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Our campaign for the restoration of our voting rights, and the scrapping of the arbitrary 15-year rule, moved a little closer to fruition this month. The controversial Elections Bill, which includes the government’s manifesto promise to restore our voting privileges, has made some progress through parliament. On 7 September, the bill passed the Second Reading in the House of Commons.  

On 22 September, the Committee stage began, and is scheduled to continue on 19 October. You can watch the latest proceedings on Parliament TV here

In tandem with the passage of the bill through the Commons, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) started its Elections Bill Inquiry. Many campaign groups submitted evidence to the committee, Bremain included. 

We asked our members why their vote was important to them and used many of your testimonies in our report. Many thanks to all those that contributed. You can read about our presentation of evidence to the committee here, in an article by our Chair, Sue Wilson.  To read our evidence report in full, click here 

The date for the second reading of the Elections Bill has been announced as 7 September, at 12.40 BST.

The second reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the general principles of the Bill. At the end of the debate, MPs will vote on whether they think the Bill should proceed to the next stage – the Committee Stage.

You can follow the progress of the Bill here

You can watch the debate live on Parliament TV, or watch a recording after the event here

On 26 July, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) announced a new enquiry into the controversial Elections Bill.

The bill includes government plans to introduce voter ID at polling stations, the aim being to “protect the integrity of elections”. However, many campaigners have argued that election fraud is extremely rare, and the bill is a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Committee Chair William Wragg said:

 

“These proposals make significant changes to the implementation of and potentially participation in elections. It’s natural that they are properly interrogated and claims by the Government that the plans would protect our democracy are tested before implementation. Although few would argue against shoring-up our electoral system in principle, it’s critical to ensure that it is done correctly, that it is fair, and that it is necessary to do so.”

Of course, the bill also includes the long-awaited restoration of democratic voting rights for Britons living abroad, affected by the arbitrary 15-year rule. We are encouraging our members to write to their MPs with their views on the Elections Bill – good and bad – and we will be presenting evidence to the committee in due course.

You can read more about the proposed enquiry here

You can read more about PACAC here

If you wish to submit evidence to the committee, you can do so here. The deadline is 31 August 2021.

Veteran campaigner, Harry Shindler OBE, has been fighting for the restoration of our democratic voting rights for 25 years. 
On 17th July 2021, he celebrated his 100th birthday. Bremain could not let this occasion pass un-noticed, so we asked our members and other campaign groups to join us in sharing our good wishes.

Bremain members contributed to our birthday book. You can view the book & read our members’ comments here

Campaign groups across the UK & the EU contributed to our dedicated video, which you can view here

We wish Harry a very happy birthday, & many more to come.

On 5 July 2021, the government bill set to restore our democratic voting rights was finally brought before parliament. A government press release stated that the new legislation was designed “to strengthen the integrity of UK elections and protect our democracy”, and included this aim:

“To increase participation in our democracy, the Bill will deliver the longstanding commitment to remove the arbitrary 15 year limit on overseas electors voting in UK Parliamentary general elections.”

The Elections Bill is proving controversial, though not because of the scrapping of the 15-year voting rule. The cause for concern is the planned introduction of voter ID, which threatens to disenfranchise many further voters, and is regarded by many as undemocratic and unnecessary.

Bremain will be following the passage of the new bill with great interest, and will provide regular updates.

More information on the Elections Bill is available on the official government website here.

You can also access updates on the Parliament website here, including the latest government publications and details of the bill’s progress. The government describe the bill thus:

 

“A Bill to make provision about the administration and conduct of elections, including provision designed to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process; about overseas electors; about voting and candidacy rights of EU citizens; about the designation of a strategy and policy statement for the Electoral Commission; about the membership of the Speaker’s Committee; about the Electoral Commission’s functions in relation to criminal proceedings; about financial information to be provided by a political party on applying for registration; for preventing a person being registered as a political party and being a recognised non-party campaigner at the same time; about regulation of expenditure for political purposes; about disqualification of offenders for holding elective offices; about information to be included in electronic campaigning material; and for connected purposes.”
For further information:

Read the Elections Bill in full here 

Read the Explanatory Notes here 

Read the Elections Bill Impact Assessment here