Monday, November 02, 2009

Should Ex Pats & Overseas Territories Have Their Own MPs?

There's an intriguing article in this morning's Guardian by a Madrid based journalist, Giles Tremlett. He argues rather persuasively that British ex-pats should not only be entitled to vote in UK general elections, but they should have their own MPs. France has recently introduced 11 expatriate seats into the national assembly, so the question is, should we follow suit? Read his arguments HERE.

I find myself on the fence on this one - unusual for me, I know. I can see the positive arguments in favour of having MPs representing ex pats. but on the one hand, if UK expats were genuinely worried about their democratic rights, they'd vote in far larger numbers than they do. Only 12,800 are even registered to vote.

I would, however, be in favour of looking at whether British overseas territories ought to be given a voice in Parliament. At the moment, they have to rely on friendly MPs to raise issues of concern to them. I think giving the people of the Falklands, Gibraltar and wherever else a voice in the House of Commons would be a very positive thing to do.

Discuss.

UPDATE: What about crown dependencies like the Isle of Man and Channel Islands? I don't know enough about their constitutional status to know whether having a voice in the UK Parliament would have implications for them in other areas. Who can enlighten me?

50 comments:

Pyers said...

yes they should (if only for the reason that they will vote "correctly" :-) ) but mainly because they are British citizens and as such should be represented. I would not object to off-shore territories being represented in parliament - in one form or another - but it will also increase pressure to sort out the West Lothian issue - why should Gibraltar have an influence upon purely English issues for example?

Praguetory said...

If you're an expat the only way you can vote in most cases is by proxy. Even if you're 'registered' you can't turn around postal votes in time. Other countries provide extensive facilities for overseas voters. We don't and the Electoral Commission (charged with increasing participation amongst low turnout voters) does squat about this.

The suggestion in your post is a good one, but would need to be accompanied by proper reform to making voting from overseas easier.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Oh NO

Not more MPs.

Have we just not got far to many layers of these people. Less at the top more say at the sharp end is what is needed

Michael Heaver said...

Difficult one. They should probably have some degree of representation, but we have far too many politicians already.

Paddy Briggs said...

No taxation without representation - no representation without taxation.

Gazza's UsefulTips and Blog said...

One of the major stumbling blocks for expats to vote is the challenging timetable involved to get yourself registered once an election is called. I tried, in vain, to register for the last general election only to find that it was impossible to do so, receive the voting papers and return the voting papers in time for the count. If this can be solved your observation that so few expats register to vote may have to change.

Besides, this I would prefer to vote in the constituency of my UK property rather than have an expat one.

ILLIBERAL DEMOCRATS said...

Bad idea - So you lump all the 'overseas voters (Ex-Pats)' into a few seats that would formally have been spread over many marginal seats amungst others. What does this do? it tilts the electoral system even further in Labours favour IMO.

IIRC The Tories do well out of overseas ex-pat voters The Gibralter parliament section of the Euro Elections was the 'safest' area at over 50% Conservative. Now you might create a few safe seats by doing this but the impact on marginals might wipe this out? I suppose it is debatable either way as you could argue that aspirant folk who become ex-pats are more likely to have moved to prosperous areas (Tory seats) before clearing off to sunnier climbs.

The Isle of Man is soveriegn, the isle of man has the Tynwald:
http://www.tynwald.org.im/

I think Jersey is similar, I doubt they would be interested as their laws for instance on Tax are different to ours! They will want to maintain that as it provides them with Income, Jobs etc.

The only these places remotly fit under the UK umbrella is in terms of defence policy and foriegn policy.

quietzapple said...

If the countries in which they are resident prefer that arrangement.

They should not be voting in our elections, they do not share our fundamental interest in the security of those of us who live here.

Conservatism is about interests, and the interests of the Conservative Party run counter to Britain - as usual!

David Boothroyd said...

It would mean a fundamental change in the British constitution. The Crown Dependencies are not part of the United Kingdom, but separately administered under the British crown. Parliament has always represented just the United Kingdom. I believe I am right in saying that the Royal Commission on the Constitution (the Kilbrandon Commission) looked into this issue in 1973.

My speculation would be that the crown dependencies would strongly resist a suggestion that they acquire the right to elect Members to the United Kingdom Parliament, because the likely next step is that they might be incorporated in the United Kingdom with all the consequent loss of autonomy. However, overseas territories like the Falklands and (especially) Gibraltar may well welcome negotiations along these lines.

(PS: Have you found any of those "insulting remarks" you distinctly remembered me making in one of the Kaminski threads? I do not want to be thought to have insulted you or anyone else.)

................................. said...

Crown dependencies have their own legislatures and it would be quite wrong for them to elect MPs to the UK Parliament.

However I'm all in favour of BOT's electing MPs. If nothing else, it would p*ss off the Spanish and Argentinians, and that's got to be a worthwhile thing to do.

If ex-pats living in Spain, France etc wish to vote and be represented in Parliament, they should live in the UK or territory represented in Parliament. I'm very much opposed to people going off to live abroad and still being able to vote in the constituency they lived in decades ago.

Ean Craigie said...

Absolutely no, did I say that clearly enough NO.

As a professional expat the thought of being responsible for yet another trougher getting in, present blogger excluded of course.

I would expect this from the Grauniad as they try to gerrimander another election through the migratory vote.

Sue said...

"If you're an expat the only way you can vote in most cases is by proxy. Even if you're 'registered' you can't turn around postal votes in time. Other countries provide extensive facilities for overseas voters. We don't and the Electoral Commission (charged with increasing participation amongst low turnout voters) does squat about this.

The suggestion in your post is a good one, but would need to be accompanied by proper reform to making voting from overseas easier"

Ditto... (Sue in Spain)

Roger Dodger said...

Why would they want one?

They might as well just be given a free blog for all the good an MP can do these days.

Westminster has been mercilessly pooped on by a generation of clueless leftie baboons. The acid in the poop has rotted deep. An ineffectual talking shop where people can rarely be bothered to talk.

James Barnaby said...

I'm all for the BOTs developing a closer relationship with the UK. However, since Overseas Territories have legislative independence it wouldn't really make sense for them to have MPs in the traditional sense. Although, their role could be restricted to speaking/voting on foreign policy, or other issues that directly affect the territories. That might work?

True Belle said...

I remember a Tory MP going out SA years and years ago to speak to the expat equivalent associations to our Royal British Legion. British Service veterans, those who settled back in the territories especially Rhodesia and South Africa,believed they were ill served by their pensions.

In fact those who contributed to their British pensions by virtue of working for the Crown in Africa had a very raw deal. My late father included , sadly.

Many people forget that an enormous amount of British people worked on various government projects overseas . Their treatment was appalling.

It is wrong to assume that these people were nom doms and had abandoned the UK. Prices of property and the cost of living excluded many expats from returning back to the UK from our far flung stations.

Many British wartime ex service men were badly served.

trevorsden said...

How can crown dependencies like IoM have seat in parliament when they have their own tax system. How could a 'Manx MP' vote to say increase tax in the UK knowing that its own territory have lower rates?

I can see no justification for creating separate seats for ex-pats. The choose to live abroad. They were not deported. If rules say they can vote then fair enough but other representation should be no different that anyone else working or holidaying abroad.

Magical_Mist said...

"No taxation without representation!"

Wallenstein said...

I managed to annoy a group of stuffy ex-pat Brits in Cyprus by referring to them as "immigrants"... for some reason they refused to accept the I-word applied to them :-)

I agree with Paddy B. - permanent residents in other countries should not be able to vote in UK elections.

Roland Deschain said...

I take the view that if ex-pats want a say in our Government they can come and live here.

Terry Hamblin said...

Absolutely not. Nor should those ex-Pats in Scotland, Ireland and Wales have a vote. They have their own assemblies too.

tapestry said...

ExPats have to pay Inheritance Tax. No taxation without representation.

Many don't vote as they fear the reach of the taxman. They prefer to simply disappear. But not most.

There are 5 million of us, contributing more to inward investment and exports than many residents.

The only reason we are deprived of an easy vote is because almost all of us would vote Conservative.

Kuningan said...

Guernsey and Jersey are NOT part of the UK - they owe their allegiance to the crown - not the UK Govt. They have their own elected politicians - who, while goodness knows have their faults, are not quite as bad as many HoC MPs. The UK is responsible for 'good governance' (mote/beam...) and Defence - bit hollow, as last time it mattered we were occupied by the Nazis for five years...

Blackacre said...

Can we just say "no representation without taxation" and I then doubt that many of the tax exiles (or tax havens) would be keen to join in.

Hairy Arsed Bloke said...

I don't want a vote. I willing gave that up in return for the state not stealing my earnings (I don't do the T-word)

As for the BOTs having a MP - this is a can of worms that you just don't want to open. Take the Cayman Islands - the locals are a bunch of nutty Jesus freaks, homophobes and xenophobes You should read what they say in the papers, no laws to stop incitement of hatred there.

It is more grief than it is worth.

Sean Haffey said...

True Belle is absolutely right.

My mother lives in South Africa. Her British pension is about 1/2 of what she would receive in the UK. As I blogged this makes life challenging.

There seems to be a government view that the cost of living is lower in many of these territories. Yes, but most of them have no equivalent of an NHS, which becomes more and more important as you age and get frail.

Having MPs for overseas citizens would mean that someone would be figting for people treated so disgracefully by successive governments.

Adrian said...

No and no. http://ukelect.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/beyond-these-shores/

quietzapple said...

I suspect what is proposed is that chancers in the Costa Del may be allowed to better organise if they elect a Costa Del Westminster MP, so that, having voted against taxes, they can have a particular specialist MP to whinge at when they want the assistance of the state on their penniless return?

Sit Iain: Was it really necessary to change your loggin system? Was Anon suffering too many imitators?

Mirtha Tidville said...

Good Lord. Representing dependent territories!!.....I thought thats what Scottish MP`s were doing...

Liam said...

I do not think the people of the Isle of Man, or Channel Islands, are that friendly towards the UK at the moment (certainly not the former!) following the Chancellor's on the hoof decisions regarding tax havens and the like. To suddenly appear very friendly to the people there with promises of seats in a discredited House of Commons would seem pretty cheeky to put it mildly.

In this time of reform and parliamentary renewal, maybe there could be a case made for representatives of the Commonwealth to have some kind of Committee status if not full MPs ?

j.w.kanefsky said...

This is a crazy idea, it beling to the silly season not real politics.

As regards the Isle of Man, manx friends tell me that there is no possibility of them wanting, needing or even thinking about having a UK MP.

The IoM is self-governing; it is not and never has been part of the United Kingdom. It is not part of the EU either, although there is a de facto customs union via the UK.

The UK manages defence and international relations on behalf of the IoM and represents it at the UN etc. but has no control over any internal legislation. Customs, VAT etc. are harmonised under a bilateral agreement but that is for convenience not as a right.

Also the Manx population is only about 80,000 and the electorate about 60,000 - too small to have an MP.

We should IMO be going the other way, with four independent but collaborating nations with a separate English Paliament. This should sit in the Commons and the House of Lords turned into a directly elected UK Assemby to control the areas where the four nations decide to come together - areas like defence, foreign relations, university funding, overseas aid, the death penalty, health protection, fisheries etc. spring to mind, but all these should be by mututal agreement.

For the rest, subsidiarity should apply.

Greg said...

Expats shouldn't have their own MP. In fact there are stronger arguments as to why expats shouldn't vote at all. For many voting where you live is more relevant than voting in UK.

While Tremlett makes a good argument, it's at it's strongest when he writes about looking after the interests of expats, not implementing expatriate seats in parliament. Perhaps this responsibility should be at the door of a minister?

Like many expats, I'd like to see national voting rights similar to those already provided by the EU in local and European elections. I would happily trade those for UK voting rights.

In Switzerland (Non EU) there are experiments allowing foreigners to vote locally. This is important because the largest chuck of our income tax is paid locally. The link to income tax and voting is a very strong one in my view.

The discussion is largely academic. It's not a priority for any political party in the UK, and as Tremlett points out there are few votes in it.

One area that could and should be reformed are the mechanics of overseas voting. It's almost impossible to do so; except by proxy. If the voting system could drag itself in to the 21st Century an internet voting trial would be a good idea.

A final thought on the original question. In the current climate the idea of UK tax payers subsidising an MP's second home in Marbella or Zermatt isn't going to fly is it!

Jamie said...

What about something like the Delegates and Resident Commissioner in the US Congress?

Ian said...

Us expats have already voted..with our feet. Most of us can see that the UK is now a completely lost cause and so there would be no point in voting. Ian, Issan, Thailand.

Lambeg Drum said...

Answer to question:

Only after an English Parliament is set up.


Then Westminster can be truly the United Kingdom Parliament - sitting on Defence, Foreign Affairs and taxation policy.

Otherwise you either end up with

a) Isle of Man MPs now also voting on English Health matters alongside the Scots, the Welsh and Ulster MPs

or

b) First and Second class MPs, the second class (Scots, Welsh, Ulster etc) only being able to vote on about 30% of matters.

Graham said...

Why on earth should people who pay no British taxes have any say over how British taxpayers' money is spent?

Gallimaufry said...

Wouldn't it be better if our Honourable Members were permanently dispatched to overseas territories instead?

stlizbrown said...

Conservatives in France have been campaigning on this for years. Many people live overseas for a variety of reasons (our being we had no desire to live in Bliar's Britain). We pay taxed locally and nationally but can only vote for the local mayor and for our MEP - and who that is or to which party they belong, I have not the faintest idea, nor have they bothered to enlighten me

Praguetory said...

It's a fact that most people who spend time overseas do return to the UK at some point.

Greg - if you're going to get into an argument about paying income tax being a pre-requisite for voting, we'd also lose a fair proportion of non-working British based voters.

Maybe you have a point. ;-)

DespairingLiberal said...

This seems to be a trivial headline Iain.

Why do you have nothing at all to say on the big news of today, eg, the lamentable ignorance of the NuLab machinery being unable to distinguish between scientific advice and their own need to counter-spin cheap Daily Mail headlines?

Oh, I just realised, could it be because the Tories are themselves supporting the sacking of Professor Nutt? How pathetic can you get.

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

Oh yes! Clearly!

And so what about MPs too for "future pats", actual or contingent, economic or asylum related? There must be troughers willing to serve so lets us go for it!

bladnoch55 said...

The last time I voted was in 1974 - twice. I since left the UK and have not been able to vote. But do I feel I am entitled? I think not. I have been living in Italy where non resident Italians can vote even though they do not pay Italian taxes (lucky them but that is another issue).
Personally I believe that non-residents (i.e. those who do not pay UK taxes) should not vote other than on issues which are constitutional e.g. referendums. If they feel strongly about the issue then they should promote a system similar to the American one - they always pay UK taxes albeit mitigated by foreign tax credits etc. As others have said no representation without taxation.
If they don't want taxation then order another bottle of Rioja or Chianti and post another coment to the daily bĂȘte noire of the Daily Mail.

dazmando said...

I think its intereting that the French now also have an MP for Britain too. I was going to blog on this very point. I think if the number of MP's are reduced then why not have a few for major overseas ex pats like say spain.

Its worth a debate?

Mulligan said...

"Why on earth should people who pay no British taxes have any say over how British taxpayers' money is spent?"

because they'll vote Labour? Or did you mean people who don't live in Britain (many of whom actually still pay more tax to the UK treasury than some of the scroungers who live here)

Rush-is-Right said...

There are those here who say 'no representation without taxation'.

While this has a facile attraction perhaps the principle would be better applied to those who live in the UK, not just to us expats.

In the UK I see hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, who pay no tax to speak of but are nevertheless allowed to vote. And if they should choose to vote for tax increases for everyone else that is their prerogative.

Something is wrong there.

Oh and Tapestry (1.27pm) Inheritance Tax is easy enough to avoid if you live in the UK. If you're an expat, it's a doddle!

Tom Paine said...

The debate in the comments is horrifying. Not all expats are tax exiles. Those of us with homes and other assets in the UK pay a lot of taxes and we are liable to inheritance tax. Even those who **are** tax exiles are not using any of the benefits taxes pay for and are serving those back home by keeping some competitive pressure on the government to keep tax down. When did tax - essentially a legalised protection racket - become a moral issue, for God's sake?

I work overseas for a UK business and have been instrumental in remitting millions to that business, all taxed and taxed again. That your commenters think an unproductive parasite living in Britain is worthier of a vote than a British citizen who is an agent of economic growth and a generator of valuable "invisible exports" is appalling.

I think the fact my hobby is writing a blog on British politics suggests I am rather more connected than many Kipling was thinking of when he wrote "What do they know of England, who only England know?"

As for your comment that expats don't bother to vote, have you ever tried? It's a nightmare. Postal votes are not allowed to leave the islands and you need to appoint a proxy you can trust. Even a politically-interested person like me failed to get it organised several times. Other nations' expats just go to a polling station in their embassy. Not us. Then, after you have been abroad too long, you lose your vote altogether (even though the Revenue still plans to steal almost half your life's work from your family when you die).

Rush-is-Right said...

I am registered as an overseas voter. It's easy, you go here, download the forms and post them back to the Electoral Registration dept of the County Council where you used to live.

You will also need to appoint a proxy to vote in your place, because the postal voting takes too long. That's easy too. Simply contact Conservatives Abroad (link), send them an email and wait for them to send you the name of somebody to appoint.

libertarianalliance said...

Many expats don't do themselves any favours back home here, by smugly commenting on blogs and in the DT etc, along the lines of:-

"Thank God I'm out of that s**thole called the UK! never coming back, it's sunk so low..." or words to that effect.

Some of us either don't want to emigrate, or else can't afford to or have an employer pay for it for us. As I said, they don't endear themselves to me.

However, Tom Paine's comment a couple above here is relevant. This government makes it very hard for British expats to vote, most assuredly because it thinks they are part of "the forces of conservatism" and that therefore they will tick the wrong box. By contrast, in lands where conservatism has already been abolished which is most countries, you just go to your relevant Embassy as he says.

I supposed that all I have proved here is that whoever you vote for, all the scumbags will always get in, but it's worth saying that the system ought to be easier to poperate.

Tom said...

"No taxation without representation" and it's inverse are reasonable maxims. "Follow the money" is also a good rule. One expects people to do the right thing and for truth and justice to win out - a clear fail there then for the UK.

Sadly, the inability of parliamentarians to effect any changes in the behaviour of delinquent government agencies and the relentless expansion of the state make the prospect of getting involved with UK democracy unappealing in practical terms unless one is a deranged masochist.

As the original article notes the foreign governments seem to care more for the Brits than the UK establishment itself - unless the Brit bureaucrat machine can ransom some piece of trivial paperwork to a UK passport holder. The UK state apparatus is not interested in supporting and servicing it's nationals overseas, doesn't do fairness, truth & justice and actually in most cases is an embarrassment.


Nope - this proposal is /nice/ in principal but for the majority on the ground overseas practical experience dictates that it would just dissolve into another peculative expedition to extract money and give nothing back - at all.

I think you'll find the French arrangements are significantly different in their scope - so much so that they'd be an anathema to the UK state as presently constituted.

Rekjavik

The Labour Party bleats incessantly about "formulating evidence based policy" whilst pouring all it's efforts into "formulating policy based evidence"

An epitaph?

econyonium said...

I have lived in France legally for more than 5 years so I have acquired the right of permanent residence and the right to be treated no differently than a French citizen, except I have no right to vote in national elections, although I can vote in local and EU elections.

Would it not be simpler for EU citizens resident in other Member States to receive the right to vote in their country of residence say after a 5 year period, for as long as they continue to reside there?

I would prefer this.

Otherwise, as tempting as it is, it is hard to see how having an ex-pat MP will in any way provide a service to ex-pats since the MP would have no influence over the local/national conditions in which his/her constituents live, and conversely apart from having an interest in the Old Country, whatever Party is in Office screwing the place up is of little consequence to someone who is not living there.

Furor Teutonicus said...

At November 03, 2009 5:29 PM , econyonium said...

I have lived in France legally for more than 5 years so I have acquired the right of permanent residence and the right to be treated no differently than a French citizen, except I have no right to vote in national elections, although I can vote in local and EU elections.

Would it not be simpler for EU citizens resident in other Member States to receive the right to vote in their country of residence say after a 5 year period, for as long as they continue to reside there?


Have you taken out French citizenship?

If not, why the HEL should you, or any one else, who thinks the country they choose to live in is not worth giving 100% comittment to, be treated as a citizen?

The answer is in your hands. Take out French citizen ship, or find the next plane home.