseas, but the fundamental point remains that those who have the greatest stake in the nation’s future should be able to vote. In my view, that means that everyone over the age of 16 who lives in the country should be allowed to vote. In Scotland, we have extended the right to vote to 16 and 17-year-olds and I shall vocally press the UK Government to do likewise.

If the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire and the Conservative party as a whole wish to extend democracy, I politely suggest that they should start elsewhere. They should start by abolishing the House of Lords and introducing votes at 16.

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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16 Oct 2018, 4:54 p.m.

In a hypothetical future referendum on Scottish independence, does the hon. Gentleman think that a Scotsman living in, say, Pimlico should be able to vote on the question of Scottish independence?

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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In the 2014 referendum, the franchise was that those who lived in the country should be able to vote and our position now is no different. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and I can discuss it and I can explain it to him so that he understands it better, but—

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. I remind the House that the debate should be about the financial implications of the Bill.

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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16 Oct 2018, 4:54 p.m.

I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I have outlined a couple of options that the Government could pursue if they seriously wanted to extend democracy, but if they want to be the great champions of democracy, they should bring forward money resolutions for the two private Members’ Bills that were given a Second Reading by this House, because a failure to do so would only reaffirm the Scottish National party’s belief that this is a place of limited democracy and double standards.

Roger Gale Portrait Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con)
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16 Oct 2018, 4:57 p.m.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I understand entirely that this debate is about the money resolution and the amendment, but you will forgive me if I say that much of the Opposition Front-Bench spokeswoman’s speech was devoted to the political implications of the extension of the vote to expat UK citizens. Such a device has not been used since 1912, and it is being used quite cynically by the Leader of the Opposition as a backdoor way of trying to kill a piece of legislation that some of us have been working on for a very long time, and I make no apology for referring back to the case of Harry Shindler.

Harry and I have been working on this project for more years than I care to remember. Harry is 97. He is about as British as anybody possibly could be. He happens to live in Italy, where some of his family live. He fought at Anzio. He came back to the United Kingdom. He worked and he paid his taxes. He then went back to Italy, where he continues to spend his retirement working in the interests of his fallen comrades to ensure that their graves are properly looked after and that memorials are erected. Harry also happens to be literally the longest-serving member of the Labour party, but that does not stop us being good friends. It does not prevent us from making common cause, because Harry believes, as I believe, that people who are UK citizens, who have paid their taxes throughout their working lives, and who are receiving pensions, albeit while living in other countries, should have the right to vote.

The hon. Member for Leigh (Jo Platt) said that we are proud to be one of the oldest democracies in the world. We are, but we also happen to be one of the oldest democracies in the developed world that does not give lifelong voting rights to its expat citizens, which cannot be right. I oppose the Opposition amendment simply on the grounds that this has nothing to do with democracy or with resources. If it had anything to do with resources—this comes back to the money—and if we were so concerned about the financing of the proposals, why are the Opposition proposing to give votes to 16 to 18-year-olds, who have mostly never paid a dime in taxation in their lives, while seeking to continue to deny the voting rights of expat UK citizens who have paid their way throughout their working lives?

David Linden Portrait David Linden
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16 Oct 2018, 4:58 p.m.

I left school at 16 years old and did not get to vote until I was 18, but I paid taxes during the two years that I was unable to vote in elections to this Parliament. That is a nonsense argument.

Roger Gale Portrait Sir Roger Gale
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I know some such young people, but at most they could have paid two years’ worth of taxes. Harry Shindler paid taxes for years and gave blood and fought for his country. I am afraid that Opposition Members are seeking to deny such people the right to be British and to vote as British, which I regard as an absolute disgrace—