In speaking on the Representation of the People Regulations 2023:
My Lords, our debates on the Elections Act last year highlighted a number of inconsistencies with the franchise. The rights of Irish citizens, and, for example, Maltese and Cypriot citizens as members of the Commonwealth, are protected, but the rights of some EU citizens who live and work here and pay their taxes here, and who may do so in future, are not properly respected. It is time to look fundamentally at the issues of the franchise, as we are now going backwards with post-Brexit changes.
The Government estimate that under the new criteria around 2 million EU citizens will be verified and remain on the electoral register, but around 160,000 EU citizens will be removed from that register and will lose their right to vote in local elections in England and Northern Ireland. EU citizens moving here in future will never have such rights. It seems to me that permanent residency should really be the basis for voting, at the very least in local elections, and that we need to look at the rights of all EU citizens in the same way as we do for Irish and qualifying Commonwealth citizens.
The franchise is increasingly inconsistent, and therefore confusing, in different parts of the UK, and none of these measures provide any more clarity on these issues. Will the Minister accept that there should be a proper government-led consultation on the principles of the franchise for voting at different levels?