Any new law to scrap the 15-year voting rule for expats looks dead in the water after the Queen’s Speech.
In her speech, The Queen outlined 26 new bills programmed for the next session of Parliament but the long-standing pledge to give expats more voting rights was notably missing.
The Tories first promised to abolish the 15-year rule in the Votes for Life Bill in 2015.
The new law would lift the ban on expats who have spent 15 years or more overseas from voting in UK elections.
A policy statement detailing how the Bill would work followed in October 2016.
The Bill did not see the light of day and was surpassed by the Overseas Electors Bill in 2017, a private member’s bill which won government support.
That Bill bit the dust when Parliament was prorogued – as part of the process, any legislation that has not reached Royal Assent is scrubbed.
That means for the abolition of the 15-year rule to take place, the government must write a clause into an existing Bill or introduce a new Bill and start the process again. It’s difficult to see this happening as part of a proposed Bill as none seem to cover the appropriate topic.
“I am delighted to publish the detail of our plans to implement our manifesto commitment to introduce votes for life, scrapping the rule that bars British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting.,” wrote former Constitution Minister Chris Skidmore in the 2016 policy statement.
Tens of thousands disenfranchised
“British citizens living abroad retain strong links with the United Kingdom: they may have family here, and indeed they may plan to return here in the future.
“Equally, there are many British citizens abroad who have fought for our country, dedicating their lives to our armed services. Their stake in our country must be respected. This Government will not deny them the opportunity to have their say in the way their country is governed.”
Around 3 million British expats are scattered around the world, with an estimated 2.4 million ineligible to vote under the 15 year rule. Voters rolls show 264,000 expats were registered to vote in 2016, more than the lists of voters in any UK constituency.
The number dropped to 125,000 in 2018.
The average UK constituency has around 56,000 voters