Friday, January 18, 2013

The House of Lords debate on Democracy for Expatriates.

The House of Lords debate on Democracy for Expatriates.
January 14th 2013.

It was not a debate, but it was an exhibition of intellectual dishonesty, prejudice and ignorance.

An amendment to the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill which would have removed the 15 year limit on the ‘right’ to Representation for expatriate British Citizens  was introduced by Lord Lexden.  This presentation was presented with intellectual rigour,
The full Hansard report can be read here Hansard - House of Lords January 14th 2013

What followed was not a debate but observations by various ‘Peers’.  Lord Gardiner, the Government spokesman and Government Whip, ended the exchange and requested Lord Lexden  to withdraw his amendment.  Which he did!
Here follows some commentary on the speeches by some of the ‘peers’. (The Hansard report has highlighted  sentences where reference can be made.)
Lord Lipsey
One cannot pass over his comments about some expatriates seeking ‘cheap gin and tonics’  Such a remark demonstrates prejudice, and not intellectual  honesty.  Such remarks are used to conjure images in the mind of any listener against the expatriate.
His next point about those seeking redress for their frozen pensions  is  saying ‘we cannot have people being represented, because they may not agree with us’.  Lord Debden countered that attitude later on. (see page 9 of the Hansard Report)
Lord Lipsey then raised the views of Professor Blackburn –uttered in 1998 when the World was a very different place!
I wrote a riposte to Blackburn’s views in 2007 – view here  It was published in ‘French News’ at the time.   It emphasises the non-democratic status of the expatriate Briton in Europe. That very same issue is in sharp focus today.  If Britain pulls out of the Union through a vote based solely on the views of Britons resident in the UK with no cognisance of the effect on Britons in continental Europe, it will be a disaster. It will be a denial of  any democratic honesty  for the British nation.
Lastly Lord Lipsey says ‘you cannot have representation without taxation’ .  Does not that also mean the reverse would be true in his view?  Thousands of expatriates pay tax to the British Government, income tax, and tax on investments, as well as property taxes.
Lord Tyler,
Again note the introduction of the phrase ‘expats in the Costa del Sol'. Another comment introduced solely to give an antipathetic image in the minds of the listener. It is a rhetorical trick.   Lord Tyler continues with comments on Council Tax, VAT etc. It is all nonsense. Ludicrous.  It bears no scrutiny for it has no basis in reality. No expatriate vote would affect such local matters.
Lord Anderson and also Lord Lipsey make a point that few expatriates who could register to vote, actually do so.  The numbers who could in fact do so is not at all clear. Remember that after 15 years one has no chance.  That cut-off point is of itself a deterrent!  I will not re-register this May because my own 15 year limit ends in August.  There will be no election in which I could vote before that date.  Many others will not register for similar reasons.  Lords Lipsey and co have a point but do they bother to ask why this number is so small?
If  as they say  few expatriates want to vote why are they so afraid of granting the vote!  Are they afraid that giving a life-time vote will of itself so increase the desire that they lose power?  It really is nonsensical.
Baroness Hayter,
She displays very little understanding of the life of large numbers of expatriates.
A large number will return to the UK at some time. They all want to return to a Britain which is properly run.  The younger families after 15 or twenty years or more will return, needing good schools and hospitals, and all the other organisations of society.
Many send their children to schools in Britain. They nearly all have relatives in Britain for whom they care. The retired folk on the continent are very likely to return in their final years.  They also have younger relatives working in Britain.  Baroness Hayter is out of touch.
Her second argument is so bizarre it hardly bears repetition.  It is that expatriates given the vote may well give funds to political parties!  Therefore we cannot possibly give them the vote.  This is much the same argument put forward by Lord Lipsey – that is ‘We cannot possibly give the vote to those who might disagree with us!’  In this case ‘They might give funds to other parties!’

UPDATE (Jan 30th 2013)    Once again in the Lords (Report Stage) Lord Lexden introduced an amendment and again withdrew it with the agreement to chair an all-party committee on the issue. That is the situation at the end of January 2013.
It is important to influence the Politicians and support those who have the interest of the Briton Abroad at heart. Truly - Democracy is at stake here.
To locate their email addresses so that you can write to them  look at…….

1 comment:

  1. As always, Brian, your articles and comments are amusing and to the point and prove how out of touch both the Commons and the 'Lords' are with all of us living away from the 'motherland'. We all want to return - really Baroness Hayter? I was stuck there recently in -10, ice, snow, freezing fog, static queues on English motorways due to the volume of traffic...I couldn't wait to get back to France!